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First responders dealing with PTSD

 August 2, 2023 at 5:00 AM PDT

Good Morning, I’m Debbie Cruz….it’s Wednesday, August second.


More first responders are dying by suicide than in the line of duty.

More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….


The San Diego City Council has approved a plan to use cameras, mounted in city streetlights, to record video in public areas.

The 7-to-2 vote by the council followed hours of public testimony yesterday…

Most of it opposed use of the cameras.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and S-D-P-D see the cameras as a vital crime-fighting tool.

Privacy and civil rights advocates claim it's an invasion of privacy, and will encourage over policing in communities of color.

Cameras in streetlights have been used by police in the past decade, but public controversy has made them off-limits to police use since 20-20.


Former president Donald Trump has been indicted a third time.

This time on four felony counts accusing him of working to overturn the 20-20 election.

While the indictment describes the events of January 6th, Trump was not charged for inciting violence at the capitol.

Former U-S attorney for California’s southern district, Carol Lam says she believes excluding that charge is the right decision.

 “Because that would be such a difficult case to bring so many witnesses trying to get into the heads of people who broke into the capitol. I think what jack smith is thinking now how can i try this quickly.” 

Lam says some of the charges Trump faces carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Trump responded on his social media platform "truth social".. saying prosecutors want to interfere with his 20-24 presidential campaign.


San Diego County's Department of Animal Services is waiving pet adoption fees this month, as part of a national “Clear the Shelters'' effort.

Shelters in the county are nearly full of animals.

All animals adopted from county shelters will be spayed or neutered, have vaccinations, a microchip and a one-year license for dogs.

You can see all animals available for adoption on the county’s Animal Services adoptions page.


From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need.


We often hear about the dangers first responders face on the job… but in recent years, more of them are dying by suicide than in the line of duty.

Reporter Kitty Alvarado introduces us to the first responders working to make a change.

A warning… this story begins with a description of a violent attack, and includes discussion of suicide.

This is me going one-on-one going whoa buddy, like easy easy. And I know I'm in trouble. Even though this body camera footage was taken more than nine years ago firefighter paramedic Ben Vernon can remember every second probably now coming now coming out An unlooker interfering with San Diego fire and rescues Engine 4 crew first detect security guards, then took a knife out and stabbed two of the people called there to help an army of firefighters on police officers answered the call to save them in that moment. He felt the Brotherhood was real and let's pulled in and there were tons of my people already in the parking lot waiting for me Not always a good thing. The first thing that trauma team does is it's called trauma naked and so they should be making in front of half my damned apartment and I knew I knew I was hurt because I didn't care. He thought he put the attack behind him when he went home from the hospital started having horrific nightmares, I would wake up screaming soaked in sweat and I don't only been in bed for an hour hour and a half This became routine. I'm in real trouble here. Like I don't know what to do. Oh like what is this? This is post-traumatic stress syndrome something First Responders, we'll have to deal with at some point in their careers ignoring it can have deadly consequences in recent years more firefighters and police officers are dying by Suicide than in the line of duty. Doctor Heechin Chae PTSD. It's really a imbalance of brain function. Chae is one of the leading experts in healing the brain after a traumatic brain injury or psychological trauma brought on by an incident like vernons "Understanding what they went through. It's really a start of a healing Journey. Chae gained a lot of Knowledge from treating thousands of service members and it's now at the institutes of Health in San Diego. They developed a special program to heal First Responders from injuries to the brain. They suffer on the job. We call it concussion or mild traumatic brain jury. That's all injury to the connections between brain cells that MRI catscan don't pick up. They think is themself there's something wrong with them but it's actually the injury Chae says it's not always just one incident. It can be caused by suppressing emotions while exposed to trauma over and over any changes in the pattern of the thoughts or the emotion inability to reset after each day or after each week. That's actually good morning sign that you should get some help but when the helpers need help, it's hard for them to admit suck it up buttercup is what they used to tell you retired Sdfr Captain Paul. Alvin says, it's part of the old school firefighter culture. Oh good. I think I'd come here. I was a tough captain that might be little you if you told me you were going to come here. I was part of that fire department culture the same culture. We're trying to get rid of He spots a lot of issues with what's required of today's First Responders essentially going at a pace that's not sustainable. Alvernez says that vicious cycle contributed to his issues and took the life of one of his brothers. to this day. It haunts me that I spoke to him was 15 days before he killed himself. He thought he had it under control -- until he didn't. I got in trouble my mouth lost my temper. I mean irrational I had people reaching out to me that said hey, you need some help Vernon and Alvernez is say in a moment of despair that could have been their ending too after two or three weeks of No, Sleep suicide was an option. Okay. I have my concerns because I was in a dark place Vernon is now fully healed and part of the army that runs to save their own, thanks to his new mission to educate firefighters around the country. He worries about those not stepping forward. That's the number that keeps me awake at night who out there in my department is struggling in silence and it scares me because we've had two suicides Alvernez came out of retirement to lead by example. He now welcomes firefighters to the Institutes of Health the place that healed him. I gotta know that I did my part. We don't want any more suicides. Kitty Alvarado KPBS news.

