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Retaining police in the new normal

 March 24, 2022 at 5:00 AM PDT

Good Morning, I’m Matt Hoffman in for Annica Colbert….it’s Thursday march 24th.New agency will soon power thousands of homes in San Diego

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

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San Diego County is no longer requiring new hires to be vaccinated for COVID-19.. The move announced yesterday also removes a requirement for the unvaccinated to be tested weekly.. In a letter to employees county officials said they made the decision based on declines in COVID hospitalizations and deaths.. Health leaders have said cases are still too high for our region. The changes are expected to take effect starting April 4th..

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GOVERNOR GAVIN NEWSOM HAS A PLAN TO COUNTER RISING GAS PRICES.

IT STARTS WITH A 400-DOLLAR REBATE FOR REGISTERED VEHICLES OWNED BY Californians… CAPPED AT TWO CARS.

GASREBATE 1A :12- :29 (:17) That direct relief will address the issue that we are all struggling to address, and that’s the issue of gas prices. Not only here in our state, but of course all across this country. This direct relief is on top of the $10+ billion dollars that we have distributed over the last year with the Golden State Stimulus.

THE GOVERNOR’S 11-BILLION DOLLAR PROPOSAL ALSO INCLUDES PAUSING A PORTION OF THE SALES TAX RATE ON DIESEL FUEL, AND SUSPENDING THE INFLATIONARY ADJUSTMENT ON THE GAS AND DIESEL TAXES.

HE ALSO WANTS TO OFFER FREE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION FOR THREE MONTHS.

THE PROPOSAL HAS TO BE APPROVED BY THE STATE LEGISLATURE. IF IT PASSES THERE, PAYMENTS COULD START GOING OUT TO SAN DIEGANS IN JULY.

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For many students across the country, this weekend is the beginning of Spring Break. It’s a time when thousands come to San Diego, and this year lifeguards say warmer weather has already led to more people at the beach. In the coming days lifeguards expect to see more visitors. Today (Thursday) lifeguards are reminding residents and tourists to enjoy the beach in a safe and responsible way.. Lifeguards patrol miles of coastline and make thousands of rescues a year..

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

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Thousands of San Diegans will soon be getting electricity from a new government agency. KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen has more on what to watch for on your energy bills.

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POWER 1 (ab) 0:46

AB: San Diego Community Power is a partnership between six cities, plus the county government, aimed at speeding up the transition to renewable energy. Over the next two months, the agency's customer base will grow more than tenfold as it enrolls homes in Encinitas, Chula Vista and San Diego. Cody Hooven is SDCP's chief operating officer. She says bills will look mostly the same, except for the line item for electricity generation.

CH: In that piece that we control, our rates are about 2% cheaper this year. But they're also about 19% cleaner. So that power is 50% renewable power.

AB: Customers can compare rates and boost their home's electricity to 100% renewable on the agency's website. Andrew Bowen, KPBS news.

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COVID HAS CAUSED A SHIFT AT MANY WORKPLACES, WITH EMPLOYEES LEAVING FOR OTHER JOBS… OR FOR OTHER EMPLOYERS THAT THEY THINK ARE A BETTER FIT.

The pandemic has CAUSED A SHIFT AT MANY WORKPLACES, WITH SOME EMPLOYEES LEAVING FOR OTHER JOBS..

THAT INCLUDES SAN DIEGO LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS, SOME OF WHICH ARE LEAVING BECAUSE OF COVID MANDATES.

BUT KPBS REPORTER KITTY ALVARADO SAYS THAT’S NOT THE ONLY REASON.

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TAKE PKG DEPUTY POACH 1 TRT 4:08

Nat sound car door

Deputy Darnell Calhoun is just starting his shift … he’s one of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department’s new hires.

Welcome to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department,

I appreciate it man

And while he’s just meeting some of his colleagues for the first time, he’s no rookie.

He comes with three years of experience in law enforcement from a department that is considered top notch…. The San Diego Police Department.

I’m glad I can be here and I can be a part of the community … Morale feels really good here

He says he loved his colleagues in San Diego and already knew the city well … then things started to change.

Everything was going pretty good and a lot of people started to leave due to a lot of the vaccination status that I won’t really get into, it took a hard hit on my station

And that, he says, is a problem when you’re doing an already dangerous job.

You take one call at a time … yeah it’s rough that’s not something I wish on anyone

Sgt. Jarod Wilson is the president of the San Diego Police Officers Association.

CG: Sgt. Jarod Wilson/President, San Diego Police Officers Association

There is essentially unlimited overtime for officers to work right now but they’re burnt out and we’ve got a lot of positions that are unfilled

He says the force should have 2000 officers… but they’re down to 1700 available for patrol… thanks to a combination of factors including retirements… and resignations to take other jobs.

Our officers are hot commodities in fact between 2006 and 2021 the San Diego Police Department hired and lost 2400 officers and recruits

Wilson says this is having an impact on crime… homicide rates are up 80 percent this year so far.

And response times are getting longer.

