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Big Events Make A Return To San Diego

 June 11, 2021 at 10:00 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:01 Big events are back in San Diego, how the county fair and a full capacity Petco park fit into our COVID-19 reopening, California leaders say they put up a fight as a San Diego federal judge guts. One of the state's toughest gun laws, and how do police police themselves? The new podcast that peels back the curtain on a one secret process. I'm Claire triglyceride and the KPBS Roundtable starts now. Speaker 2: 00:37 [inaudible] Speaker 1: 00:41 Hello. Welcome to our discussion of the week's top stories. I'm Claire Tresor joining me on this remote edition of the KPBS round table are KPBS north county multimedia reporter Alex Newin, San Diego union Tribune, reporter Greg Moran, and KQBD race and equity reporter Sandhya Dirks. We're now less than a week away from what could feel like the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. At least when it comes to how we socialize the state's tier system ends Wednesday. And that means far fewer limits on crowd sizes. This weekend. One of the year's biggest events returns to Del Mar when the San Diego county fair begins a slim down experience after being canceled in 2020 KPBS, north county multimedia reporter, Alex Newin will be there. And he joins us to talk about some of the big events on the calendar. So hello Alex. Hello Claire. So let's start with the fair organizers had to plan for a smaller event this year, partly because they didn't know what our local COVID situation would be like. So what will be different for visitors this time around? Speaker 3: 01:52 Well, you know, it's going to be a lot smaller. Typically it's going to be around 60,000 people visiting a year, but this year they're estimating about 13,000. And one reason for that is the front parking lot. And expert pavilion is being used right now for vaccination. And they have a contract with scripts to do vaccination until the end of this month. So that's a portion is out. So they have to slim down because of that. And also not as many rights, the rights that will be there will be for kids, such as the Ferris wheel, the carousel, and after June 15th, when the state opens up more, more rights will be added. But again, therefore kids and not some of the thrill rides that we're expecting for adults that in previous years would be there. But this year there'll be, you know, swift picked racist pony rights, Cal milking demonstrations, but no concerts, but there will be live musicians playing throughout the whole fair. And another change is that people will have to buy their tickets online and a time whether it will be there. The fair estimates that will people will spend about two to three hours at the fair, but because of the pandemic, they just want to know how many people will be attending at that particular time, just to limit, uh, attendance. Also, as well as, uh, uh, cars. Speaker 1: 03:17 I remember hearing a story about a roller coasters in Japan, that they had a rule where they didn't want people to scream because of, you know, that could spread COVID. And so they told people to scream from within their hearts. Um, so w will there be any COVID rules in place at, at the fair this year, like masks or proof of vaccination, will those be required? Speaker 3: 03:41 Well, um, there won't be any proof of vaccinations and they're going to be asking people to, uh, here to the CDC, uh, in state guidelines, which is wearing mask until June 15th, where that guidelines will be updated, but obviously take precautions when you're attending the fair, because we're still in this place. Speaker 1: 04:02 And I know the fair is a big moneymaker for the vendors and other small businesses that operate during the event. Have you heard from any of them on what the past year has really been like for them? Speaker 3: 04:15 You know, I have not talked to any of the vendors themselves, but I do know that a lot of them travel from fairs to fare. So this past year was a tough year for them because there's no fairs going on, no festivals, nothing at all for this whole entire year. So I'm sure many are glad that there will be something resembling a county fair this year. And also speaking of vendors, what won't change this year is that the food they're going to be 39 food vendors this year. So you can expect some strange things to be deep fried by it, chicken Charlie, at least. And to my knowledge, he so far has not announced what concoction he is coming up with for this. Yeah. Speaker 1: 04:55 I imagine that he'll, he'll keep us in suspense and I don't know if he can ever top the deep fried Kool-Aid that they had several years ago. That was, that was pretty interesting. Speaker 3: 05:05 Well, yeah. And his deep fried Oreos is now a Netflix special. Speaker 1: 05:10 Oh, okay. Interesting. I didn't, I didn't know that. So shifting now to another huge event that's coming next week, the PGA's us open golf tournament at Torrey Pines. How big of a crowd are we expecting Speaker 3: 05:24 Last time? The