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In journalism, you learn very quickly that no one loves a messenger.

Being the bearer of bad or controversial news doesn’t tend to make you very popular, especially among people in positions of power who are most often the subject of scrutiny.

But San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman has elevated media-blaming and community-blaming to an art form.

Even if you set aside her bizarre continued assertion that it’s the national media’s fault that SDPD cannot recruit enough officers — an argument that’s easily dismantled by the fact that other departments don’t face the same troubles — Zimmerman has displayed a long history of disdain for journalism and for the communities her department is charged with protecting.

Back in 2014, when Zimmerman was assistant chief, she told us that the department hadn’t heard any complaints from community members about police racial profiling:

“It hasn’t come up in years and years and years in interactions with the community,” said Assistant Chief Shelley Zimmerman, who’s in charge of the department’s neighborhood policing efforts.

Dozens of community members and activists told a different story.

Under Zimmerman, the department has trumpeted the idea that the perception of police racial profiling is a bigger problem than racial profiling itself.

She has misled the community about the department’s use of community policing. In 2011, Zimmerman pushed back strongly against the idea that the department had put community policing on the backburner. But in 2015, she admitted that those efforts had indeed fallen by the wayside and that SDPD wanted to revive them.

Zimmerman’s lack of faith in the community can also be seen in how she’s treated the release of body camera footage, a tool she herself said was meant to ensure community trust. Instead, the cameras have become a tool to protect law enforcement officers. She’s said footage from body cameras should mostly remain out of public view, except in cases where releasing footage might prevent a riot — creating an incentive to use violence in order to encourage the release of footage that was sold as a public tool all along.

Zimmerman, of course, is not the only law enforcement officer to suggest the public doesn’t know what’s good for it. After a judge tossed out District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis’ guilt-by-association gang prosecution, she suggested the media and community members had been duped. (She later reversed her position and said she’d back off using the controversial law.)

I find Zimmerman’s constant community-blaming troubling. But then again, she’d probably tell you that the real problem is me pointing all of this out.

What VOSD Learned This Week

Blame Game is an incredibly dope song by Kanye West and John Legend, and it’s also something San Diego officials did a lot of this week.

Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said once more that the department’s struggle to hire new officers is largely the fault of national media reports on police shootings. Journalism hasn’t seemed to stop other departments, including some in San Diego County, from hitting their hiring targets.

And San Diego Unified leaders have pointed at the state as the culprit for its $124 million budget shortfall. Ashly McGlone examined the district’s claim that California ranks 46th in per-student spending and found it leaves out some major context.

Speaking of the district and leaving out context, a Superior Court judge sided with VOSD and ordered San Diego Unified to turn over documents it had kept secret related to the Marne Foster case.

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San Diego is playing a starring role in President Trump’s plans for a border wall, and we know San Diego feels an outsize impact when it comes to Trump’s immigration crackdown.

This week, I put together a guide to the wall plans and what California can and can’t do to stop it. Mario Koran did a rundown of what happens to kids whose parents are deported.

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Call it beer poop. It’s the smelly, sticky substance that is left behind when brewers make beer. And it’s getting harder and harder to get rid of.

Overall though, the industry is thriving. The head of the brewer’s guild joined the VOSD Podcast this week said craft beer is here to stay.

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The San Diego County Water Authority is fine with the idea of testing water in schools for lead. But it sure doesn’t want to pay for it – it would have to under a proposed state bill.

California politicians, their staffers and political journalists are all obsessed with one lawmaker’s Twitter feed. I talked to the guy behind it this week.

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Lilac Hills is baaaaaaaaaaaaaack.

What I’m Reading

• Gotta laugh to keep from crying. He persisted: tales of masculine perseverance. (McSweeney’s)

• In a powerful dissent, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor argues that the court often intervenes in cases to protect police officers, but it rarely does the same to protect members of the public from police abuse. (Slate)

• USC is nicknamed the University of Spoiled Children. But the school is a national model for creating a path to college for low-income and first-generation students. (New York Times)

• Two years ago, Bill O’Reilly told New York Times reporter Emily Steel, “I am coming after you with everything I have. You can take it as a threat.” Instead, she took him down. (Marie Claire)

• Yes, Serena Williams is a superhuman goddess and the greatest athlete alive. But pregnancy and sports aren’t incompatible – just look what other pregnant athletes have achieved. (New Yorker)

 Why the L.A. riots matter more than ever. (MTV)

Line of the Week

“You will not have my hate.”– Two widowers whose spouses died in the recent Paris attack both used this phrase as they addressed the killers in tributes to their loved ones. Watch Etienne Cardiles’ gutting, gorgeous eulogy for his partner, a police officer who died in the attack.

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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