Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Racial Justice | Tracking COVID-19 (coronavirus)

A Move Toward More Police Oversight

Cover image for podcast episode

PHOTO BY MIKE DAMRON

Above: San Diego police officers monitor protesters during a demonstration against police brutality, San Diego, June 1, 2020.

A proposal to beef up San Diego's civilian oversight of the police is headed for the November ballot. Also on KPBS’ San Diego News Matters podcast: An audit into the finances of Sweetwater Union High School District found evidence of mismanagement and fraud, baseball is back and more local news you need.

A proposal to beef up San Diego's civilian oversight of the police is headed for the November ballot.
City Council members voted unanimously Tuesday to advance the measure following talks with the police officers union.
The reform effort is years old, but recently took on new urgency with the Black Lives Matters protests.
Councilwoman Monica Montgomery said it was time.

Obviously, this issue in San Diego is almost a decade old...It's time to shift power to the hands of the community.
The current police oversight board can review police investigations into officer shootings or complaints of officer misconduct.
The proposal would dissolve the current oversight board and create a new commission with the power to do its own investigations and subpoena witnesses.
Councilmember Chris Ward said the measure is just the beginning.

We know that there's a long list of improvements that the city needs to do with criminal justice, but this one is critical to sustaining the momentum to move forward. We need to work on tactics, policies, budget, enforcement, surveillance and I know that we have strong partners on those too.
A final vote to officially place the measure on the ballot is set for July 7.
***
A spike in coronavirus cases in San Diego in recent days means we've hit one of the predetermined triggers that could result in pausing future openings of businesses and public places."
But despite that red flag, the County Board of Supervisors voted 4 to 1 Tuesday to ask the state for specifics on how best to resume lots of activities...like private planned events, wedding receptions, hotel conferences, street fairs and team competitions.
San Diego County's public health officer Dr. Wilma Wooten told the supervisors she expects a new peak in cases due to the reopenings that have already happened..
The previous peak, she says, was back at the end of April.

"But as we have begun to reopen we see that cases are increasing and under the 14 day incubation period, there is one daily count that is as high as some of the other peaked days and we anticipate that this number will increase."
Supervisor Jim Desmond proposed the motion and stressed that he doesn't want to allow events and conferences now.
He just wants to be prepared for when case counts level off.
**
Major League Baseball is set to return. The MLB Players Association told the league on Tuesday that players have agreed to an outline for a shortened 2020 season. The 60-game modified season is scheduled to start July 24.
***
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, June 24.
Stay with me for more of the local news you need.

Instead of sending San Diego Sheriff's Deputies to mental health calls, in the future those calls could be handled by an unarmed mental health crisis team.

That's one of several reforms approved by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors yesterday.

KPBS reporter Claire Trageser says other changes include more oversight of Sheriff's Deputies.

After weeks of protests swept through San Diego County and across the world in the wake of George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police, local officials responded to calls for changes in how policing is done.
One of them is County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, who proposed a series of reforms.
They include establishing a county Office of Equity and Racial Justice and increasing the oversight role of the Citizens' Law Enforcement Review Board. The independent board investigates citizen complaints of misconduct by Sheriff's Deputies and probation officers employed by the county.
Fletcher also asked that the creation of a Mobile Crisis Response Team be sped up. It's an alternative to having armed deputies respond to mental health calls.
Crystal Irving called in to say she supports forming a non-police unit to respond to mental health.

JUSTICE 1A 0:06
Mental health and wellness checks should not be a jail sentence, and it certainly should not be a death sentence. This must stop. If we really want to talk about public safety, we know having trained clinicians in mental health is the first step in addressing the issue and the dangerous situation it creates for those struggling with mental health issues.

But Bishop Cornelius Bowser called to say the reforms did not go far enough.

JUSTICE 2A 0:11
This will not go anywhere when it comes to black people. Black people are afraid to call the system for help. And when police come in, they view black men as dangerous, as a threat, as criminals. We'll never get a fair shot with the mobile health crisis response. If we're addressing the protests in the streets, this is the wrong approach, and I guarantee we'll be back here again."

After hours of public testimony, both for and against the changes, the supervisors passed all three motions for reform.