TAG: If you or someone you love is struggling with thoughts of suicide … there is help.

The number to call is 9-8-8.

First responders should reach out to their wellness program as well.


The San Diego City Council earlier this week approved spending money earmarked for park improvements on a freeway exit.

Metro reporter Andrew Bowen has the story.

AB: The Quince Drive off-ramp from northbound 163 in Balboa Park has been closed for months. Winter storms damaged the offramp, which is one of the least used on the whole freeway. But city staff say it needs to reopen urgently. So they asked the council to divert 1.7 million dollars from a fund dedicated to improving parks. Councilmember Joe LaCava said he supports the repair work, but that park money shouldn't go to freeways. JL: I do have a problem with the fact that we're using those regional park improvement funds to do that as opposed to street funds or storm drain funds or whatever might be applicable given the improvements you're doing. AB: The council voted 7-2 to approve the funding reallocation, which staff say won't impact any other park projects. The city hopes to reopen the off-ramp by the end of the year. Andrew Bowen, KPBS news.


Coming up.... How M-L-B is working to ensure fraudulent memorabilia stays out of stores.

“We watch baseball differently than the average fan because we’re following the ball. We keep track of everyone who touches the ball, where the ball goes and how it comes out of play.” 

We’ll have that story and more, just after the break.


Did you know there are current or former police officers with special jobs at baseball games?

They're not there as security, but checking balls, bats, and other items from the games.

Reporter Matt Hoffman followed along with two official M-L-B authenticators.

