The Morning Report
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One of the highlights of my year last year was going to trial over a traffic citation I’d been given – and winning.
A big part of the reason I was so fired up about the incident wasn’t just that I hadn’t done the thing the officer said I had (making an illegal U-turn), it was that she blatantly lied several times during the stop.
I was so unnerved by the officer’s behavior that I decided to look her up. Ten seconds of research revealed she’d been named in a sexual harassment suit that settled, costing city taxpayers money. My rage level, it was a 10.
When we got to the courtroom, I almost jumped out of my seat with glee. The officer had created a hand-drawn diagram of the intersection where I was stopped. The only problem: I had actual photos that disproved the diagram – she’d drawn in “No U-Turn” signs where there were none.
I bring this up not to show off my legal prowess (although let’s be honest, my name is bound to start circulating for that Supreme Court opening any minute now) but to emphasize how cops’ behavior can backfire. I’ve gotten traffic citations before – and I quickly paid them. It was only when this officer started lying and acting inappropriately that I became motivated to fight the ticket, and ultimately won.
That’s also what happened when our intern, Lina Chankar, came to work one day last month, shaken and visibly upset about an encounter she’d had with a security officer on the trolley.
Another reporter asked her what’d happened, and soon after looked up the officer who’d bullied Lina. His name was Bill Buck, and we quickly discovered he’d been accused of some pretty ugly behavior – and that at least one of those incidents had been settled with taxpayer money. (Lina, by the way, is working on her own piece to describe her experience in more detail. Look forward to that.)
I guess the lesson is this: If you’re a public safety officer and you’re not naturally compelled to treat people with respect and dignity, then perhaps consider a more selfish guiding principle: Treat everyone like they might be an investigative journalist you don’t want to motivate.
What VOSD Learned This Week
That investigation of MTS officers I mentioned includes body camera footage of a group of officers surrounding and violently arresting a man for trespassing – only they knew he wasn’t.
Lisa Halverstadt’s been doing a great job examining what needs fixing in Balboa Park. She revealed the Starlight Bowl, once a civic treasure, is now a crumbling eyesore. And this week, she checked in on the iconic Botanical Building. The Balboa Park Conservancy made restoring the building its signature project more than two years ago, but it’s still struggling to raise the funds to make it happen.
Another space the city has long hoped to revamp: Horton Plaza Park. Kinsee Morlan dug into the plans to make the park into an active urban space a la New York City’s Bryant Park.
When voters approved the TransNet tax hike to fund infrastructure projects in 2004, they were told an independent committee would watch over how all that cash was being spent. Ashly McGlone found that the committee isn’t all that independent – and it’s unclear just how closely they’re monitoring costs. SANDAG is putting together a plan for how to spend a new tax hike that will possibly be on the November ballot.
A separate infrastructure project is in the works in North County, where Oceanside leaders want to slim down Coast Highway to two lanes and let it cater more to neighborhoods than tourists. Not everyone’s on board.
What I’m Reading
Crime and Punishment
• Prosecutions of police officers for improper use of force “remain almost unheard of in six Southern California counties — Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Imperial — where there has been a police shooting roughly every other day since 2004, records show.” (Los Angeles Times)
• We hear a loooooot about what’s going wrong when it comes to criminal justice. Here, Vox breaks down many promising policies that can – or already do – actually work.
• How TMZ was born, and how it thrives. (New Yorker)
• A breathtakingly bad story published – then deleted – by SB Nation this week highlights the flaw in longform stories: People, even journalists, often mistake length for quality. (Deadspin)
• You might recall my earlier lament that the sports and pop culture site Grantland had closed. The silver lining: Many of the site’s writers have landed at MTV News, which is trying to become relevant. I like what I’m seeing so far, like this piece about Marco Rubio courting Crossfitters.
Women at Work
• The pediatrician who woke the country up to the poisoned water crisis in Flint, Mich., says she was just doing her job. (Elle)
• The redemption of O.J. prosecutor Marcia Clark. (New York)
Line of the Week
“I shouldn’t have to see the pain, struggle, and despair of homeless people to and from my way to work every day.” – From an open letter to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, written by a spectacularly clueless entrepreneur.