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Police’s Place On School Campuses

Cover image for podcast episode

PHOTO BY NICHOLAS MCVICKER

Above: A photo of a San Diego Unified School District police vehicle. July 1, 2020

As activists nationwide call for the defunding of police departments, the same reckoning is occurring in schools. At San Diego Unified, students say police have no place on their campuses. But the district's police department has made some progress in recent years. KPBS Education Reporter Joe Hong spoke to students and experts about whether police can play a role in student well-being. Plus: Tenants in San Diego who have fallen behind on rent just got a little extra time to repay it, San Diego falls short of housing goals, daycares are struggling to stay open and more of the local news you need.

San Diego News Matters is KPBS’ daily news podcast. Support the show: https://www.kpbs.org/

Tenants in San Diego who have fallen behind on rent just got a little extra time to repay it. San Diego has had a moratorium on evictions for residential and commercial tenants since March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The freeze is set to expire at the end of September. But on Tuesday the City Council voted 5-4 to give tenants until December 30 to repay whatever they owe.

Council President Georgette Gomez said local unemployment is still in the double digits, COVID-19 infections are rising and many are on the edge of homelessness.

Our economic crisis has not been resolved and we still need more time. Businesses and residents are not making rent, and we need to ensure we are taking care of them.

Councilmember Barbara Bry opposed the extension. She said it will simply allow tenants' debt to keep going up.


Their credit ratings will be destroyed, and they will still be evicted. What renters need is funding — funding that only the federal or state government can provide.

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A report released yesterday on the housing needs of San Diego found that the region has fallen drastically short of housing production goals...In the past 10 years less than half the number of dwellings needed have been constructed.

San Diego's 2020 Housing Inventory Annual Report points out glaring shortfalls, but also notes incentives for builders in the city which could potentially lead to a rise in construction.

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California on Tuesday became the latest state to sue President Donald Trump over his executive order - signed last week - that would exclude people in the U.S. without proper papers from being counted when congressional districts are redrawn after this year’s census.

The nation’s most populous state stands to lose a congressional seat if the president’s order stands, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center.

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San Diego County public health officials reported 498 new COVID-19 cases and 14 additional deaths Tuesday.

Eight new community setting outbreaks were reported Tuesday — five in restaurant/bar settings, one in a gym, one in a nail salon and one in a residence. In the past seven days, 20 community outbreaks have been confirmed.
The number of community outbreaks is far above the county's goal of fewer than seven in seven days.
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From KPBS, I’m Kinsee Morlan and you’re listening to San Diego News Matters, a podcast powered by our reporters, producers and editors.
It’s Wednesday, July 29.
Stay with me for more of the local news you need.

Remember the look and smell of the smoke billowing from a burning Navy ship in San Diego Bay recently?

David Flores works for the Environmental Health Coalition and he says they got complaints immediately after the ship caught fire.


00:03:08 – 00:03:24 “We can smell something. What is it? Of course, the portside communities of Barrio Logan and National City we started to get complaints of people getting headaches and feeling nauseous.”

San Diego Community advocates like Flores have been concerned about chemicals in the smoke.

And now KPBS Environment Reporter Erik Anderson says those concerns have been validated. Air quality testing found there were a number of toxic chemicals in the smoke covering nearby neighborhoods.

The fire burned for five days before Navy officials put out the flames, and that meant five days of thick acrid smoke blanketing San Diego neighborhoods. The Environmental Health Coalition’s David Flores says he wasn’t surprised to learn the smoke contained toxic chemicals. And he is not convinced the threat is over because the fire is out.
NAVYAIR 1A :06
00:09:06 – 00:09:17 “We believe that there is still smoke residue in the adjacent communities,"

Flores is working with residents to collect samples of the residue. Bill Brick is the air pollution control district’s chief of monitoring. He says things like benzene were in the air.

NAVYAIR 1B :08
00:02:38 – 00:02:46 “They weren’t at super high levels but they were at levels that were higher than normal.”

