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How Berkeley Police Changed Its Mindset On Use Of Force, 28,000 Essential Workers In CA At Risk Of Deportation, Songwriter Al Howard’s Playlist

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De-escalation is the buzzword in law enforcement around the country right now, but in Berkeley, it’s been central to the city’s police department’s mission for years. Plus, an estimated 28,000 essential workers in California could be at risk of deportation. That's if the courts allow President Trump to end humanitarian protections called "temporary protected status" or TPS. And, Redwoods Music founder and songwriter Alfred Howard shows off his playlist of music that influenced him as he kicks off a new year-long songwriting challenge.

Speaker 1: 00:01 Lessons learned from deescalation tactics training by Berkeley police and a Roundup from reporters who have been covering this week's top stories in San Diego. I'm Alison st. John. And this is KPBS midday edition. Today is Friday, June 12th in the wake of worldwide protests against police violence. The San Diego police department this week announced it will unveil a new deescalation policy, but one California department is way ahead of the SDPD and others. When it comes to decreasing tensions on the street, KPBS, investigative reporter, Claire triggers her traveled to Berkeley where police leaders now see deescalation as central to their mission.

Speaker 2: 00:51 We have a patient where you can Amir. Lieutenant Spencer Fabi is rushing to a call in Berkeley, California.

Speaker 3: 01:00 There's two hospitals that we take people through. If they're in mental health crisis, this is one of them calling us.

Speaker 2: 01:06 He's preparing to help a team of officers engage with a man who appears to be having a mental health crisis. When the officers arrive, they take a specific approach.

Speaker 3: 01:16 So if there's not an immediate threat to the officers or to some other person, then most of the times the officers can slow things down, take their time and start to call resources started to coordinate a response to the problem instead of taking individual action or using force immediately,

Speaker 2: 01:39 police can use other tactics as well, like using their squad car for cover and designating one officer to do the talking. So the person doesn't feel confused or threatened in this case, a female officer was already on the scene talking to the man. So Bombi

Speaker 4: 01:59 Margaret

Speaker 3: 01:59 immediately right in his space. Cause I can tell from what he's saying and his demeanor and what he's wearing, that, you know, he may be going through crisis. So if I come up and get close to him, I just become a distraction to whatever she's trying to accomplish.

Speaker 2: 02:12 When Berkeley officers use force, they use many of the same tactics as other departments, but the department's mantra is to do everything possible, to avoid using force. That means approaching people in a way that doesn't agitate them and that allows officers to protect themselves. So they are less likely to be in an unsafe position.

Speaker 3: 02:33 If the person complies, then we don't have to use force. We assumed versus not going to comply and we'll have tactics to mitigate that. But if we rush in and create a really close quarters, intense confrontation, then it's more likely that we're gonna get into a gunfight

Speaker 2: 02:55 in his 19 year career Faunby has been involved in four that ended with an officer shooting someone.

Speaker 3: 03:02 We can't avoid officer involved shootings all together, but again, with a certain certain approach, certain tactics, we can minimize the chances that we'll get into a deadly force confrontation.

Speaker 2: 03:14 But the city of Berkeley, hasn't had an officer involved shooting in eight years. Bombi created the deescalation training class and started leading it for Berkeley police four years ago, far ahead of a new state requirement that officers take deescalation training. But Bombi says in Berkeley, it's not about setting aside a certain block of hours for this type of training.

Speaker 3: 03:38 It's a part of every training that we do. So if we do defensive tactics, if we do firearms training, when we just had specific, less lethal training with the launches that I showed you earlier in all of those, we're talking about the tactics we're talking about, um, you know, opportunities to deescalate, we're talking about what reasonable force is and in each situation,

Speaker 2: 04:02 it also involves a shift in attitude for police.

Speaker 3: 04:06 If you, you have an agency that instills that, you know, we don't take any mess from anybody and anybody who mouse off, you know, you need to approach it this way. Anybody who tries to resist this is the way we're going to approach it. And, and you know, you can create officers who are a little bit more aggressive.

Speaker 2: 04:26 Bombi says the training Berkeley officers receive also puts an emphasis on how race impacts the relationships between police and the public.

Speaker 5: 04:36 At the same time, when we're looking at implicit bias, training, racial profiling, uh, you know, doing assessments of stop data and trying to figure out where those disparities lie. Then I think if you combine those, those two things, then you can get really get to the heart of the problem or at least try to affect in some way.

Speaker 6: 04:56 Well, I think one of the things that makes us stand out is that it's a department wide initiative. It's something that chief believes in all the way down to line officers.

Speaker 2: 05:03 Phillip Stinson is a former police officer and professor of criminal justice at bowling green state university. He says, Berkeley is far ahead of most departments on this issue

Speaker 6: 05:13 instead of, um, uh, what we see in many police departments where officers are very quick to race into a situation, they're actually stepping back, assessing the situation, trying to get tactical advantage.