San Diego hosted the U S GA in 2008, there was 300,000 people in attendance. And that was a year that tiger woods won. They're not going to be that this year because of the pandemic restrictions. So it's going to be more like the masters tournament in Augusta, in April, which, uh, the estimated the crowd size was about 35 to 40,000. And also tiger woods will not be at the U S open this year either. He declined an offer to be part of the NBC's broadcast commentators for the event. And Speaker 1: 05:56 Just last week, PGA golfer was pulled from the course after testing positive for COVID-19. So are there any pandemic concerns for this event or golf fans who will be in attendance? Speaker 3: 06:08 Uh, they will be a pandemic restriction. Of course, fans will have to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test taking at least 72 hours before the event or 24 hours of you taking the antigen test to be considered fully vaccinated. However, the second dose has to be at least 14 days before the event and facial coverings will be required. And children who are in attendance will also have to hear by the same COVID restrictions if they are two years. Speaker 1: 06:38 Okay. And then soon the Padres will be back at Petco park, which is going to expand to full capacity. And this week, their star player for Nando tatties Jr. Posted on Instagram that he got the COVID-19 vaccine. So, uh, what do the Padres have planned for that first weekend? Speaker 3: 06:58 They actually do have a lot in plans for this first weekend. Um, especially for the 17th, which is the first home game in which fans can be in full attendance. They are going to be honoring frontline workers, health workers who made, you know, the day possibly because of the vaccination drive that San Diego county has been pushing. And there will be, you know, opening pre-game DJs for opening day, summer, including a presentation to the American flags, as well as a, um, flyover honoring, uh, military members. And on Friday, June 18th, the potteries, we'll also be hosting the first beer Fest of the season. And so beer Fest is coming back and on father's day, which is, uh, June 20th. They're going to be a kit fair. So lots happening. Speaker 1: 07:50 You know, things are really going back to normal when San Diego has beer fests Speaker 3: 07:54 Coming back. Exactly. That's I think a lot of people are missing that because pre pandemic almost every weekend, there was a beer festival happening somewhere around. Speaker 1: 08:03 All right. Well, we will have more on San Diego's reopening in the days to come here on KPBS. I've been speaking with Alex Nguyen, our north county multimedia reporter. And thank you so much, Alex. It was a pleasure. The Ford F-150 is one of the most popular vehicles in America, but the number of people who own one is dwarfed by AR 15 rifle owners. That's part of the reasoning behind a federal judges ruling that would allow the sale of so-called assault weapons in California. The San Diego based judges decision is a huge win for second amendment advocates and a serious blow to those who want to reign in gun violence at a time when mass shootings are re-emerging post pandemic union Tribune, reporter Greg Moran is covering the case and the judge at the center of this controversy. So let's start with the basics. How does the state define an assault weapon and how long have they been regulated in California? Speaker 4: 09:04 The state's regulatory framework for assault weapons goes back almost 30 years, uh, to 1989. So under current law, a rifle is labeled an assault weapon. If it has like three kind of types of three, uh, characteristics, uh, uh, uh, semi-automatic center fire, a rifle, uh, has a, a pistol grip that platoon from the bottom of the weapon, a second type is a, is a rifle that has a fixed magazine. And the third, uh, type is a again, a center fire rifle that has an overall length greater than 30 inches. And Speaker 1: 09:42 Then I know governor Gavin Newsome and the new California attorney general reacted quickly to this ruling and they are not happy. So what recourse do they have to, to keep the band in place? Speaker 4: 09:56 Well, uh, a couple of things happened. They, they, they are not happy. You're absolutely right. I mean, Gavin Newson came out right away and it's a very strong words. And Rob Bonta that the new attorney general very similarly and Bonta as the state's highest law enforcement officer and its chief lawyer said that the state would immediately appeal. So the judge in this case, Roger Benito is who decided this case, you know, probably anticipated that because in his ruling, in this, uh, 94 96 page ruling, whatever it was, uh, he, he ruled in favor of the plaintiffs of the gun owners, but said, I'm anticipating a state appeal. So I'm going to stay or delay the imposition of this ruling, which struck down all of these laws, banning the possession of an assault weapon. Speaker 1: 10:41 And this is not the first case involving the second amendment heard by judge Benita's in recent years. And that seems to be by design. So why is that? Speaker 4: 10:52 