:09
00:04:38 – 00:04:47 “I can’t say it was healthy to breathe but we did not measure anything that exceeded those numbers put out by the state.”

Navy officials say they will continue to look forward to working with the air pollution control district and their community partners.

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Custom and Border Protection's aggressive response to ongoing protests across the country has come under intense scrutiny from California's lawmakers.

Now, KPBS reporter Max Rivlin-Nadler tells us that in June, CBP supplied munitions that San Diego law enforcement fired on protesters.

The San Diego County Sheriff's Department requested help from CBP five times during protests between May 31st and June 11th.

That's according to a letter prepared by CBP, responding to questions from California Senator Kamala Harris.

According to the Sheriff's Department, CBP delivered pepper balls and tear gas, after the sheriff ran through their supply of both during the protests.

But the Sheriff's Department says they followed all aspects of California's SB54, which limits cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration enforcement.
Tom Wong, a professor at UCSD, has studied interactions between the two agencies.

This is certainly a grey area for what local law enforcement officials in San Diego and elsewhere in California, may or may not be able to do when it comes to reaching out to CBP, for example when there's a protest.

He says California's lawmakers may well revisit laws governing interactions between local and federal law enforcement.

As activists nationwide call for the defunding of police departments, the same reckoning is occurring for police in schools.
At San Diego Unified, students say police have no place on their campuses. But the district's police department has made some progress in recent years.
KPBS Education Reporter Joe Hong spoke to students and experts about whether police can play a role in student well-being.

San Diego Unified is one of the few school districts in California with its own police department. Its 41-officer force costs the district about 9 million dollars each year, less than one percent of the district's overall budget. Some schools have as many as 4 officers at a time patrolling a campus. Students say that makes their schools feel like prisons.
But the police department has made some progress in how it interacts with students. In the past 12 years, arrest rates at the district have gone down by more than 50%.
The most dramatic progress has been with Latinx students. In the 2007-2008 school year, about 1.2 percent of Latinx students were arrested or detained by school police. In 2018-2019, that number dropped to less than half of a percent. In fact, the disparity in arrest and detention rates between Latinx and white students was eliminated by 20-15.
This may be because the district has invested in alternative methods of school discipline. Since 20-12, the National Conflict Resolution Center has trained teachers and principals at San Diego Unified in restorative justice practices designed in part to keep students out of the criminal justice system.
The practices that we use with Latinx students is not so much different from any other groups within the schools.
Francisco Carbajal is the director of alternative juvenile justice at the center.
We've seen cases come from san diego school police where we have shown that recidivism completely drops when they're being diverted to a community led opportunity rather than concentrating on traditional punishments.
But despite successes with Latinx students, the arrest rate for Black students is about 1.1 percent, three times as high as other groups. The historical mistreatment of people with Black and brown skin by police is why Latinx students have joined the fight to defund the police at San Diego Unified.
"Personally I don't feel safe with the police presence."
Omar Federico Mondragon is one of the students leading the Defund School Police SD organization. While the data might show evidence of less discrimination against Latinx students by police, Omar and fellow student advocates say that any investment in police is a disinvestment in student well-being.
Those funds are going to more police officers when it could be going to social and economic mobility programs. It could be going to college readiness programs.
The district is not considering eliminating the police department. But there are those working to create a middle ground.
The word that ended up coming to mind in that space was deescalation.
Michelle Ferrer oversees the restorative justice program at San Diego Unified. Since she started at the district two years ago, she said she's been inspired by how open the district's police chief has been to restorative justice.
"Chief is always candid and honest about the ways in which officers in the past were trained and that there's a shift happening, and he believes in the framework. I've heard him multiple times talk about his own experiences with learning the framework, and he tells officers this is the way in which we're going.
Police Chief Michael Marquez wasn't available for an interview, but police Captain Joe Florentino said the department's approach to policing has changed dramatically since he started 20 years ago. For example, if a student is caught carrying a knife at school, the consequences today are a lot different from what they were before restorative justice.
So now, instead of sending that student to court, what we'll do is we'll send them to either the national conflict resolution center, we have contracts with Safe San Diego, different diversion providers so that the student can go through a program to realize the dangers of carrying a knife.
Florentino said he wants to hear from more students about their concerns about policing. But student activists maintain that the San Diego Unified Police Department needs to be defunded, not reformed.