Speaker 2: 05:25 And he says the department's holistic approach is far more effective than simply adding a certain number of deescalation training hours onto an existing training program. That's what the San Diego police department and other local law enforcement agencies are doing.

Speaker 6: 05:41 If it's just periodic training in small blocks where it's something nifty that we're doing, it's the latest flavor. It's the latest thing we're trying so that we can tell our constituents. We can tell, uh, various people, various stakeholders that this is something we're doing, but that's not enough. We have to change the way that police officers go about their day to day activities and their interactions with citizens.

Speaker 7: 06:09 [inaudible]

Speaker 2: 06:09 on the call. Faunby answered about the man wearing a ski mask. The situation did escalate.

Speaker 6: 06:17 We're attempting to deescalate in the sense that if he's, if he just sits there with the handcuffs on fine, once he puts the handcuffs, tries to put the handcuffs in front of them. Now we have to escalate to control him so that he doesn't run or fight

Speaker 2: 06:29 officer's gave the man an injection of a sedative and took him to the hospital. But even that approach drew criticism from a small crowd that gathered to observe them. Bobby says he understands the community's concerns and wishes police weren't called to mental health stops like this at all.

Speaker 5: 06:51 Yeah. Person who needs longterm intensive mental health treatment. And what are we saying as a society? What are we staying saying? Is that as a state where the police, I agree that we should not be the first responders to mental health crisis calls. Um, you know, my goal would be to reduce the number of times that people in crisis come in contact with police officers. You know, something's got to give because if people want better outcomes and they want to see better results, something has to happen.

Speaker 2: 07:25 Claire Traeger, sir, KPBS news.

Speaker 8: 07:34 [inaudible]

Speaker 9: 07:38 an estimated 28,000 decentral workers in California could be at risk of deportation. That's if the court solo president Trump to end humanitarian protection is called temporary protected status or TPS KQ, eighties for Rita Giovanna Romero spoke with one Bay area. Man, who's afraid his future in the United States could come to an abrupt end at any moment. Fernando Flores has worked for the same waste management company for 16 years, six days a week, he wakes up at 3:30 AM and heads to his job at San Mateo. County's only at, he drives a truck that's 64 feet long transporting thousands of gallons of contaminated liquid waste from the landfill to treatment plants doing other shifts. He picks up trash and compost from homes in the city of half moon Bay.

Speaker 10: 08:31 [inaudible] [inaudible] those [inaudible].

Speaker 9: 08:34 He says he's proud to provide an essential public service that keeps local cities clean. And he adds it's something that has to happen almost every single day. We don't stop. He says

Speaker 10: 08:48 [inaudible]

Speaker 9: 08:49 the Trump administration has been moving for years to end temporary protected status for most people in program, including immigrants from El Salvador, like Florida's Congress established TPS 30 years ago to allow immigrants to stay here when they couldn't return safely to countries ravaged by war and natural disasters. The Trump administration wants these immigrants gone. Arguing the protections are no longer necessary TPS holders and other sued. And the courts have kept the program alive while they consider the issue. But now doing the pandemic

Speaker 11: 09:23 they're are the people who are keeping our country moving right now.

Speaker 9: 09:26 Nicole's Pelinka is a researcher with the liberal think tank center for American progress. She says more than 130,000 TPS holders nationwide are essential workers.

Speaker 11: 09:38 Really? These are the people that we're relying on. Now, the people to keep our shelves stocked the people to keep our streets cleaned. And they're doing this, knowing that at any moment, their future in the United States could change

Speaker 9: 09:48 last year, LA Congresswoman Lucille Roybal, Allard introduced the American dream and promise act, which would have given TPS holders a path to us, citizenship, the house passed it. But Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell blocked it from going farther. And while there was a temporary TPS extension in one of the covert related bills this past spring, it didn't make it into the final legislation. Florida says he feels TPS holders are just not a priority for federal lawmakers or the president. Florida says partner and daughter are us citizens who depend on his salary, which goes away. If he has to return to El Salvador, a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world. According to human rights, watch he's placing his hopes on a three judge panel at the ninth circuit court of appeals and Pasadena they're expected to rule soon on whether the program can continue. And in the meantime, Flores keeps going to work every day on Friday, that job it's Friday. So let's lighten the mood Howard's music with hints of blues, folk R and B and jazz. So just a rich and varied background. So KPBS arts, calendar editor, Julia Dixon Evans asked Howard to make us a playlist. Here's Alfred Howard talking about the songs that were most influential to his career.