There are still a few details to work out, including a required meet and confer process with Sheriff's deputies.

***
An audit into the finances of Sweetwater Union High School District found evidence of mismanagement and fraud.

KPBS Education Reporter Joe Hong has more on the audit's findings.
__________________________

The audit was conducted by the state Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team. It found that the district's administration relied on incomplete financial information before authorizing a pay raise for teachers in 2017. The audit also found that the district illegally borrowed money from its own school facilities fund to pay for operating expenses. County Superintendent Paul Gothold announced the findings during Sweetwater's school board meeting on Monday.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GV6g-g2EAw
2:13:02
PAUL GOTHOLD /// SD COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT
"FCMAT concluded there's significant evidence to indicate that fraud, misappropriation of funds or assets, or other illegal fiscal practices may have occurred by current and former employees."

On Tuesday, a spokesman for the district said Superintendent Karen Janney is still reviewing the report. In the meantime, the audit's findings will be sent to the California Controller's Office, the California Department of Education and the San Diego County District Attorney's Office for possible further investigation.

Since the pandemic began, nursing homes in California have wanted legal immunity.

But KPBS's Amita Sharma says it doesn't look like they'll get it.

In April, hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living communities approached Governor Newsom with a big ask. They wanted protection from lawsuits and criminal prosecution for decisions made during the COVID-19 crisis. For weeks, sources told KPBS the governor was close to granting the facilities legal immunity. But with July approaching, there's still no executive order from Newsom and no language for immunity legislation from state lawmakers. Lea-Ann Tratten, political director for Consumer Attorneys of California, says media coverage highlighting "gross violations" and poor care of residents in some nursing homes may be one reason why.

5:00 "The problem with immunities is they don't encourage good behavior. They discourage it."
Tratten added that Newsom and state lawmakers are likely hesitant to act after seeing what happened in the more than 20 other states where immunity has been granted. Many advocates and families of people living in the facilities say the immunity gave them no way to hold negligent facilities accountable. A spokeswoman for the California Association of Health Facilities says the state's nursing homes are asking for the same immunity given hospitals during emergencies. For months, Newsom's office has refused multiple requests for comment.

***
In the past month, San Diego teenager Marlene Herrera has turned 18, graduated from high school, and decided who she's going to vote for in her first presidential election.

She's done all of this while dealing with the enormous stress of providing childcare for her cousins, and figuring out how to attend college virtually.

As part of a collaboration with The World's "Every 30 seconds"— which looks at the young Latino electorate in the US -- KPBS reporter Max Rivlin-Nadler tells us how the pandemic will leave a lasting mental and political mark on a generation of new voters.

Ambi: singing the pinata song here
"Dale, dale dale no pierdas el ritmo… (play for 5 seconds, bring down and play under tracks)

A group of twenty people surrounds Marlene Herrera out in a yard. They're mostly social distancing.

The crowd is singing--- urging her to not lose momentum.

(Bring up singing, chanting ambi here again--play 2 seconds, bring down )

Marlene is wearing a cap and gown -- and she's swinging what looks like a bat.

She's just happy to finally have everyone in one place again:

MARLENE: Its been over two months, I was like I get to see you again, I get to hug you. Wait, are you ok with hugging?

There are two pinatas in the shapes of the number 1 and a number 8.

Marlene is celebrating both: her 18th birthday and her high school graduation.

They both fell on the same week that San Diego county began to relax its coronavirus restrictions on gatherings.

:40 in ambi track
Ambi: sounds of hitting the pinata . More singing? Sounds from the crowd?

FInally-- the pinatas break.

1:00 in Ambi

Ambi fade out here: (end of scene)

Marlene tells me she's had a lot of frustration to work through over the past few months. First, the pandemic hit. And then she had to complete her senior year from home. During that time, she's been living in a crowded house with five kids under the age of nine.

Marlene says, in this new reality, she and many of her friends feel powerless.

01;16;02;26
A lot of us got to the point where we burst into tears.

Marlene has been thinking a lot about mental health-- and in college this Fall, she plans to major in psychology.

The mental health impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, especially on young adults, will be felt for years to come, says Tina Casola. She's a San Diego-based family therapist who specializes in trauma and the long-term impacts of stress.

