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Lawmakers look into police misconduct discipline

 March 10, 2023 at 5:00 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Debbie Cruz….it’s Friday, March 10th.

We look into possible solutions for police misconduct in San Diego. More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….


A teacher accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a former student is once again under arrest.

Jacqueline Ma.. a 34-year-old teacher at Lincoln Acres Elementary in National City was first arrested on March 7th.

She later bailed out of jail and was released from custody.

National City Police say since that time, detectives investigating the case developed probable cause to re-arrest Ma on additional felony charges.

Police say she was taken into custody yesterday, and will be re-booked into Las Colinas Women's Detention Facility.

They are not releasing any more information.. saying the victim is a minor and the investigation is ongoing.


President Joe Biden will be in San Diego Monday, to meet with the prime ministers of Britain and Australia.

According to the White House, the three world leaders will discuss the Australia - U-K and U-S- partnership known as "Aukus."

The partnership commits the three nations to maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

They'll also participate in bilateral meetings.


The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s department says it has now responded to 13 deaths since the blizzard that hit the mountains two weeks ago.

They say only one of those deaths was directly connected to the weather, and that four of those who died were either in the hospital or on hospice care.

Most of the victims were found in their homes.

But some mountain residents say there are still homes in the area that are inaccessible.

56 firefighters from San Diego are in the mountains to help with the rescue efforts.


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


Police misconduct records show that officers who are caught lying may not get disciplined.

Reporter Gustavo Solis explains how lawmakers are trying to change that.

In 2019, a prosecutor heard an interesting story from a defense lawyer. It was about a San Diego Police Detective named James Needham. “He told me that Detective Needham who was assigned to the case during a follow up interview had set up REDACTED to be arrested by ICE.” That would be a scandal, if true. The state’s sanctuary laws prevent local police officers from helping ICE. The prosecutor took the allegation with a grain of salt. “So initially, my first thought that crossed my mind was like ok, this is a defense attorney exaggerating what happened and probably speculating.” So she called the detective. The victim's name is redacted in the audio. “And then detective Needham said and his exact words – I’m going to slow this down to make sure I get it right, “I agreed to work with them to set up REDACTED so they could arrest him.” “So my stomach dropped. And I know that I paused probably for several seconds and I said OK what did you do?” This audio comes from a police Internal Affairs investigation. It found Needham cooperated with ICE. He set up a meeting with the undocumented immigrant, who was a crime victim. He told federal agents the time and location. The immigrant was eventually deported. Police investigators found Needham lied in multiple ways. But we don’t know if Needham was ever disciplined. A third of the almost 100 misconduct cases released by San Diego police are missing disciplinary records. “So there are a few different reasons that an investigatory file could be missing discipline records. One is that the department may have disciplined the officer but disposed of the records due to the departments record retention schedule.” Matthew Halgren is a lawyer who specializes in the First Amendment law. He says there are multiple explanations for the missing records. “It’s also possible that the department either never disciplined the officer because it chose not to or that the officer resigned or retired before the discipline could be issued.” That was the case for Needham—he retired 13 days after the investigation finished. He couldn’t be reached for comment. Whatever the reason behind the missing records, activists say the lack of transparency reveals a lot about the police department. Tasha Williamson, activist “This was a culture within SDPD.” That’s Tasha Williamson, a social justice advocate in San Diego. She says SDPD’s own policy calls for terminating officers caught lying. But that doesn’t always happen. “I think their discipline is based on who people know, who is liked, who is not liked. We’ve seen officers who have been terminated for lying and we’ve seen officers who have not been terminated for lying. You have a policy that says if you lie you should be fired. But that is not a policy they adhere to.” State Senator Nancy Skinner wrote the law that makes these misconduct records public. “When you look at public safety in particular and police, the nature of their work there has to be trust between the public and the officers. There’s another benefit to Skinner’s law, called SB 16. It’s meant to help other police agencies vet new hires. “Really, before SB 16 if you were the hiring agency, you couldn’t get that record form the other department. You could not find out that this officer had this history of dishonesty. So, you might hire unknowing someone with a history of dishonesty. Now under SB 16 the hiring agency has to ask for any disciplinary or investigatory records from the agency. Skinner says SB 16 doesn’t prevent officers from resigning before they’re disciplined. But the public can use their misconduct records to hold police departments accountable. “It doesn’t force an agency to take a disciplinary action. But certainly it allows the public to say why are you keeping this person now that we have the record .” Gustavo Solis, KPBS News.

TAG: This story was reported with inewsource, an independently funded, nonprofit partner of KPBS.


The San Diego city council's environment committee unanimously approved a new policy for top priorities in the Climate Action Implementation Plan.

The meeting follows a rally by activists, who are demanding more.

Reporter Jacob Aere has the story.

