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

Release Of Police Shooting Records Delayed

 January 28, 2021 at 5:03 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Thursday, January 28th. San Diego police agencies still need to release more use of force records... We’ll have that story next, but first... let’s do the headlines…. Two weeks ago, there were more than 1700 hospitalizations for COVID 19 in San Diego, and a record 438 ICU patients with the virus. Both of those numbers have been steadily declining since then. Positive tests were above 13%, but in the past two weeks officials recorded an average of 9% tests being positive. This, as Blue Shield of California has been tapped to run the state’s vaccine delivery system. The county board of supervisors voted unanimously on wednesday to approve a climate change proposal that will move the county towards zero carbon emissions by 2035. Supervisors Terra Lawson-Remer and Nora Vargas authored the proposal, known as the Regional Sustainability Plan. The plan makes San Diego County the largest county in the US to commit to zero emissions by 2035. A storm system pounded parts of northern California and Nevada this week. There were power outages, toppled trees, mudslides south of the Bay Area and mudflows in areas scarred by wildfires. The damage on Wednesday was fueled by a potent atmospheric river system. That storm system is expected to hit Southern California today. From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need. The passage of SB 14-21 in 2018 was hailed as a watershed moment for police accountability and government transparency in California. The law says police have to make public records of officer shootings and the use of force. But three years later, KPBS investigative reporter Claire Trageser says San Diego police agencies are still holding on to hundreds of records that should be released under the law. The 2016 Holiday Bowl did not end well for Jason Walker. During the game he got into a shoving match with a man sitting behind him. Things got even worse when the police showed up. “I was backing up, I had my hands in the air, and then they shot me with a taser. A woman yelled, ‘you don’t need to taser him’ as I was shot, but then they just threw some handcuffs on me and dragged me out of the stadium.” Walker spent thousands on a lawyer to get charges of battery on a police officer dismissed. He then sued the city and agreed to a $1,000 settlement. But four years later, he still can’t get the police internal affairs investigation records related to his case. “California law states that you can get personnel records under SB 1421, and I’ve been trying to get these personnel records.” He may be waiting a long time. The law, known as Senate Bill 1421, is meant to shine a light on internal police investigations of officer shootings and use of force. But three years after it was passed the records are still slow in coming. The San Diego Police Department has only released about a third of the required records. The Sheriff’s Department, half. “SB 1421 says you must give a timely response to records requests, but some agencies decided a timely response is a year or two years later.” State Senator Nancy Skinner wrote the law, and is now proposing new legislation, SB 16, that aims to fix this records delay problem. “So what we’ve doing in SB 16 says you must respond by X date, or the requestor can take you to court and get penalities.” After 75 Days $1,000 a Day After 75 days, agencies would begin being fined $1,000 a day for every day records are not released. Skinner expects it to pass this year. Officials with the San Diego Police Department and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department say they’re releasing the records as fast as they can. They declined interviews with KPBS but sent statements saying the process is very time consuming and involves thousands of pages, plus hours of video and audio. “As SDPD works back in time, many of the files are not in a digital format and are recorded on technologies no longer in use, such as VCR tapes. This makes producing records much harder and more time consuming.” — Lt. Jeff Jordon, San Diego Police Department Captain Jeff Jordon with the San Diego Police Department wrote, quote, “As SDPD works back in time, many of the files are not in a digital format and are recorded on technologies no longer in use, such as VCR tapes. This makes producing records much harder and more time consuming.” A statement sent by San Diego County Sheriff’s Department spokesman also said the process is too time-consuming. “The purpose of public agencies is to serve the public.” Matthew Halgren, a First Amendment attorney at Sheppard Mullin, says these arguments miss the point of SB 1421. “Instead of viewing this as some special requirement that has been imposed on them, if they view it as part of their mission and something they need to devote their resources to, just like they would any other program, maybe that will help them prioritize this in the way that it should be.” Halgren represented KPBS and other media outlets when police unions unsuccessfully tried to block release of SB 1421 records. As part of the settlement agreement, San Diego Police agreed to turn over all its records, video and audio by this June. “SDPD believes it will be in substantial