Well, yeah, this is the third Casey's decided since 2019, there is this practice in federal courts where, uh, it's called the related case, where if you file a lawsuit and then somebody else files a lawsuit that, that deals with the same or substantially similar legal issues or facts or things like that. The second case you can file a notice of a related case saying, Hey, my case is very similar to this other one and it will, 99% of the time it gets transferred over to the first judge in San Diego. It's kind of unusual, you know, the, the, the first case that he had in 2017, I think it was filed, which was on high-capacity magazines, got assigned to judge Benitez. And then subsequent to that, every time one of these lawsuits from the, the, the, the second amendment advocate groups has been filed, they've immediately filed a notice of related case saying, Hey, Santos over to judge is because I think, you know, they realize that he is a, a friendly ear to second amendment arguments, more so than almost any other judge in California. And Speaker 1: 12:03 You mentioned on the UT San Diego news fix podcast, that he was deemed not qualified by the American bar association when he was nominated in 2003. So now that he has a record on the federal bench, did these gun cases stand out? Speaker 4: 12:19 Uh, I don't know if these stand out as any, anything that reflects on his kind of tenure or his demeanor or whatever on the bench. I mean, they stand out because of a, I think a couple of things, the length of these decisions, the style in which they are written, uh, which is very, uh, provocative, uh, not at all, like this is not 90 pages of doll legal ease. I mean, this is a very, some people get, uh, very upset about it. Seem sort of flip it in places or smarmy or things like that, but also very much grounded in the fact. So, you know, I, I don't, I don't think this is a, you know, some sort of referendum on, on his tenure, on the bench, these decisions though, singly and now taking together really, uh, have set him up to be a very influential, very pivotal figure in firearms regulation in the state of California, Speaker 1: 13:15 You report that he's earned the nickname St. Beneatha's in online pro gun forums. So how did these rulings boost efforts to challenge gun laws elsewhere? Speaker 4: 13:26 Yeah, that's true. He is a, he is a big popular figure. I mean, it's not just that column Saint Benita, as you can go to some of these sites, particularly I read it and other places, and there are actual, you know, Saint cards with his image on them. And that just shows that if you read the comments, these are people who are very much, uh, not just happy with them, but, but see vindication in their positions, uh, that they've been trying to push through the courts for many years. The second part of the question is very important. I mean, California, as I said, has got some of the strictest gun laws in the country. We are the largest state that country. There are a lot of guns here, you know, and the old saw is as goes California. So goes the rest of the nation. And so I think certainly these rulings, if they hold up on appeal and one of them already has partially are going to have an enormous effect. And then Speaker 1: 14:17 Part of the judge's rationale is that the AR 15 has become incredibly popular and that the vast majority of owners are peaceful. So just how common are these weapons? Speaker 4: 14:28 Well, that's interesting, you know, in his decision, you kind of went through some of that and in California, I'm trying to remember the numbers here. I think it's about, you know, 5% of all the guns in California are assault rifles, or can be, uh, considered, uh, assault rifles talking about, about a million weapons. Uh, there's an estimate that as many as 20 millions have been manufactured or imported into the U S and that was kind of the point in his, in his ruling was that these are weapons that are not exotic. They are not unusual. They are in wide ownership and use across the country. And therefore California residents who wish to own these guns are being discriminate. And now there's Speaker 1: 15:12 A 30 day stay on the ruling, but what happens next? Is there a chance we might see AR fifteens in local gun shops this summer? Boy, Speaker 4: 15:21 I don't know. I think that would be unusual only because the stays in place at least for a month. And one would expect that the ninth circuit would continue that stay while they are deciding this case. And that's for kind of a practical reason, which is you don't want a bunch of people to run out and buy guns. And then a year from now say up they're illegal. No, you can't. If the court were to rule that way, I don't think you're going to see big five, you know, or Walmart selling air fifteens, uh, this summer or anytime soon, but I've been wrong before. So, Speaker 1: 15:56 But rarely Speaker 4: 15:58 I wish. Speaker 1: 16:00 Well, I have been speaking with Greg Moran who covers courts for the San Diego union Tribune. Thank you, Greg, for all of your reporting on this times where police shot or badly injured, someone