Records Show Racial Disparities When San Diego Law Enforcement Uses Force
San Diego News Matters / June 11, 2020
Today on San Diego News Matters: Reports that Border Patrol officers have been assisting police during protests. Part two of a three part series on Police Use of Force. A La Mesa woman shot in the face with a bean bag round while attending protests is now out of the hospital and is speaking out. And the San Diego Zoo is set to reopen soon.
The National Guard is pulling out of San Diego this week, but it turns out, - they weren’t the only federal responders on the ground during local protests against police brutality.
Border Patrol has also been assisting local law enforcement. Now lawmakers are wondering why, amidst a global pandemic, the Border Patrol is getting involved... and under what authority.
California Senator Kamala Harris and San Diego Congressman Juan Vargas have sent a letter to the head of Customs and Border Protection, demanding answers about its role during the protests.
Also in border-related news: the ACLU is suing the Trump Administration again over how it’s handling the country's asylum system.
The new lawsuit challenges a March decision to turn back almost all asylum-seekers, including unaccompanied minors, at the southern border.
At the time officials said the turnback policy was to stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, but now it's been extended indefinitely.
Last week a picture of a La Mesa woman with blood on her face went viral, garnering national attention to police response to protests.
Her name is Leslie Furcron. She’s 59. She was out protesting when police responding to the unrest fired bean bags into the crowd … one hit her in the face.
She spent a week in intensive care. Her skull was fractured and her attorney says she can’t see out of her left eye.
She’s now out of the hospital and yesterday she made her first public appearance, joined by her family and her attorney.
“i’m a law abiding citizen. I never came out here(?) that night for this to be a part of my story.” (0:37)
She is now planning to sue La Mesa Police for medical costs.
La Mesa police say Furcron threw something AT deputies before the bean bag round was fired.
Furcron's attorney Dante Pride disputes that, saying she called the officers murderers and the round was fired in retaliation.
He wants the officer who fired the round identified.
Asking that this name be released, so that we can all be involved in this investigation because this type of force is just not appropriate (:07)
La Mesa's police chief is promising a full investigation into the quote "unfortunate incident."
The department is not identifying the officer who fired the round.
From KPBS, I’m Anica Colbert, filling in for Kinsee Morlan, and you’re listening to San Diego News Matters, a KPBS News podcast.
It’s Thursday, June 11.
Stay with me for more of the local news you need.
In the wake of protests across the country, local police agencies have been forced to take a hard look at how officers are trained.
There's a new push for an improved deescalation policy at the San Diego Police Department.
But as KPBS investigative reporter Claire Trageser explains, experts say many attitudes and procedures among local police are deeply ingrained.
USEOFFORCE PT 2 (ct) 6 MIN
The vast majority of the countless interactions police officers have with the public are peaceful and end without incident.
On a community outreach day last August, San Diego police officer and use of force expert Ken Kries spent time talking about the positive encounters. But he also talked about when things get confrontational and people blame police.
"What happened? When did the officers become the suspect and the suspect become the victim? When did that happen?"
The audio is not great because we were recording from the back of the room. But Kries goes on to make several comments like this during the presentation--his point seems to be that if people didn't resist arrest, police wouldn't have to use force.
San Diego Police Use of Force Expert
00;21;26;01 "If you just did what I told you to do, we wouldn't have any issues, I wouldn't be wearing anything on my belt. What's happened to our society? The one I grew up in, my dad told me to do something, I better do it."
Pillars of the Community Community Activist
[00:06:01] "That put fear in my heart for my sons. What happened to our society? Does he understand that people have had different historical, how we've been dealt with in this country has been different? Does he understand that everyone has not had the same experiences as a white male growing up in the United States?"
Laila Aziz wasn't at the event, but we showed her the video. The community activist from Southeast San Diego says the attitude Kries is displaying is a big reason why there is so much fear and mistrust of police in the neighborhoods she serves.
With massive protests against police violence on people of color, local law enforcement agencies are vowing reform. Departments across the county have agreed to end the use of the chokehold and are requiring at least 4 hours of deescalation training to comply with a new state law. But San Diego’s District Attorney says only 700 officers out of 5,000 countywide have been trained so far.
Aziz and others welcome the de-escalation training hours, but say it isn’t enough. They want departments to completely overhaul how officers are hired and trained. And so far, that isn't on the table.
Here's Sgt. Michael Belz, in service training manager at the San Diego Police Academy, explaining the department's use of force procedures last August.