compliance of the settlement terms.” — Lt. Jeff Jordon, San Diego Police Department Will they make the deadline? Jordon would say only the department “believes it will be in substantial compliance of the settlement terms.” Meanwhile, the Sheriff’s Department doesn’t have the same hard deadline, but, Halgren says, time is up. Under the California Public Records Act, records must be released at the very latest within 24 days. “The media has not been unreasonable, but it's been two years now, and two years is longer than 24 days, so they should be wrapping this up.” That reporting from KPBS Investigative reporter Claire Traegeser. To explore the database of police internal records, go to KPBS dot ORG slash FORCE. Public officials are using inconsistent tracking methods for inmates who’ve died from covid-19, according to I-newsource reporter Mary Plummer. The issues have led to some deaths going uncounted. we found mistakes and delays in southern california and at the state level. among the problems: three prison inmates who died from covid-19 in san diego county appear uncounted locally. and the first known san diego county jail death has yet to be acknowledged by the sheriff’s department or reported to the state oversight board that tracks deaths from the virus. uc irvine professor bryan sykes studies inmate mortality rates. he says when incarceration facilities undercount deaths during the pandemic …. it creates safety problems: sykes: you're placing other people who are in custody at greater risk of contracting the disease through an inadequacy of policy and intervention. <10 seconds> inewsource also found counties do not use consistent methods to count inmates who die, which complicates disease management. for kpbs, i’m inewsource investigative reporter mary plummer. i-newsource reporter sofia mejias-pascoe co-reported this story. i-newsource is an independently funded, non-profit partner of kpbs. A newly released report from the California State Auditor says the state Employment Development Department is to blame for its own huge backlog of unemployment claims. CapRadio’s Mike Hagerty reports. The audit says the EDD has been aware of critical issues including an inefficient claim filing process, lack of readily available, qualified staff and poor call center management for nearly ten years. As a result, when the COVID crisis and associated job losses hit, the department was unprepared. The State Auditor says 800-thousand claims were paid late---as much as three weeks after jobless people in need of help filed their claims. Meantime, fraudsters were paid---at least 11 billion dollars, and possibly more than 30 billion dollars. On Tuesday, the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on State Administration pushed newly-appointed EDD Director Rita L. Saenz [SIGNS] for her plan to fix it. [SAENZ: “My vision for EDD right now is to get people paid, to stop the fraud, to modernize EDD so that we’re capable of handling the current problems we have and the problems that we’ll have in the future.” (:15)”] But Committee Chair Assemblymember Wendy Carillo noted a pre-COVID letter on the EDD website that anyone can access---outlining essentially what the auditor’s report found---an awareness on the part of the EDD that the department wasn’t prepared for crisis or even running efficiently in normal times and recommendations for action. [CARILLO: “Yet it has done nothing up until this point. So here we find ourselves now in this situation..” SAENZ: “Well, Chairwoman Carillo, let me just say this. EDD has done a number of things. It has not done enough.” (:16)] The State Auditor will publish a separate report on the EDD fraud situation today [Thursday]. That story from Cap Radio’s Mike Hagerty. Congressman Darrell Issa toured an alternate care site for COVID-19 patients at Palomar Medical Center Escondido on wednesday. KPBS North County reporter Jacob Aere has more. Congressman Darrell Issa took a tour at Palomar Medical Center Escondido Wednesday morning to see what an overflow room for incoming patients would look like at the facility. Issa says the county, state and federal government have yet to cover the 3.5 million dollars of expenses for new facilities and staff at the Escondido hospital. “Hospitals have to have the confidence that when they do something when asked, that they won't be doing it to the detriment of their own financial ability to pay other bills and treat their other patients.” The 10th floor of the building is currently stationed with 101 hospital beds and is being used to care for 18 patients with COVID-19. It is the only alternate care site located in San Diego County. That was KPBS North County reporter Jacob Aere. UC San Diego had a surge of COVID-19 cases among students returning from their winter break, but the number of new cases has dropped dramatically in recent weeks. KPBS Education Reporter Joe Hong explains how the university is hoping to keep cases low. With about 10,000 students on campus last quarter, UC San Diego kept COVID-19 case numbers low through the end of 2020. But after the winter holiday, cases spiked among students with more than 200 reported during the first week of the new quarter. Robert Schooley is a professor of medicine at UCSD overseeing the university’s COVID strategy. 