often make it into the headlines, especially if it's on video, but there are many other police encounters that rarely see the light of day lost in a pile of paperwork and evidence, a new podcast from bay area, public media station KQBD is taking advantage of a new transparency law in California and diving into internal affairs files across the state. They want to see how the police are policing themselves. It's called on our watch and our guests Sandhya Dirks is one of the KQBD reporters working on this project. Hello, Sonia. Hi Claire. So first off, let's talk about the transparency law known as the right to know act. How did it come about and what sort of access does it provide? Speaker 1: 16:58 California had some of the most secretive records in the country when it came to police misconduct files. Um, there was so much, we couldn't know, we couldn't see. And so a bill like SB 1421, that would let us look inside how the police police it themselves is something that advocates have been fighting for for a really long time. This was, this legislation was on the table and many criminal justice reporters didn't think it would pass again. And then Stephon Clark was killed. And that happened in Sacramento, in legislators backyards, and many say that that had a kind of visceral impact on passing this law and opening up these records. And so your team went through these records once they were released, which I know from my own reporting can often be hundreds of pages, long and hours of audio tape. Did you go through everything and pull out the best, or did you know, in advance what cases you wanted to take a closer look, we did not come in with any kind of predisposed notion of what we wanted to do. Speaker 1: 17:59 Um, and yeah, you kind of really have to read through these things in order to understand what they are. I mean, the, the, the learning curve on trying to understand how to read a police report. And once you figure it out in one city, it's then completely different in another city. So you have to kind of relearn every time you go to a different, uh, law enforcement agency. Um, we just had to dig through them for the most part, just to dig through them, to find what was there. And it wasn't that we were even searching for the best stories. What we were looking for was stories that showed us something, some piece of how this system worked, or, you know, better, better put maybe of how it didn't work. And so then the first episode you explore the case of Catherine Jenks. Who's an older woman near Sacramento who was bit by a police dog after she called 9 1 1 repeatedly to ask for help. Speaker 1: 18:47 So why did your team want to start with this story? So one of the reasons that this was the story we started with was because it was the first case we got through SB 1421, uh, my reporting partners, uh, you know, got it, and that they looked at it. And so it was very exciting this first case, but there was something much deeper there, which was that my reporting, uh, partners basically uncovered that while the officers in this case were found to have lied on their police reports and they were punished for lying on their police reports. It actually hadn't changed the outcome for this woman, Katherine, James, she was still facing serious charges. And so it became this important case where we could show you what was happening behind these cases and where actually the reporting that my partners did had an impact because when they wrote stories and published stories about this case, the charges against Catherine GenX were dropped. Speaker 1: 19:37 So it was also a chance for us to showcase the, kind of what accountability reporting can do, and it can actually impact people's lives. And then another episode deals with sexual misconduct cases involving California highway patrol, and it exposes a pattern of how victims are treated sometimes when they come forward. So what was the takeaway of that one in your opinion? Well, you know, we were very intentional about picking a case that was, um, not one of these incredibly violent sexual assault. And as you know, uh, from records in San Diego, there are some horrific cases of violent sexual assault by police officers often affecting the, the most marginalized folks in society. Those under arrest those on the margins, people who don't necessarily have power and it's really about power. And that was one of the things that we wanted to kind of dig into is how power worked and not just in cases where you have something that is, it is a violent sexual assault or a sexual assault, but even in these slight cases where it's about power being used by police officers to get a date or a phone number where we're seeing kind of sexual harassment, uh, operate, and just how you don't have power to say anything. Speaker 1: 20:50 And one of the things we found in this case was that, you know, even when these officers were investigated, ultimately, and when they were fired, there's this viewpoint by the agencies that these guys are bad apples, right? That these guys are just individuals who did something wrong, who tarnished