KPBS education reporter Joe Hong.
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Coming up….
A rift between community members and a church in Logan Heights…
Plus, the daycare struggle is real thanks to the pandemic.
Those stories after a break.

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I’ve been hearing from some mom friends that their kids’ daycares are closing…

And now...a study from UC Berkeley confirms it: childcare centers across the state are struggling financially in the COVID era. Even those that have managed to stay open throughout the pandemic.

KPBS reporter Claire Trageser looks at what this means for the wider economy.

It's been a busy few months for Rebecca Fielding-Miller. As an epidemiologist and assistant professor at UC San Diego, she's been helping in the fight against the coronavirus.

As the mother of an almost-three-year-old, she's also been trying to get work done with a toddler at home. Her daughter's childcare center closed in March, but they were hoping she could go back soon.

Rebecca Fielding-Miller
UCSD Epidemiology Professor
SOT
"We got word that our daycare was opening again but not until the end of August."

Fielding-Miller's situation is becoming more common for parents in San Diego County and across the state as childcare centers struggle to stay in business. Experts say the closures signal the start of a childcare crisis that will have ripples across the economy.

GRAPHIC
UC Berkeley Childcare Study
62% childcare programs had loss of income
81% childcare programs cut staff or benefits
Source: UC Berkeley Center for the Study of Child Care Employment

A study from UC Berkeley found that in Southern California, almost two-thirds of childcare programs experienced loss of income due to low attendance or families not paying and more than 4 in 5 made staffing changes including laying off staff or cutting benefits.

Lea Austin
UC Berkeley Childcare Researcher
"There's a tension between physical health and financial well being."

Lea Austin is the author of the study

SOT con't
"People providing the childcare are worried about their own health risks, but they are taking that risk to avoid financial collapse."

Childcare centers in California need grants from the government to stay afloat, Austin said.

SOT
"If we want the economy in California to rebound and to be robust going forward, childcare is so critical."

San Diego County supervisors will vote on a grant program next week.

KPBS reporter Claire Trageser
***
Some residents of Logan Heights say a neighborhood church is not acting very neighborly.
Relations have become strained between members of the traditionalist, Saint Ann Catholic church and neighborhood residents.
The rift began primarily over street parking, but is being fueled by a cultural divide.
Now back and forth accusations of harassment are being hurled and police are getting to know the church's address very well.
KPBS’ Maureen Cavanaugh talked to San Diego Union Tribune reporter Andrea Lopez-Villafaña about the ongoing issues.