00:00:42:00ROBERT SCHOOLEY /// UCSD PROFESSOR OF MEDICINEWe anticipated this would happen. When people go home and mix with multiple generations and see their high school friends and socialize, this virus takes advantage of that. But in less than two weeks, numbers have plummeted back down to single digits thanks to the testing and quarantine program the university had in place since last year. Schooley said unless there’s a significant delay in vaccinations, he expects the university to be close to fully reopened in the fall. And that was KPBS Education reporter Joe Hong. Coming up.... Governor Newsom spent a lot of his career trying to modernize the state government, but how successful has he been? As part of a series reviewing Governor Newsom’s midterm record, we’ll have that story next, just after the break….. California Governor Gavin Newsom has spent much of his political career advocating for tech-innovation in government. But Newsom has had mixed success modernizing state bureaucracy in the last two years. CapRadio’s Scott Rodd reports. In 2013, then-Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom went on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report to hype his new book called Citizenville: How to Take the Town Square Digital and Reinvent Government. NEWSOM-COLBERT: “The whole idea is this...what the f*** does any of that mean?”] The book’s message is actually fairly simple: Governments need to be tech savvy and should open their troves of data to the public. In turn, people will become more engaged in the civic process. But modernizing state government? That’s been a challenge for Newsom in the last two years. Here he is a few weeks ago unveiling his latest budget proposal. NEWSOM- :“I wrote a book about being on the leading, cutting edge of 1976 in terms of IT. And trust me, that's been made abundantly clear to not just me, to all of you in this last year.” [Tape to tape...typing sounds…] MONTGOMERY-1: “So I’m starting to log into the unemployment website right now…” Mary Montgomery works at a sushi restaurant in Sacramento that has opened and closed throughout the pandemic. Like millions of Californians...she applied for unemployment insurance to help make ends meet. Then the state inexplicably froze her benefits. MONTGOMERY- :“It says that I have over five thousand dollars that I should be able to use, but there's no way for me to use that money.” The Employment Development Department’s dusty, old computer system has been blamed for its high-profile failures in recent months. There’s an ongoing backlog of about a million claims. And there’s rampant fraud that could total more than 30 billion dollars. Newsom appointed a strike team that recommended a complete IT overhaul. How to do that is still unclear. So for now, the existing system limps along. During the pandemic, Newsom’s administration has been more successful at tracking the virus. PONCE-1: “Generally speaking, it’s done a good job for the population as a whole, and for major racial ethnic groups.” Ninez Ponce [“knee-nez pawn-say”] is director of UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research. She says there have been a few hiccups...and California could do a better job disclosing targeted population data. But its tracking system on the whole is better than most states. Newsom has also been quick to forge partnerships with Silicon Valley during the pandemic. That’s according to Amy Tong, the state’s chief information officer. She points to California Notify...a contact tracing app for your phone that’s garnered millions of users. TONG- : “It’s a partnership with Google and Apple. It’s an exposure notification, and we piloted it with all the UC campuses to begin with.” But for every new dashboard or widget, a decades-old server is still waiting to be replaced. Tong says the state’s biggest tech challenge isn’t updating those systems...but rather winning over the hearts and minds of public employees who are used to doing things a certain way. TONG : “There’s a huge culture change that needs to happen to make sure the people running the programs, people running the operations are comfortable. Technology alone is not the panacea.” To encourage this cultural shift, Newsom created the Office of Digital Innovation shortly after taking office. He allocated $40 million dollars to get it started. One of its first projects was prototyping a redesign of the state government’s website. But the home page warns the site is a work in progress...and some of the information may be outdated. SOC That story from Cap Radio’s Scott Rodd. That’s it for the podcast today. Be sure to catch KPBS Midday Edition At Noon on KPBS radio, or check out the Midday podcast. You can also watch KPBS Evening Edition at 5 O’clock on KPBS Television, and as always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Annica Colbert. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

Ways To Subscribe
Police agencies are violating a landmark state law passed in 2017 requiring disclosure of police use of force records. Now, a new bill could impose fines on departments that do not release records quickly enough. Meanwhile, Inewsource finds some inmate deaths related to COVID-19 are going uncounted. Plus, as part of a series reviewing Governor Gavin Newsom’s midterm record, how successful has California been with modernizing the state government?