the badge, but there's a refusal to look at how the system set up the conditions for their abuse. And then it's not just the incidents themselves, but the entire internal investigations that were a largely private until now. So describe a bit how these internal investigations are done, basically how police investigate themselves. One of the things you get a sense of when you look through different agencies across California, is that there is no one overarching way that police investigate themselves. But what we, what we w we did find is this, and that is that there is a kind of bent towards secrecy, right? Speaker 1: 21:46 And part of that is the way the system is set up. It rewards secrecy because once you start to open things up, things get very messy. And so the secret system has existed for a long time. And the secrecy itself has become a problem. It's become a corrosive influence, um, if not, sometimes a corrupt influence on, on what's happening in police departments. And so really what this was about was sort of bringing these things into the light and seeing that there was this patchwork system, but everywhere there was an inclination for police officers to either protect their own, or to not look at the system in a deeper way to see the cop that had done wrong as an isolated incident, rather than as part of something larger. The first few episodes of on our watch are available online. Why did you and your team want to pursue this as a podcast rather than a traditional radio feature or written story? Speaker 1: 22:42 What is so amazing as you, as you mentioned before, is that it's not just when we say records, right? We're not just getting paper, we're not just getting these piles of paper with police reports in internal affairs investigations. We're also getting the audio of those internal affairs investigations, right? So it's this chance to be in the interrogation interrogation room in internal affairs when police officers investigate their own. And there was something so kind of intimate and also just telling about hearing it so that we're not telling you what's going on, you are hearing it in police officer's own words, that it just begged for the medium of audio and for basically being a podcast, because the kind of, of, of depth that we wanted to get into in this investigative journalism, we knew it was going to take time. We knew it was going to take digging. Speaker 1: 23:30 And we wanted to, to actually take listeners into these interrogation rooms as, as sort of unbiased as possible, just to basically play them the tape in as many instances as we could and guide them through the story and the work that we had done to kind of bring context. So it was important. I think that this was an audio story, and then that we gave it the space to breathe. Um, because you can read these things on paper, but there is nothing like hearing these interrogation rooms when police officers are talking to somebody right after there's been an officer, you know, an officer has shot and killed somebody or talking to someone, and you can hear them maybe being buddy, buddy, or you can hear the interrogator getting annoyed or angry at, at, at the police officer. You really get access to what this accountability system sounds like, how it is, what it does. Speaker 1: 24:19 And we needed that. And one of the major things that we found is that in many ways, when police police themselves, it's not a justice system, right. This isn't necessarily about justice. It's about liability. It's about, you know, it's kind of like HR, right? It's about protecting the police department, protecting the, the city. So it's a liability, a protection system, not a justice system. Yeah. And I'm an avid listener. And I agree that hearing the tape is incredibly powerful. Um, I know new episodes post on Thursdays, and you are the feature reporter on, on the latest one so quickly. What's the focus of that story. Uh, we are going to Stockton, California to look at a, uh, police chief who is trying to reckon with the racist history of policing, but also to really interrogate how the internal affairs process fails to address racial bias. Speaker 1: 25:12 Well, it's really incredible work. I appreciate you doing it. I I've been speaking with Sonya Dirks. Who's the race and equity reporter for KQBD and part of the team behind the, on our watch podcast. Thank you, Sonia. Thanks Claire. That wraps up this week's edition of the KPBS round table. I'd like to thank my guests, Alex Nguyen from KPBS news, Greg Moran from the San Diego union Tribune and Sandhya Dirks from KQBD. If you missed any part of our show, you can listen to any time on the KPBS round table podcast. I'm Claire Tresor. Thanks for listening and join us next week on the road. [inaudible].

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Large events like the San Diego County Fair and the U.S. Open golf tournament come to San Diego as California ends its COVID-19 tier system, a federal judge in San Diego rules the state's assault weapons ban and a new public media podcast reveals how police departments police themselves.