The rally at Civic Center Plaza was a call for bold climate action and tangible change. The city’s climate action plan looks to get to net-zero carbon emissions by 20-35, but activists like Dr. Elizabeth Barreras-Rivest say the city needs to take action now or it will face massive public health consequences.“Our most vulnerable community members – the elderly, children, the indigenous, minorities, migrants and those with pre-existing illness are suffering the most profound health impacts.” Just last week, the city released a draft document to implement the Climate Action Plan. It’s been criticized for a lack of specific details. Activists say San Diego communities face increased climate-related dangerous heat waves, wildfires, and pollution. They say the city should take advantage of historic funding opportunities from the state and federal government — to make San Diego a leader in climate action. Jacob Aere, KPBS News.


As California’s housing crisis continues, some cities are resisting a state law that calls for more affordable housing to be built - and now one of them is being sued for the second time.

Here’s more from reporter John Carroll.

In a Thursday morning news conference, state officials said they’re suing Huntington Beach again, for violating state law concerning Accessory Dwelling Units, or ADU’s… also known as “granny flats.”  In a virtual news conference, Attorney General Rob Bonta, along with Governor Gavin Newsom said the state sued Huntington Beach back in 2019 for the same thing.  Attorney General Bonta says the city is flouting the law again. “Their actions are brazen, blatant, egregious, willful and intentional.  They are looking at the law.  They know exactly what their duty is and they’re saying we’re not going to comply, and that’s not OK.” Some cities in San Diego County like Del Mar, Escondido and others have been warned by the state to come into compliance with the law, or they could be the subject of future lawsuits.  JC, KPBS News.


Coming up.... Our KPBS arts editor joins me with some arts events worth checking out this weekend. We’ll have that and more, just after the break.


Students and staff at a Del Mar school are looking forward to being together again, after years of being separated due to delays in their campus’s rebuild.

Reporter Claire Strong has more.

The long-running saga of the Del Mar Heights rebuild has finally come to end, and for teacher Ian Phillip, this day couldn’t come soon enough. “Being able to walk across school and deal with a concern, or a celebration. To just have an assembly together, and celebrate normal elementary school things, that’s been gone since we left” Phillip, like the rest of the staff and students from Del Mar Heights, have been split between two other schools in the district while the legal fallout from the rebuild caused delays in construction. A local group, Save the Field, filed two lawsuits due to concerns over fire, traffic and environmental issues. But the San Diego Superior Court says work on the new site - which will take around a year to finish - can now continue. Claire Strong, KPBS News.


In other education related news, the 20-23 San Diego County spelling bee champion has just been declared…and he is a returning winner from Poway Unified.

Education reporter M.G. Perez explains.

ma-HEAR Konk-a-POC-a is a 7th grade student who attends Mesa Verde Middle School…and for the second year in a row he has been named the top speller winning  the 53rd Annual San Diego County Spelling Bee…the first in-person competition since the COVID shutdown. He did it by spelling the word “EX-SU-FLATION” which means “forcible breathing or blowing out (as in clearing the respiratory tract).” …competing with 80 other middle schoolers. Music Watson is with the San Diego County Office of Education …which supports the spelling bee “it’s really hard when you see a student spell out which is what we call it when they miss a word…you know it’s a lot of preparation that’s gone into it…and the disappointment that comes…but they are absolutely still winners.” Konk-a-POC-a will now represent the County in the National Spelling Bee near Washington D.C. in late May. MGP KPBS News.


Michael Mizerany is a choreographer who has taken up a second career as a playwright and director.

He has been working on a trio of short horror plays he calls a Thrillogy, and the second installment is now playing.

It's called “Ted-X Talks: The Murder Room.”

My colleague Beth Accomando previews the show with Mizerany.

TAG: That was Michael Mizerany speaking with KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando.

His play “Ted-X Talks: The Murder Room” runs through Monday, at the Light Box Theatre at Liberty Station.


Before we go, my colleague Julia Dixon Evans joins me to talk about some arts events that are happening this weekend.

Hi Julia… welcome to the San Diego News Now podcast.

TAG: You can find details and more events at KPBS dot ORG slash ARTS. I’ve been speaking with KPBS Arts producer and editor, Julia Dixon Evans. Thank you for joining us on the podcast, Julia. Have a great weekend!


That’s it for the podcast today. This podcast was produced by KPBS Editor Joe Guerin and Producer Emilyn Mohebbi. As always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Debbie Cruz. Don’t forget we’re springing forward this weekend with Daylight Saving Time. The time will spring forward an hour at 2 A-M on Sunday. Thanks for listening and have a great weekend.

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Police misconduct records show that officers who are caught lying may not get disciplined, but lawmakers are trying to change that. In other news, the San Diego city council's environment committee unanimously approved a new policy for top priorities in the Climate Action Implementation Plan. Plus, we have some weekend arts events worth checking out.