Over the last few years as police misconduct issues have dominated the news, I’ve watched a lot of public hearings addressing everything from gang policing to racial profiling to police body cameras.
It wasn’t until a hearing this week, though, that I heard anyone talk about werewolves.
That wasn’t the only thing that made 16-year-old Leah Blake’s testimony before the California Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board hearing in San Diego on Wednesday stand out.
Blake was perhaps the youngest in a long line of speakers who went before the board to offer feedback on how to address police racial profiling and the best ways to implement AB 953, a law passed in 2015 by San Diego Assemblywoman Shirley Weber that requires law enforcement officers across the state to collect data on who they stop. Yet she was also the most poised and comfortable.
So why werewolves? Blake said in the hearing she grew up reading werewolf stories in which rogue wolves would peel off on their own because they didn’t agree to the pack’s laws and customs. She uses that idea to take on the idea of the “rogue cop” – a standard explanation that police departments give when misconduct or questionable behavior by an officer makes the news. Another term for it that’s often used is the “bad apple” cop.
Rogue werewolves might be fun to read about. But “I don’t believe in rogue cops,” Blake said.
Blake, who attends Helix High School in La Mesa, told me she’s tagged along to hearings and other events before with her sister, Aeiramique Glass, a community organizer with the San Diego Organizing Project. But this was her first time speaking in public at such an event.
She said she went into the hearing with a list of bullet points to address, but otherwise ad-libbed her speech – a fact you can pick up on from the way Blake incorporated moments from earlier in the hearing into her comments.
Blake told me that while she and her brother have been pulled over multiple times, the police in those encounters were polite. But many of her friends in southeastern San Diego, she said, have numerous stories of being stopped by police for no reason.
“I want to go into activism, kind of in the same role that my sister is in, so any opportunity that she gives I usually am super interested to come in and just learn from the experience,” she said. “As many events as I can get out to, I plan on going to all of them.”
What VOSD Learned This Week
I know we’ve produced some big SANDAG stories in the last year, but trust me on this one, this is big big: SANDAG misled voters on 2004’s Transnet sales tax. It knew a full year the measure would not raise $14 billion, but it put that number on the ballot anyway. Andrew Keatts also broke down some of the basics of the story on this week’s podcast.
Scott Lewis broke down as many of the major San Diego Unified scandals and failings that we’ve chronicled over the last few months, and the list is staggering. The takeaway: The district has spent more time denying problems exist than it has actually trying to address them.
One problem the district has taken steps to address, though, is the disparity between students of color who are suspended verses white students. Though restorative justice programs that could close the gap have lots of support within the district, they don’t have the funding they need.
The debate about how San Diego gets its energy and who should provide it is about to blow up in the next half-year. A new city-commissioned study shows the city could provide energy faster and cheaper than SDG&E, something that is sure to add heat to the debate about whether San Diego should start a community choice aggregation program.
In the Sacramento Report, I looked into two of San Diego Assemblywoman Shirley Weber’s efforts to rein in police misconduct: Her proposed bill to reform the notorious state gang database, and the implementation of a law passed in 2015 requiring police to collect data on who they pull over.
For all of our policing problems, Mario Koran’s Q-and-A with a border expert whose journalist friend was executed in Mexico serves as a stark reminder: Many serious crimes – even brutal public killings – go unpunished in Mexico.
What I’m Reading
• The curious case of President Trump’s friend Jim, who may or may not exist. (Associated Press)
• Missy Elliott’s masterful “Supa Dupa Fly” is turning 20, and this collection of lessons the album taught us is supa dupa fun (sorry not sorry). (The Ringer)
• I was one of those lovable kid freaks who memorized all the U.S. presidents at age 5, and have been obsessed with presidential history ever since. The latest prez to have a resurgence is John Quincy Adams. He was an elitist who flirted with both parties and embraced nationalism. Sound familiar? (The Atlantic)
• Documents unearthed this year reveal author Sylvia Plath was telling the truth about enduring domestic abuse before she committed suicide. Why have literary scholars and biographers spent decades not believing her? (Literary Hub)
• I just finished Anne Helen Peterson’s excellent new book on unruly women, so she rewarded me with this new piece on Jen Garner as a professional Good Girl. (Buzzfeed)
Line of the Week
“I’m bewildered at the American court system. Surely it matters that the right monkey is suing me.” – A photographer embroiled in an absolutely insane copyright battle over a monkey selfie.