Sgt Michael Belz
San Diego Police Academy Training Manager
00;10;35;02 "If they are punching at me or striking me or kicking me I may respond in similar fashion or if they're assaulting I may even go up to level of baton to overcome that resistance. But once they comply with the force that was used then they'll be placed in the custody."
We asked what limits police officers might have on how much force they can use.
[00:12:19] "So we don't normally put limits on the type of force or the number of times someone will be struck because it's all based on the suspect's resistance."
[00:04:00] "I think this is still part of the kind of cowboy kind of thing going on instead of looking at all humans as the same. You don't know if there is a person with a mental health issue. The police can see certain people from certain areas as older than they are. And you can be doing this to a 13, 14 year old kid."
Aziz says she regularly sees police jumping out of cars and yelling at people in her community. She wants them to change their approach, and to confront the fact that police may feel more threatened by people of color, and so more likely to escalate the force they use against them, including shooting.
Criminal Justice Professor
[00:01:54] "Police officers are used to literally barking out commands and having people follow the directions. And they become very agitated. They become very threatened when they sense that somebody is not following their lawful commands."
Philip Stinson is a criminal justice professor at Bowling Green State University and former police officer. He’s studied policing across the country and says officers have to change how they interact with people on the street.
"If simply the police officers would take the opportunity to step back and explain why they're taking actions, why they're doing what they're doing and why it's necessary to do so. I think you'll find that people generally are more compliant than if officers are simply barking out commands."
He says the attitude shown in these clips from the San Diego Police Department is common.
[00:02:44] "For many years now and many police departments across the country, we've really had a warrior mentality where police officers are really acting as warriors. They're going out to fight crime. They're going out to fight drugs. They're going out to, you know, fight a war on crime. And with that warrior mentality really becomes a precision type military organization or quali quasi military organization where we forget that one of the roles of the police is to act as guardians as to care for people."
Nat Pop La Mesa video (https://www.instagram.com/tv/CAtVvp3nsFm/?igshid=97c5qd8eapk8)
Bodycam and cell phone videos increased criticism of police. The videos frustrate Kries and other officers because they represent a tiny fraction of their day-to-day actions.
Ken Kries 00;37;28;23
All you're going to see is about 100 videos this year of an officer on top of somebody hitting somebody and then they play that like we do it 99% of the time.
Officer Ken Kries made the point repeatedly in his presentation that body cameras and cell phone videos don't tell the full story. He seemed to bristle at the idea that people would watch videos and judge officers on the decisions they made.
00;30;08;06 Case law Graham V Conner says you can not judge an officer from the confines of your sofa looking at a video and telling me how to do my job, it's already happened. You're not facing that stress in that split second. It's at the moment that I use force, it's my perception, no one else, not the jury's, it's mine and mine alone.
Phil Stinson [00:09:11]
"It's not correct."
Stinson says that's the wrong interpretation of case law.
[00:10:08] "The implications are absolutely terrifying, because then if an officer can use whatever force they believe is appropriate without regard for what a reasonable officer in that situation would have done, all their training goes out the window. All of compliance with departmental policy, state law, federal law, it becomes meaningless if an officer simply can make a subjective determination that it was appropriate to use force without any regard for whether it was objectively reasonable. That's scary."
Last week, San Diego's Community Review Board on Police Practices had an emergency meeting to push the San Diego Police Department to include de-escalation tactics in its use of force policy--something the board has been asking for since 2018. But so far, that hasn't happened.
Assemblywoman Shirley Weber has helped bring about different types of police reform, including the requirement that all officers have deescalation training. But she says this is a small part of a large culture shift that is needed.
Assemblywoman Shirley Weber
(D) San Diego
"We have to work hard to get rid of those causing problems. If we can eliminate those one or two, we can change our perception of behavior. Then if we change recruitment to bring in different officers from the beginning and give them the support they need, maybe change will not take as long as you think."
Tomorrow we'll look at a California police department that has made deescalation central to its mission. Claire Trageser, KPBS News
That was KPBS Investigative reporter Claire Traegeser in the second of a 3 part series on police use of force.
KPBS asked the San Diego Police Department for updated comments based on the recent protests, but a spokesman didn't respond.
Yesterday, the department announced it's now working to develop a new de-escalation policy and that it could be finalized next week.
... In the county’s latest public health briefing, officials said another four people have died,, bringing the local total to 305. And there were 108 new cases reported.
Public health officer WIlma Wooten says a surge of cases is expected in the fall, but the county is preparing for that.
