Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

The Controversial CalGang Database

 September 25, 2020 at 2:00 AM PDT

Authorities say ten people were arrested near downtown San Diego police headquarters Wednesday night during a protest calling for justice in the Breonna Taylor case…. The demonstration, which involved hundreds of people in two separate groups, began about 7 p.m. Wednesday…. At around 10 p.m., the San Diego Police Department declared the gathering an unlawful assembly because of "acts of violence and vandalism” and that’s when the arrests began. Protests took place across the country after a grand jury in Louisville on Wednesday decided that no officers will face charges for Taylor's death. More protests in San Diego were planned for Thursday night. *** San Diego County public health officials reported 171 new COVID-19 infections and six additional deaths. That raises the region's totals to 45,596 cases and 773 deaths. San Diego State University reported 20 of yesterday’s new cases were connected to the university. The school now has 933 total confirmed or probable cases — including four employees and 13 visitors to the campus. **** Two people were injured yesterday when a flight-trainer biplane crashed in a parking lot just north of Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport. The small plane went down for unknown reasons shortly before 4:30 p.m. in an industrial area near Balboa Avenue in Kearny Mesa, according to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department and the Federal Aviation Administration. *** From KPBS, I’m Kinsee Morlan...and this is my last day this week filling in for Anica Colbert. It’s Friday, September 25…. and you’re listening to San Diego News Matters, our daily news podcast powered by everyone in the KPBS Newsroom. Stay with me for more of the local news you need. Last year Mayor Kevin Faulconer proposed building affordable housing on the former Mission Hills library property. But now that likely won't happen.. On Thursday the city's Historic Resources Board voted to designate the building as historic. The debate over the site was limited to the building's architecture….and Board Vice Chair Tim Hutter, who cast the only vote against the designation, said that was wrong. I would be in favor of changing our rules so that we could have a more express discussion about the fact that the decisions that we make here have impacts on people and on lives and on, in this case, the homeless or future housing or whatever it may be. KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen has the story. AB: The former library, built in 1961, has been vacant for more than a year and a half after it was replaced by a new library nearby. The plan was to tear the rectangular stucco building down and build permanent supportive housing for the homeless. But it ran into fierce opposition from some Mission Hills residents.The city's Historic Resources Board handed them a victory Thursday, voting to designate the building as historic. This means it can't be demolished or significantly altered. Board chair David McCullough said the building could still find a second use. DC: Historic buildings aren't supposed to be stagnant for the rest of their lives. They're supposed to be used, they're supposed to be a vibrant part of the community, and I would strongly hope that it would remain a strong part of the community. AB: Critics of the designation said those seeking to preserve the library really just wanted to keep low-income housing out of their neighborhood. *** San Diego has been trying to regulate short term rentals for years… and now... a new proposal is set to go before the city planning commission next month. Guillermo Gonzales is an Airbnb host in San Diego. He says the proposal to reduce short term rental units in the city will make access to California's coast unaffordable for many families. "Limiting the number of Airbnb's in San Diego will create a problem with supply and demand that is also going to skyrocket the pricing of Airbnb's. It's going to be a lot more difficult for the regular, standard family from another state to come down to San Diego." And on the other side of the argument, you have neighbors of airbnb rentals who complain that they’re living next to loud mini hotels and housing advocates saying vacation rentals make California’s housing crisis worse. KPBS reporter Jacob Aere has more on the possible regulations. The new proposal was negotiated by Councilmember Jennifer Campbell, Expedia and UNITE HERE in July. Their plan was to reduce the number of full-home rental units, enforce fines for rule violators and require a minimum two-night stay. John Choi is the Senior Public Policy Manager at Airbnb. He says the company was not part of the discussion. John Choi | Airbnb Senior Public Policy Manager 6:07 - 6:22 "Our hosts have overwhelmingly expressed serious concerns that the proposed 0.7% cap on the number of city wide vacation rental licenses will eliminate a critical source of income at a time where they need the income more than ever." AirBnB is asking for a higher cap and the San Diego Planning Commission will discuss the proposal on October 8th. The California