The Morning Report
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Within hours of a fatal police shooting on Tuesday, El Cajon transformed into the latest flashpoint in the wrenching national dispute over law enforcement and race.
We’re still learning details about the various versions of what happened when a black man named Alfred Olango was shot and killed. The FBI has joined the investigation, the U-T reports, and a video shows a woman identified as Olango’s sister in the moments after the shooting. Meanwhile, protests continued and politicians got in front of cameras. The U-T (via L.A. Times) has a good rundown of what we know.
In an editorial, the U-T calls for the entire video of the shooting to be released: “it is unacceptable for a police department to selectively release information to try to frame a lethal incident in as favorable a light as possible.”
For our part, we’re taking a wider view by focusing on the law and process. In a new story, we explain when an officer can legally shoot someone, how the DA approaches the release of videos and other evidence in high-profile cases, and how San Diego officers who’ve shot and killed people have been handled in previous cases.
How likely is it that prosecutors will go after the officer in this case? Not very. “In 155 officer-involved shooting cases between 2005 and 2015, the DA did not find a single instance in which a police officer should be charged, according to a database compiled by inewsource. According to the Union-Tribune, only six prosecutions of officers have taken place ‘in the hundreds of shootings in the county since 1980.’”
• For background about the messy state of race relations in El Cajon, check our coverage and this L.A. Times story. And this map will tell you where local police agencies stand on adopting body cameras. (El Cajon has plans to get body cameras but does not have them yet.)
Oceanside’s Toothless as Complex Declines
How bad are things at an 84-unit apartment complex in Oceanside’s Crown Heights neighborhood? Pretty awful, according to descriptions provided by current and former tenants, city officials and the police department.
Our Maya Srikrishnan describes the complaints this way: “Assaults. Robberies. Vandalism. Drugs. Electrical outages and fires. Sewer back-ups that result in human waste flowing onto the lawn. Mold. Rats and roaches.”
The property owner says things are fine. “I’m not concerned about any of these allegations,” he says. “We run a very good business.” The city disagrees, and has targeted the complex for repairs and other improvements.
But, as Srikrishnan reports, Oceanside’s efforts have not been successful: “The city continues to say it’s a problem property with serious public safety issues. But even though it continues to say this, the city has yet to be successful in actually doing anything.”
The city had focused on inspections but pulled back because it thought the property was getting better, and it doesn’t have money to keep visiting. And the city failed to enforce a settlement calling for better lighting and new windows, among other things, and instead struck a new, weakened deal.
Governor Signs Gang Database Bill
Gov. Jerry Brown has signed San Diego Assemblywoman Shirley Weber’s bill to reform the state’s much-criticized gang database. Now, law enforcement will need to “inform a person before they add them to a shared gang database such as CalGang,” reports the cyber civil-rights outfit Electronic Freedom Foundation. “The new law also gives the person the opportunity to challenge their inclusion in a gang database in court. Starting in January 2018, law enforcement agencies will be required to produce detailed transparency reports on each of their shared gang databases.”
Weber is the one who prompted the state to launch an investigation of the database. It found that “it cannot ensure individuals’ rights to privacy, that people can be entered in the database without proper substantiation and that people are kept in the database long after their names should have been purged.”
• Local legislator Lorena Gonzalez turned to Queen to express her feelings after the governor vetoed more of her bills.
S.D. Forests in Danger
Inewsource is out with a story warning that San Diego’s forests of oak and pine trees are on the road to ruin.
“Overly intense fires in quick succession, along with drought, borer insects and climate extremes are laying waste to trees and creating a hostile environment for regrowth,” it reports. “Beloved local places — the Laguna mountains, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, Palomar Mountain — could convert to chaparral or even to grasses.” Even Torrey pines could be in danger.
What can be done? The story doesn’t offer much in terms of answers. One solution could be to allow wildfires to burn, considering that they’re nature’s own approach to promoting the regrowth of forests. But people live in the backcountry, making that one dicey proposition.
North County Report: Pot Near Palomar
Our weekly North County Report recaps several recent VOSD stories and points to coverage of a land-use flap in San Marcos, pot growing near Palomar Mountain, a “suds accelerator” in Carlsbad (call me when someone invents a studs accelerator) and more oversight of Airbnb-type rentals in Oceanside.
Quick News Hits: Dude Patrol
• Will a new Chargers stadium be an economic boom for the city? A debate yesterday pitted supporters of the team’s plan against critics, including representatives from the hotel industry, who see a bust in the making. For more, check the tweet play-by-play from our Scott Lewis.
• Beth Burns, the fired women’s basketball coach, has won her wrongful termination suit against San Diego State. She got a “$3.35 million reward from a San Diego Superior Court jury for whistle-blower retaliation after complaining about potential Title IX violations.” (U-T)
• Urban visionary Jane Jacobs transformed how we build and preserve cities. In a book review for The Christian Science Monitor, I examine a new biography of Jacobs titled “Eyes on the Street.”
As I write, “we can see Jacobs in the questions we ask as we remake old neighborhoods and create new ones. What price do we pay by bulldozing — or gentrifying — the past? (Some blame Jacobs herself for the menace they see in gentrification.) What should we make of the comfy porches and friendly walkability of upscale New Urbanism communities? (Jacobs feared they were harbingers of creeping suburbanism.) Must the car always be king, hooking us on what she called an ‘Expressway Drug’ even as climate change threatens us all?”
One thing’s clear: Jacobs had what I call “an in-born inability to sit down and shut up.”
• The New Yorker checks in with a Seattle man who’s the “world’s leading surfing scholar, the Linnaeus of the lineup.” (Um, did I mention this is in the New Yorker? They know who Linnaeus is, and no, he’s not the kid in “Peanuts.”)
The surf scholar is actually paid to be the Oxford English Dictionary’s first-ever Surf Consultant. He finds new citations and helps provide context so the dictionary more accurately defines words like “barrel,” “reef rash,” “board sock,” “grom” and “doggy door.”
“There’s a built-in sense of irony in surfers’ use of language,” the scholar says. “When we say ‘dude,’ it’s a riff on you thinking we’re stupid.”
Oh it is, is it? We may have to run that through San Diego Fact Check, dude.
Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. He is also immediate past president of the 1,200-member American Society of Journalists and Authors (asja.org). Please contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.