“Number 75 Alika williams” That’s the sound of Alika Williams stepping up for his first major league at bat.. The 24 year old Pittsburgh Pirates infielder is making his major league debut at Petco park.. It’s a moment the  San Diego native will never forget. Alika Williams, Pittsburgh Pirates infielder I feel great man, it was awesome to be able to do it in my hometown and have so many family and friends come out in support. It was amazing Debuts don’t happen everyday in baseball.. So when they do, it’s a moment Major League Baseball wants to officially mark. Hours before Williams' big moment, MLB authenticator JC Smith was preparing ..Smith If he gets in the game he’s going to want to get a lot of things authenticated Smith is part of a team of six at Petco park who authenticate items from each game. That means they watch every pitch, every swing, every hit, every out very carefully. If anything significant happens, from a major milestone, to a no-hitter to a first-ever at bat, they track the ball and any other equipment involved. JC Smith, MLB Authenticator We watch it very closely -- we watch baseball differently than the average fan because we’re following the ball. We keep track of everyone who touches the ball, where the ball goes and how it comes out of play MLB authenticators might verify up to 40 game balls a night.. But it’s not just balls they’re watching  -- anything from broken bats, to base pads and jerseys could come their way.. After something like a ball comes off the field, it's passed to them and they label it with a hologram sticker that identifies the item as legit. They also detail how it was used during the game. Steve Villalobos, MLB Authenticator It’s a witness based program that we do. So we have to see something to be able to authenticate it Steve Viallobos has been an MLB authenticator since 2006.. His day starts with helping oversee the certification of all the game balls that will be used in today’s game. Villalobos Taking six? Okay Then it’s back through the tunnel and out on the field to authenticate the Padres team lineup card. Villalobos My hologram is now on it so it’s an official lineup card ready for game-use Some things Smith and Viallobos are authenticating will end up going back to players or the teams. Some of it will also be sold to fans.. The Padres have a game-used store at Petco Park where people can buy things like balls, jerseys or hats.. MLB authenticators also specialize in verifying that autographs are real -- if it has the shiny silver hologram sticker, it’s legit. With everything -- with any sort of autograph at this point the authentication is everything I would never buy a signature online without that sort of authentication -- ever Sean Daily bought a replica lineup card for his son Max.. it has an autograph from one of their favorite players, CJ Abrams.. Daily has peace of mind knowing the signature is real and he can go online and read about the item’s back-story. I didn't realize you can just scan the qr code here, it takes you to a site and it tells you the context. It was this inning, it was this bat, this is what happened at the moment. So it’s a great way to log that moment in history The MLB authentication program covers every team in the league, but it actually started in San diego. In the early 2000s Padres legend Tony Gwynn noticed his signature was being forged. He helped launch an investigation that revealed a massive forgery scandal uncovered by the FBI. Posner That was kind of the touchstone moment where everyone realized there’s a problem here Michael Posner leads MLB’s Authentication Program.. He says the program was necessary because people were faking autographs and claiming items came from games when they simply didn't. Michael Posner, MLB Authentication Program If there’s no way to put a stamp on it and say this is it this is how we witnessed it here’s the process -- people have the opportunity to forge it because there’s a vacuum in the space. And generally when there’s a vacuum in the space -- bad actors come in. And we have been very very proactive to keep those people out of the business MLB only hires current or former law enforcement to be authenticators.. They do that because of their training on how to handle evidence. Smith spent 26 years with the San Diego Police Department, then worked for the district attorney's office.. Viallobos was with SDPD for 32 years.. He says there is some crossover.. Villalobos We have to see it, it has to get to us -- we have to document it. So it would be the same thing at an evidentiary scene Nat of williams or crowd After the game San Diego native Alika Williams had his debut jersey authenticated and Smith was there to mark the moment. Smith I had to watch the jersey actually come off Williams when he came off the field because they can’t just give us any jersey and say hey this was the one he was wearing -- i have to see it. It’s almost like in court for law enforcement that we have to testify we saw the evidence and where it came from Since 2001 MLB says more than 6-million items have been authenticated. MH KPBS News.


Operation Hope North County has a mission to help house families with children experiencing homelessness… and the shelter has been given a full renovation.

Along with new furniture and new walls... it got a lot of new color.

Reporter Tania Thorne explains.

Earlier this year, Operation Hope North County in Vista was given a full renovation that transformed their property.-66% of our population is children and its apparent to anyone that comes and volunteers here, apparent to anyone that works here, apparent to anyone that visits us.Jimmy Figureoa is the executive director of the homeless shelter for families with children and single moms.When the renovation was complete, he knew the kids' space needed more than blank walls.And for that, Figueroa enlisted the help of local artists.Michelle Guerrero goes by MRBBABY.I really strongly believe in art and I believe that it really can transform a place and so I'm happy to be able to provide this for these kids and really turn this environment into something beautiful and colorful that they're excited to be a part of.   What were once blank and brown walls, are now filled with colors and art that Figueroa hopes the kids will see, and know it's for them.They saw something being created that was intentionally created for them and I think that would make any of us feel special. TT KPBS News.


That’s it for the podcast today. As always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Debbie Cruz. Thanks for listening and have a great Wednesday.

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We often hear about the dangers first responders face on the job, but in recent years, more of them are dying by suicide than in the line of duty. In other news, the San Diego City Council Monday approved spending money earmarked for park improvements on a freeway exit. Plus, did you know there are current or former police officers with special jobs at baseball games? They're not there as security, but checking balls, bats and other items from the games.