00:25:06:07
CASOLA: We're going to be paying for this for a long time, because of the betrayals or the feelings of being left behind. Those are going to last for people.

Casola thinks that while Marlene's age group is far more supportive of one another than previous generations, it's going to be up to older people to model how to get through this.

00:25:30:03
We have to figure out ways to get into our communities and giving them support to work through this time. Even though none of us have the answer. We don't have a blueprint for this. But they need to benefit from some of the seasoning that we've had, in order to put these things together and be able take care of themselves

The pandemic and it's mental toll are not the only things on Marlene's mind. She's grown up always worried about her family's finances. It was a huge relief when her mother received a stimulus check.
01;38;38;06
It's a big family here. We needed that.

Marlene's mother had been briefly laid off from working at a law office, but she was re-hired after her office got a government loan.

Still, Marlene wishes more had been done during the stay-at-home order to prepare for reopening businesses safely.

01;55;38;08
MARLENE: For us, you can't afford to not work. We still gotta pay rent, that's not going to stop. You can't stop paying for food. You can't just stay home. I don't want to come home and be the one that infects my family for some reason.

The government's response, or lack of response, has Marlene thinking about how politics directly impact her life.

After her first choice for president, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, dropped out of the race in April, she was undecided on who she'd support in the general elections.

02;04;37;08
MARLENE: If I could vote, and for some way it counts for something, and I'm hoping it counts for something, I'm a do it.

More recently, she says the protests over the killing of George Floyd and other acts of police violence against Black men and women have had an impact.

Marlene: I think I'm leaning towards Biden. Not that I'm entirely happy with him either.

To her, President Donald Trump crossed a line when he sent in the national guard during the Black Lives Matter protests.

02;01;48;06
You're just adding to the fire. You're fighting fire with fire. How is that ok?
I want a change.

"And she says former Vice President Joe Biden might be that change."

Marlene: As much as people want to say Trump is good, /CUT/ I think it's time for someone new. You can't be living in the time of like, what is he going to say. We've had so many scares with him.

Marlene says she's ready for a government that doesn't scapegoat or target minority groups.

02;08;50;08
Not even from a Mexican point of view, just as a person of color point of view. There's been so much oppression that we've had. And we're seeing it a lot right now. I want a government that I don't feel like is working against me.

Looking ahead to a long summer of helping take care of her cousins and trying to safely see friends when she can, I asked her what she would change about this year if she had a magic wand.

02;15;30;07
I want to be selfish with this question. Just my senior year. Everyone worked so hard for twelve years straight, a lot of what we were looking forward to we didn't get.

Marlene says this will forever mark her generation.

That's always going to stay with me. That's always going to be on your mind. When my kids ask me, how was your prom, I'm just going to say I didn't have one, can't help you with that! :laughs:

That story from KPBS’s Max Rivlin-Nadler.

***
The San Diego unified school district has announced it will start the new school year by giving parents the choice of either sending their kids back to school, keeping them at home to continue distance learning, or a blend of both.

KPBS Midday Edition host Alison St. John talked to two teachers about what parents might expect for their kids this fall, and what details are still being worked out.

Kesha Borden is the president of the San Diego education association. She’s also taught third and fifth grade at a local elementary school for over 20 years, Dave Irving is a ceramics teacher at Hoover High.

And that was ceramics teacher Dave Irving, and Kesha Borden, the president of the San Diego education association, talking with Midday Edition host Alison St. John. Get Midday Edition wherever you listen to podcasts.

***
So, here’s something cool I just recently discovered...ArtWalk, the long-running art fair here in San Diego, is now hosting Facebook live videos with local artists.

Here’s one with Wick Alexander and Robin Brailsford, two well-known San Diego artists who just completed a 2500-square foot mosaic in La Jolla shores. It’s called “the map” and you can see it at Kellogg Park.

You can find these “Art Talks” by searching for Artwalk San Diego on Facebook.

Alrighty. That’s all. Thanks for spending time with me.

San Diego News Matters podcast branding

San Diego News Matters

KPBS' daily news podcast covering local politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings so you can listen on your morning commute.