st. Anne's is a Catholic church in which the mass is still said in Latin, and that is the hallmark of a conservative or traditionalist Catholic church. Do most of the church members come from Logan Heights?
Speaker 2: 00:47 You know, I would say that they do not. Um, I asked several questions. I try to speak with the priest, but from observations, I went several times and most of the people who attend don't seem like they live in the neighborhood, primarily most of them are white. And the neighbors I spoke with, I'll say, you know, these are not individuals that we know from our community. These are people who are coming from the outside.
Speaker 1: 01:12 Now residents seemed to have picked up on some of the church goers political preferences, and it's apparently a point of contention.
Speaker 2: 01:20 Yeah. Yeah. I spoke with several residents who mostly pointed out that, you know, this is a predominantly, a Latino community and always has been. So there, there are some, um, who noticed that some of the individuals who come to the church, whether they park in the church's parking lot, or they park on the street, they'll have like bumper stickers. Right. And some of these bumper stickers that people pointed out to me included like Trump 20, 20, or, um, something about like sending illegals back. Um, there's also, uh, there's a mention of a bumper sticker that had like a graphic image against abortion. So, you know, just, um, a lot of these like bumper stickers that kind of, uh, display, you know, their political beliefs and that some of the residents felt that they, um, were insensitive to the people in the community,
Speaker 1: 02:11 The parking situation, like at st Anne's
Speaker 2: 02:14 The parking lot. Um, I don't know how many cars, the parking lot actually holds if I had to maybe estimate from what I saw, um, just several times that I went over there to observe maybe like 20, 30 cars, um, if they're squeezed in tightly, but it's a, it's a relatively small parking lot for that congregation. Um, so the parking tends to flow out into the street. I do know that on the weekends, the church borrows a parking lot from a nearby school, um, because of course, Sunday mass, uh, you get higher attendance and they have more services. Um, but you see that overflow, it just, you know, by going there, you see people, uh, parking, um, within the neighborhood.
Speaker 1: 02:56 And so from maybe tensions around parking and so forth, what have the other disputes resulted in? What has the situation been like? Yeah,
Speaker 2: 03:06 It's, it's been so interesting just to see it unfold from this like parking lot issue where maybe there was tension with winter, with one particular resident who was more outspoken than the rest. And she's, she started feeling that it was disrespectful, uh, you know, some of these bumper stickers, but, um, when the pandemic started, residents noticed that, um, some parishioners were coming to church and maybe, you know, because they park on the street would walk down down the street and they would notice that they weren't wearing face mask. Uh, they were still holding mass. Um, so people would go in there not wearing face mask. So people were concerned, you know, these individuals are in there and they're coming out into our community and are they infecting us? Um, so someone may raised an issue about them not wearing facemasks and then it kind of evolved into something else.
Speaker 2: 03:55 When we saw this big push for racial justice, following all the black lives matter protests that we had here in San Diego, um, some of the residents put up, uh, black lives matter signs. And, um, there was an altercation, mostly just verbal between a parishioner and an older woman. Um, he was just asking her to take the sign down and, uh, you know, yelling at her using explicit language. So it's just evolved to like these little, um, negative interactions where there doesn't seem to be any kind of follow up from, from maybe those empower who could try to ease those tensions,
Speaker 1: 04:32 Tensions have spilled over into social media as well.
Speaker 2: 04:36 Yeah, so that, that's actually how I became aware of the story. Um, a post was made on, on a Facebook at neighborhood group and residents were really upset about an altercation that had happened with regards to a black lives matter poster. And someone suggested, Hey, let's organize a black lives matter protest outside of these church. Um, you know, they made other accusations that whether those were real or not, um, I have no way of knowing, but that post was shared just across like different, random social media accounts. And eventually it led to, um, the woman who made the original post, um, her information, her, um, her address being posted on, on some of these things. So, you know, she was doxed and, um, got some death threats and it just, it just blew up on social media.
Speaker 1: 05:27 Yeah. It's a spiraling situation. What's been the official response from st. Anne's to these growing tensions.
Speaker 2: 05:35 I tried to speak with the priest there and, um, he referred me to this San Diego diocese and, and they were aware of, of some of the parking issues, but did not respond to my other inquiries. So no response, I guess,
Speaker 1: 05:52 But the police have responded. They've been called to st. Anne's numerous times in the last year from your reporting, Andrea, how do you assess the situation now? Is it getting any better?
Speaker 2: 06:02 I think it's going to continue. I'm interested in seeing what happens, you know, after, um, you know, after the article published, I'm interested in seeing w w if something has done, um, if any kind of outreach happens. Um, but I think this is still going to happen. The most recent call that SDPD had was a complaint that people weren't wearing face masks and they weren't social distancing. So I think that, you know, their SDPD is probably going to continue getting these calls from residents who are, um, upset about what they're observing in their neighborhoods. So I think we're going to continue seeing these tensions until something officially gets done to, to address that

And that was KPBS Midday Edition host Maureen Cavanaugh talking with San Diego union Tribune reporter Andrea Lopez-Villafaña. Hear more in-depth interviews on everything from the latest local news to arts and culture by subscribing to Midday Edition wherever you get your podcasts.
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