I have never seen homicide sky rocket this quickly this quickly, this fast in just the first two months of this year, certainly not in my 15 years as a police officer to you …

A priority one call which is something like a burglary in progress, violent attack in progress, assault or fight in progress, those response times are an excess of 30 minutes to get a police officer to you.

I feel very, very bad for the other agencies and for the agencies …

That’s Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco. He says his department is reaping the rewards of officers leaving large city forces like SDPD.

He says last year they hired fewer than 20 officers from other departments. This year, he already has more than 60 in some stage of the hiring process..

And nearly 20 of them are from San Diego County agencies – already trained and ready to hit the streets.

We are just overwhelmed at the level of expertise and training that we’re getting we have SWAT team members, we have k-9s that coming over, we have aviation people that are coming over.

The Riverside County Sheriff’s department does not mandate vaccines. But Bianco says the background checks are still rigorous and he won’t hire officers with a history of disciplinary issues .. but so far the ones applying are as good as they get.

So far that is all we are finding, we’re finding stellar employees from these other agencies that are leaving simply because of the vaccine at their agency and quite frankly we’re getting a huge reward

Calhoun says he’s glad to work closer to his home and not have to commute 90-minutes one way. But he says San Diego could have done more to keep officers in its ranks.

I mean obviously if you bump up everyone’s pay a little bit more, if you pay into their retirement a little bit more, things like that, that would go a long way

Union president Jared Wilson hopes a more competitive contract will stop the hemorrhaging and attract good officers.

This isn’t just about the vaccine mandate that is the number one thing that pushed people out the door but we also have vaccinated officers leaving now because they’re underpaid and overworked.

Bianco says because of retirements and officers leaving the state, his department is breaking even and is looking to hire 450 more deputies.

Kitty Alvarado KPBS News.

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NINE NEW MILES OF CARPOOL LANES ARE OPEN FOR SOUTHBOUND CARS ON INTERSTATE 5 IN NORTH COUNTY.

THE NEW LANES STRETCH FROM PALOMAR AIRPORT ROAD IN CARLSBAD TO LOMAS SANTA FE DRIVE IN SOLANA BEACH.

JUST LAST MONTH, NEW LANES WERE OPENED ON THE NORTHBOUND SIDE.

CALTRANS NORTH COAST CORRIDOR DIRECTOR ALLAN KOSUP (KOSS-IP) SAYS EVEN DRIVERS IN THE GENERAL PURPOSE LANES SAW A BENEFIT.

HOVLANES 2A :08 WE WERE SEEING UPWARDS OF FIVE MINUTE TIME SAVINGS OVER THOSE 9 MILES COMPARED TO A FEW WEEKS EARLIER.”

AND MORE CARPOOL LANES ARE IN THE WORKS. NEXT YEAR, CALTRANS PLANS TO OPEN FOUR ADDITIONAL MILES FROM PALOMAR AIRPORT ROAD TO STATE ROUTE 78.

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Coming up.... One local university is putting scholarship money behind Esports competitors.. More on that just after the break

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IT’S ONE OF THE LAST REMAINING LARGE PIECES OF OPEN LAND ALONG THE I-5 CORRIDOR… AND NOW IT’S BEING PUT BACK INTO ITS NATURAL STATE. KPBS REPORTER JOHN CARROLL HAS MORE ON THE RESTORATION OF THE SAN DIEGUITO LAGOON.

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SANDIEGUITO 1 :56 SOQ

IT’S EASY TO MISS SPEEDING BY ON INTERSTATE 5… BUT JUST TO THE EAST OF THE DEL MAR RACETRACK AND FAIRGROUNDS SITS THE 87-ACRE SAN DIEGUITO LAGOON. FOR YEARS, IT WAS USED AS AGRICULTURAL LAND… BUT NOW IT’S BEING RESTORED TO NATURAL WETLANDS AND HABITAT. THE PROJECT IS A JOINT VENTURE BETWEEN CALTRANS, SANDAG AND THE SAN DIEGUITO RIVER PARK. IT’S TO OFFSET THE EFFECTS OF THE NEW HOV LANES BETWEEN SOLANA BEACH AND CARLSBAD. SHAWNA ANDERSON IS WITH THE SAN DIEGUITO RIVER PARK GROUP THAT OVERSEES THE LAGOON.

“IT IS A DREAM TO RESTORE THE HABITAT BACK TO WHAT IT WAS DECADES AGO, TIDAL WETLANDS THAT OPEN TO THE TIDES AND PROVIDE HABITAT AND RECREATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES.”

THE 87-MILLION DOLLAR PROJECT IS BEING PAID FOR BY SANDAG AND CALTRANS. IT SHOULD BE FINISHED BY MID-2024. JC, KPBS NEWS.

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THIS WEEK’S SUPREME CONFIRMATION HEARINGS IN WASHINGTON HAVE PROVIDED HISTORY LESSONS IN REAL-TIME FOR STUDENTS.

KPBS EDUCATION REPORTER M.G. PEREZ GOT SOME REACTION FROM LOCAL HIGH SCHOOL SENIORS.