Speaker 12: 11:32 Tom waits is a voice that I really have. I really love, you know, such it's just such a unique style and just like big influence on me, musically. I would love to write with Tom waits. You know, I don't really have any specific thing about that song. It's just got a mood to it. It's on a it's his album, swordfish trombones, which is kind of like his first foray into like avant garde music. There's nothing avant garde about the song. It's just got this like beautiful piano part. It's really sparse. The lyrics are kind of haunting. And, uh, I just always gravitated towards that song. And I think it's also like the album that it appears on makes it stand out because it's, it's just this like kind of soft movie ballad for me, for me, protest music is just, it's just music. I think a job of any artist is to reflect on, on what's going on in society. Maybe it becomes a little bit more esoteric, how it, how it lands in their, their lyrics. But you know, it's out there, it's not on the radio, but people are doing it.

Speaker 13: 12:38 [inaudible] cabin broken then.

Speaker 12: 12:40 And it was Nina Simone doing a about Hollis Brown. There's a live version of it where it's like more of a piano bass song, piano and drums and the upright bass. And that is like the heaviest song I've ever heard. And like, I always, that was one of the first Bob Dylan songs I got into, but then hearing Nina do it. She just made her

Speaker 13: 13:01 yes. He looked for work and money. Rock the ride. Yeah. Yeah.

Speaker 12: 13:08 It's heavy. I put, I had to pick one Jason Molina song. Uh, Jason Molina was in a group called songs, Ohio and the pyramid electric company. And he did a lot of solo stuff. He was really prolific and, uh, he died young. I think he's one of the best lyricists I've ever heard. And there's a line in the song I put on there, spectral alphabet

Speaker 14: 13:28 their names and scribed by death and a spectrum.

Speaker 12: 13:32 Their names were inscribed by death in a spectral alphabet.

Speaker 14: 13:36 And it was look for in it and they are forgotten by the war.

Speaker 12: 13:41 Their names look foreign and are forgotten by the world ahead. And I don't know, but something about that line was just so gripping to me. He's just a, he's got a great way with words and I just wish more people had, had heard him, Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield. I heard that a lot growing up. Um, I went with Curtis Mayfield right on for the darkness, which is just like, his voice is just so good on that song. And the string arrangements are beautiful and, uh, Marvin Gaye was tough. Cause I, you know, I kind of wanted to go with something from what's going on, you know, cause it has a little bit more of a social political overtones that like fit the time. And just as an album, it's like the best soul album ever made, but it's hard to like separate any of those individual songs. Cause they're such like it's a whole, the whole album is a song. So I went with trouble, man. Cause I love the, I love the drum feel on that song and the production on it. And some of his cadences, uh, remind me of like, you know, early hip hop influenced cadences and I thought was great.

Speaker 7: 14:51 I bet

Speaker 12: 14:55 I put those two Michael Q Nuka songs because they go together. It's like one song, but that was the last concert I saw before the pandemic

Speaker 8: 15:08 [inaudible].

Speaker 12: 15:08 And I went with my mom who had moved out here recently and I got her that album for Christmas and she like loves it so much. You know, we didn't go to concerts when I was like young. So like getting to know my mom as an adult is a, is a totally different experience than knowing her when I was young and getting to go to that concert with her. It was like, it was really amazing. Cause I figured out like that album to me has elements of like Richie havens, pink Floyd and Isaac Hayes in some weird stew that works, you know?

Speaker 4: 15:38 Mmm.

Speaker 12: 15:41 It's like this perfect environment of music that my mom grew up on, but like with a L in a modern landscape and just kind of sharing that memory with her and having it be like the last concert before, you know, the world was shut down for a little bit, it just kind of resonates is

Speaker 4: 15:59 right,

Speaker 12: 16:03 right.

Speaker 4: 16:04 Mmm.

Speaker 12: 16:05 To be gained maybe when I came out to California on fish tour, which is something like, I like to keep in the closet, but I was selling grilled cheeses in a fish parking lot in 1999 on my way to California, we would like play music out of the back of my Toyota Corolla. And I remember playing Alice Coltrane journey and Sacha to Nan. And it's just this really hypnotic heart-based song.

Speaker 4: 16:44 [inaudible]

Speaker 12: 16:44 after John Coltrane had passed, she was John Coltrane's wife and a nice Pharaoh Sanders and just great players. But like, I just remember people like walking and stopping and that it was the music that stopped him, not the smell of our garlic real cheeses, you know,

Speaker 4: 17:03 [inaudible]

Speaker 12: 17:03 they would spend like the entire, like however long that song is just standing and listening to it. And then at the end they'd ask like, Hey, uh, do you know which direction I was going when I came here? Like we'd have to like recalibrate their, their beings, you know? But that song is, it's just got a special place in my heart. I just, you know, the first time I heard it, I was just like, what is this? It's other worldly? You know? And I didn't know music like that existed. And that was San Diego songwriter, L Howard in a first person feature produced by KPBS arts calendar editor, Julia Dixon Evans, to hear the full interview, go to kpbs.org.

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KPBS Midday Edition

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.