Governor Gavin Newsom is defending plans to reopen additional businesses this weekend, including bars and gyms. That’s despite a spike in coronavirus cases in the Bay Area and in Sacramento.
Cap Radio’s Nicole Nixon Reports that hospitalizations in Sacramento have quadrupled over the past two weeks.
SURGES 1 (:55) SOQ
None of the 25 new hospitalizations have been linked to recent protests over the police killing of George Floyd.
Instead, Sacramento County health director Peter Beilenson says they've mostly been traced back to private social gatherings.
BEILENSON: Two birthday parties, including one birthday party where a lot of people came from out of town, a funeral and a church event.
That's prompted him to remind residents to wear a mask in public and continue social distancing.
Despite the increase, Beilenson says he plans to move ahead with new reopenings.
Sacramento County still has less than half the coronavirus hospitalizations it did during a peak in early April.
But the bump has landed the county on a state 'watch list,' along with Santa Clara, Fresno and a half-dozen other counties. They're being monitored as California prepares to move into a new stage of reopening this Friday.SOC
There’s a measure on the november ballot that aims to undo part of California’s historic Prop 13 which lowered property taxes across the state. Repealing part of Prop 13 could provide billions more dollars for schools, supporters argue.
The measure was already a hot-button issue before the pandemic ravaged state and local budgets.
KPBS Education Reporter Joe Hong spoke to supporters who say schools need this measure to pass now more than ever.
SCHOOLFUNDS 1 S/S (joh) 1:06 SOQ
Educators, community advocates and elected officials met virtually Wednesday to voice their support for Schools and Communities First, a November ballot measure that would eliminate the property tax protection Prop. 13 has given large corporations since 1978. County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher is among many who say Prop. 13, which limits yearly property tax increases, was meant for individual homeowners, not some of the state's wealthiest corporations. He says families have paid the price.
SCF Press Conference.mp4
NATHAN FLETCHER // SD COUNTY SUPERVISOR
It's a burden that has fallen on the backs of our students. It's a burden that has fallen on the backs of our communities and our parents and our neighborhoods. And it is simply time that we right this wrong.
Richard Barrera is the vice president of the San Diego Unified School District's board. He says closing this loophole would help the district mitigate the devastating impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on its budget.
SCF Press Conference.mp4
RICHARD BARRERA /// SD UNIFIED SCHOOL BOARD
That is the money that would allow us permanently to have the nurses, the counselors, the small class size, the cleaning and hygiene that we need in our schools.
Barrera said if the measure passes, San Diego Unified would see the money in the 2021-2022 school year.
That was KPBS reporter Joe Hong.
If you’re a music fan, sorry to say but Coachella and Stagecoach are now canceled for this year due to the coronavirus.
They were originally postponed until October, but yesterday (wednesday) health officials in Riverside county signed an order canceling big music festivals.
But… A lot of places are opening in coming days…
The San Diego Zoo is reopening for the general public in a week and a half.
KPBS Reporter Erik Anderson says the facility will welcome members and donors for select access before the general public is allowed inside.
ZOOOPEN 1 (sea) soq :
San Diego Zoo officials say they have been thinking about reopening since the coronavirus started to spread in January. That was even before they were ordered
to close their doors in mid-March. San Diego Zoo Global CEO and President
Paul Baribault says the animals at the two facilities were well cared for during the shutdown.
ZOOOPEN 1A :16
13:02:26 – 13:02:42 “With our doors closed we are still having to maintain all of our nutrition services, all of our wildlife care, all of our vet care at 100 percent. So that’s something that depends on gate, that depends on audiences coming in. We’ve been able to continue with this because of the support we’ve received through the years.”
Beribault says it costs the zoo more than 200 million dollars a year for that care. He says some furloughed workers are being brought back as the zoo reopens.
Erik Anderson KPBS News
Disneyland is set to re-open on July 17th.
They’ll re-open at a limited capacity and social distancing guidelines will be followed.
Guests will have to make reservations to go, and more information on a new reservation system is expected some time soon.
Starting today, oh joy! -- DMV offices across the state are expected to re-open for in-person appointments.
Not all services will be available, like behind-the-wheel driving tests.
You’ll have to wear a mask, and wait outside until you get a text message for your appointment.
DMV officials are still asking everyone to go online for things like vehicle registration renewal.
So… are you heading to the DMV? The zoo? Or where? Do you have plans to go out for this weekend and how are you planning to protect yourself from the virus, if at all. Give us a call and leave a message…..
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