STUDENTREAX trt :43 soq

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High Tech High International is a public charter school known for its open-concept classrooms and open-minded students who are opinionated, too. Seniors in a civics class on campus in Liberty Station, tuned in to watch Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson make history.

17-year old Nick Ngo supports her.

SOT :09 “She is great representing people of color, women, and marginalized communities because of her history of being a public defender.”

Students listened closely to the types of questions asked of Judge Jackson …and the senators who asked them. Many of the High Tech High seniors will be eligible to vote in the next election. MGP KPBS News.

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RISING GAS PRICES ARE FORCING PARENTS WHO RELY ON CARPOOLS TO PAY MORE. KPBS NORTH COUNTY REPORTER TANIA THORNE PARENTS WITH LIMITED SCHOOL TRANSPORTATION IN OCEANSIDE ARE FEELING THE INCREASES.

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OSIDEBUSES 1 (0:49)

Every morning, Nataly Sanchez drives 4 teens to Cesar Chavez Middle School in Oceanside.

That’s because the district doesn’t provide bus transportation and many of the parents work early.

But rising gas prices are forcing some carpoolers to charge families more for rides.

I've heard of a family paying up to $400 a month for her children to be carpooled.

Sanchez says many families can’t afford the higher fee and their children are left walking several miles to and from school or the city bus.

But parents with younger children, some that attend different schools, don't have that choice.

In a statement Oceanside School District said they only provide transportation to students in special education services, foster students or students experiencing homelessness.

TT KPBS News.

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College sports might not always mean working up a sweat. At UC San Diego their computer gaming team has a new home on campus and 200 thousand dollars in scholarship money. KPBS Science and Technology reporter Thomas Fudge talks about the growing presence of E-sports on campus.

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ESPORTS …SOQ.

(Ambient sound of room)

Rows of computer screens and padded high-back chairs mark the space where the UC San Diego Esports team comes to train and compete. One person we met there on a weekday morning was varsity Esports gamer Sam Duzen, he goes by the name Lava Blue.. He was playing a game of Rocket League with his twin brother. Imagine rocket-propelled cars playing soccer. He was asked if Esports is really a sport?

8347_01 11-33-05

“Definitely yes. There’s practice. There’s team commitment. You have to put in the work just like anything else.”

(Ambient sound from League of Legends video game)

The Esports team at UC San Diego was founded about three years ago. The director of Esports, Chris Griebenow, says the team has hit a lot of milestones lately. Like winning first place in January in the game League of Legends, at the University of California Esports Initiative.

8337_01 10-51-06 “League of Legends is a MOBA. It’s a massive online battle arena. So in that game there are 5 people on each team controlling 5 different champions with different abilities with the common goal of destroying the enemy team’s nexus.”

There are about 100 students involved in the Esports program at UCSD. They opened a new headquarters, the Triton Esports Center, on campus this month. And recreation department associate director Liz Henry says that’s not all. Just this year the administration put some serious cash into recruitment of talent.

8339_01 10-59-37

“Recently the Chancellor committed $200,000 to Esports scholarships, which is huge. And the students got to see that and it’s really pushing this momentum and support for these students not just to be academically successful, but to award them for their passion.”

Everybody’s got a story about that passion. Sam Ibevich (EYE-be-vich) – her gamer name is “Sam I Am” – is the president of Triton Gaming, which existed prior to the Esports team on campus.

8345_01 11-20-22

“I would look over my brother’s shoulder when he would play video games as a kid. My parents bought him a playstation back in the day. And I strangely became more interested in it than he was.”

And everyone’s got a nickname.

8344 11-14-51 “Most gamers don’t use their names in an actual game. We use gamer tags. Or nicknames as you say.”

Josh Chau is the president of the Esports team. He turns around to show the gamer tag on the back of his shirt. It’s Lolo

11:15-06 “Honestly, I just came up with it on a whim. In 3rd grade. And it’s stuck ever since.”

Esports may be a sport in fact, but it’s still not official. At UCSD the team is governed by Recreation, not the Athletic Department. In fact, Griebenow says the NCAA has shied away from embracing Esports for a particular reason.

8337_01 10-53-27

“They’ve decided that with the way Esports is generally played and those and those types of students that generally come from it, the highest individuals in collegiate Esports have already gone pro. In the NCAA that is not allowed, to have a professional athlete on your team.”

You see, Esports is a big industry. Last year, revenues exceeded a billion dollars, according to Esportsresults.com. All this becomes clear when you look at the names of the companies on the wall of the Triton Esports Center that help sponsor the UCSD team. Names like Turtle Beach. Roccat (rock-AT) and Zowie. Chau is a biology major and he’s not a top gamer. Even so he says his future might be in Esports, which like all industries, relies on a lot of professions.

11-17-07 And that’s not just graphic designers and photographers. But also video producers, broadcasters and people on the partnership side that talk to companies to establish the contracts.

Next up, for UCSD Esports, the university will host their annual gaming convention, the Triton Gaming Expo, on May 29th. SOQ

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That’s it for the podcast today. As always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Matt Hoffman. Thanks for joining us -- we’re one day away from Friday. Catch you tomorrow