Gang Database, known as CalGang, has long been controversial. Activists argue it unfairly targets people of color and justifies harsher treatment by police and harsher penalties in court. Now, KPBS reporter Claire Trageser says local activists are suing the state to stop the use of CalGang. The CalGang database was established in 1998 and is meant to be a way to track gang members statewide. Broll of Southeast San Diego But activists say it includes many people who are not actually gang members and unfairly targets people of color who live in lower-income communities. Now there's a newly filed lawsuit against the California Department of Justice and Attorney General Xavier Becerra. One of the plaintiffs is the local criminal justice reform nonprofit Pillars of the Community. Jamie Wilson is an organizer there. Jamie Wilson Pillars of the Community "If this database had been shut down in 2016, then I wouldn't have a child right now documented into a database at 16 years old with no criminal record. He was documented for wearing a color and being in a certain area, which is the area where we live." Police broll When someone is entered into the CalGang database, it impacts their interactions with law enforcement and the justice system. Police can use the label to justify stopping and questioning the person, and prosecutors might increase charges against the person. A person can be on the database without knowing it. And a 2016 audit found the database had serious errors. One particularly egregious example was that the list of gang members included 42 children under the age of one. The lawsuit asks the state to stop using the database until it is properly regulated. Khalid Alexander is the founder of Pillars of the Community. Khalid Alexander Pillars of the Community "The myth of the rule of law has fallen apart. America is coming to a reckoning and whether we are ready for this reckoning or not, we have to be sure we're a voice for justice." A spokesperson for the Attorney General's office said they haven't seen the lawsuit, so they couldn't comment. And that story was from KPBS investigative reporter Claire Trageser...who, by the way, was named 2020 journalist of the year by the San Diego Society of Professional Journalists. *** San Diego leaders announced two new initiatives designed to help the Black community get closer to racial equity and increase generational wealth. . County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said he recognizes the need for these investments in the Black community. "Too many young people, particularly those from under resourced communities face tremendous odds, and barriers, and hurdles, that are not present within other communities within the same city. KPBS reporter Tania Thorne has more. The two new initiatives are the Black Community Investment Fund and the Dr. Wilma Wooten Courage Scholarship. Qualified groups can apply for grants through the 1.3 million dollars Investment Fund. Donna Deberry with the Central San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce says the Black community faces racial inequity preventing them from thriving. "We realize that a lot of the barriers that our community experiences is around education, home ownership, access to capital. All of those things are critically important to help generate wealth for the Black community. Named in honor of San Diego's Public Health Officer, the Dr. Wilma Wooten Courage Scholarship will be available to San Diegans who are pursuing a degree in health sciences. *** Coming up… Your COVID questions, a local infectious disease expert and our KPBS health reporter. That story after a quick break. So don’t move an ear muscle. We’ll be right back. <<> This week, San Diego County narrowly avoided more business closures and school reopening delays. The region's case rate placed us just below a threshold that would have triggered restrictions yet again. The back and forth over what can open and what can’t….has left San Diegans with lots of questions about reopening. So, KPBS asked you to share them with us and our health reporter Tarryn Mento collected our audience's questions and asked infectious disease specialist, Dr. Christian Ram-ers. ….. So we have a lot of questions from our listeners. Let's see how many we can get in in the next 10 minutes. Steven Johnson asks, why are we not being told where the community outbreaks are located? He wonders why it's important to keep that information confidential when it could help people avoid contracting the virus. Speaker 3: 00:52 It's a good question. It's one that the press has been being has been asking the County officials really all along and different counties have taken different approaches to this. For example, Los Angeles County I think is very public with where the outbreaks are occurring and the response that I've heard from the County officials. And again, I don't work at the County, but in speaking for them, they've said that it is difficult to get contact tracing information when you basically publicly post this information. And as soon as people feel scared to provide information that makes that job a lot more difficult. Speaker 2: 01:22 And I will say KPBS has obtained some of that information by zip code and publish that. And we are part of a lawsuit that is against the County to provide more detailed information on the locations. Right? So I've heard our next question comes from listener, Jacob primers. Hi guys. My name is Jacob Reimers. My question was around opening up movie theaters in San Diego know, are they open? I've heard that they're open. And if they are, do you have to wear a mask when you go? Speaker 3: 01:53 Good question. So we are all learning as we go about what can be open to what can be closed. And maybe this is a good time to talk about the States, a color coded opening the criteria. So, you know, this is a, I would say science based approach to how we should open up our society versus not we've seen over and over and over again in different countries, in different counties that when you open up too fast, things get out of control. One of the real kickers that people don't talk about is the stuff we do today shows up in two to three weeks. And what everyone's worried about is things getting out of control and then not being able to pull things back because of something called exponential spread, where you have a real multiplication of, uh, of those cases. So I'm bringing up the, uh, the state criteria here, movie theaters under the red tier, which we're currently in say that they can be open with modifications at a 25% maximum capacity or 100 people. Whichever is fewer. Now they don't address masks, but in terms of any risk that you have, whether it be being on an airplane, being out in public, being in movie theaters, I personally think universal masking is a good idea. It's worked incredibly and there's great scientific data for decreasing transmission. In other settings, Speaker 2: 03:04 Let's go here from Mindy. Here's her question. Once a vaccine is approved, what would we expect rollout of the vaccine to look like? How long will it take, um, how will specific priority groups, um, be determined who gets to decide what those look like? Um, and at what point will vaccination coverage be considered high enough, uh, to allow for broader reopening of activities? Speaker 3: 03:30 Great question Mindy. So a lot of people are thinking about this right now. I think you've heard the CDC director, Robert Redfield in front of Congress the other day, uh, alluding to this that, you know, people just think it's going to be a switch that we flip and everybody gets the vaccine. That is not how it's going to happen. So there will be a limited amount of vaccine available in the beginning. And there are some very smart people thinking about how to phase this out. The one that I would refer you to is from the national Academy of sciences, engineering and medicine. Who's developed a very beautiful, um, uh, phased approach where phase one, two, three, and four sort of allowing the, uh, the populations at highest risk to go first, uh, with a lot of data and a lot of thought behind this, they've used our experience with pandemic, influenza, preparedness, Ebola vaccine, all this kind of stuff, even smallpox. Speaker 3: 04:15 And there's basically a phase one that, uh, gets a high, high risk healthcare workers are first in line, as well as first responders, such as firefighters and policemen phase one B would include everybody of all ages with comorbid and underlying conditions who are at the highest risk of dying of COVID. And then also included in phase one is older adults living in congregate settings. And that specifically nursing facilities phase two brings in more essential workers. And there's a detailed explanation of what an essential worker is. That includes people like farm workers, people working in meat, packing plants, um, teachers definitely also people of all ages with comorbid conditions, um, people in homeless shelters in group homes and congregate settings, not included earlier, such as prisons and jails. And then phase three gets more to the general population with young adults, children, uh, other essential workers, phase four would be everybody. Speaker 3: 05:04 Now the timeline of that, obviously it's going to take a while. So even if we have 10 million doses, by the end of the year, that's going to go to healthcare workers first, and then people with diabetes and hypertension, or, or who are older, who have highest risk. And the last thing I'll say is that we are already starting locally to discuss this, how it actually rolls out. We'll have to do with our existing systems with CDC and local health jurisdictions, but people are already starting to talk on the local level at San Diego County about how we're going to roll this out. Final part of your question is when do we get to herd immunity? Uh, the best modeling that I've seen is that we have to reach about 70% in order to have a real population effect of herd immunity. What does that mean? Speaker 3: 05:43 It means that the combination of having had COVID and having immunity from the actual infection, plus the number of people that get vaccinated needs to reach about 70%. And I'll tell you the one thing I'm very, very concerned about, and everybody, I know that's an infectious disease, public health doctors concerned about this is if we have enough vaccine hesitancy or reluctance of the population to get the vaccine, we may not get to that 70%. I've seen a recent survey that said 50% of Americans right now are prepared to get a vaccine. This is a moving target because of course it all depends on the transparency of the vaccine research protocols. Speaker 2: 06:17 Thank you. So our next question comes from Laura car. Here it is. How do we keep our kids and our family safe, if and when schools re reopen and require us the kids to go back to? Speaker 3: 06:30 Well, this is a very complicated question. I don't know if I can answer it in one minute or less, but the one major point I think has been lost a little bit and not emphasized enough is that school based transmission is totally dependent on community-based transmission. Our schools are not isolated islands. They exist within communities, students that go to school, interact with older people who are their teachers, their administrators, they come home to older people who are their parents. They interact with their grandparents. A school is completely embedded in a community in places where we've seen successful face-to-face school. Reintegration have been places that have already flattened the curves so much in the community that it looks like it's safer. The CDC recently issued a, uh, also a color coded guide to say, when it is safe to go back to school and it does have to do with basically community transmission as the most important factor. I think it's a little bit arbitrary to choose what level of community transmission is safe enough, but the people at the CDC sort of chose actual thresholds there. So that I would say is the overall point of when we know it's safe. Speaker 2: 07:31 This next question comes from a listener who's choosing to remain anonymous. They would like to know can dr. Ramers address the PCR cycle threshold being used in the labs that do stand Eva county's test and explain why it is considered precise enough to dictate public policy and business in school. Reopenings. Speaker 3: 07:51 So let me start with what a PCR cycle threshold is. A PCR is a chemical reaction that amplifies very, very small amounts of DNA or RNA from a virus or bacteria. The cycle threshold refers to how many of those cycles it takes to actually get a positive result. So the higher number you get, the lower amount of virus is actually there. What we've seen is that in people, for example, who get infected with COVID and they have a positive PCR test, if we were to test them after their infection, in many cases, it stays positive for weeks, six weeks. I had a patient who had an eight week positive, um, COVID test after being sick. And we know that person is probably not infectious. So the question is, is PCR too sensitive, and there's a lot of discussion about bringing in a different kind of test like an antigen test, which really would only detect those who are very, very infectious at the initial rates of infection versus a PCR, which really is, is a very, very sensitive test. Speaker 3: 08:47 And some people have said too sensitive. Now I think the question is getting at maybe over counting cases and counting positive PCRs as people that maybe don't necessarily have severe enough COVID, but really that's the standard test that we have right now. Uh, and PCR tests are really the best that we have. So they are the most sensitive and the most specific tests that we have right now, I will address the question and say that a positive PCR after somebody already been diagnosed with COVID is pretty useless. We can actually not use that, but that's not used in the case count. Initially, it's just a single positive. It tells us if somebody has COVID, you do not need to have a followup test. Once you've been positive. Once we use days and symptoms of 10 days and being symptom-free in terms of determining infectiousness, Speaker 2: 09:29 The next question is one that we hear a lot, and this one comes from Chris Davis or wondering why the kids haven't been a higher priority as, uh, all of the plans have sort of manifested or making all these innovations to allow restaurants to open outdoors and now indoors, and to do all of these things. And just wondering why there hasn't been a more concerted effort to make things work for kids. Speaker 3: 09:51 Boy, that's a really important question. I think in a cynical way, we would say that, you know, kids don't generate major economic productivity, the way that bars and restaurants do. Uh, it's a, it's a philosophical question that I think we need to think about as a society. What's more important to us open bars or open schools. And that was infectious disease specialist, Dr. Christian Ramers talking with KPBS health reporter Taryn Mento and taking questions from KPBS audience members. To hear more segments like this one, look for KPBS Midday Edition wherever you get your podcasts. And that’s all for today. Yay friyay. Have a great weekend.

Local activists are suing the state to stop the use of the California Gang Database, known as CalGang. Plus: racial justice protests continue and more state and local news you need. Support KPBS and this podcast by becoming a member today online at