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San Diego Police officers attend the swearing-in of Chief Shelley Zimmerman. / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

One very simple explanation of what law enforcement agencies do is: They enforce the law.

Yet there have been many recent examples of California police agencies actively resisting having to do just that.

The Appeal reported this week that district attorneys across the state are filing motions challenging a new state law that allows people who had a limited or minor role in a crime that led to murder but were nonetheless convicted under the “felony murder rule” to have their sentences re-evaluated.

“Any time a DA in a particular county resists the Legislature, I think it does call into question their role in our system,” Kate Chatfield, an attorney and law professor, told the Appeal.

inewsource reported earlier this year that the San Diego DA’s office is among those that plans to continue challenging the law even now that it’s passed and gone into effect.

Police agencies, meanwhile, have tried to move heaven and earth to stop a separate state law that makes public certain police misconduct records from going into effect. They’ve filed legal challenges up and down the state – and so far, they’ve lost each and every one. Yet the challenges keep coming – the latest one doesn’t just attempt to block records from being released, it actually argues the records in question should be destroyed. Poof. Gone forever.

Meanwhile, a report released this week detailed the ways in which law enforcement agencies across the state have policies that are out of compliance with SB 54, the California Values Act, passed in 2017. The report notes that the Chula Vista Police Department, for example, still has policies on the books allowing officers to conduct several activities that now violate the law, including releasing people to ICE who have been determined to be material witnesses to a crime.

It’s one thing to lobby against a bill you don’t agree with in the run-up to it becoming law – that’s precisely what that process is for. But it’s disturbing to see law enforcement officials essentially refusing to perform the most essential function of their job simply because they don’t like it or don’t agree with it. Imagine if someone told a police officer or the elected DA that they didn’t feel like obeying a certain law because they didn’t agree with it. I’m guessing it wouldn’t go over too well.

What VOSD Learned This Week

In the months leading up to VOSD’s investigation revealing accusations of sexual misconduct by San Diego Unified Trustee Kevin Beiser, Beiser scrambled behind the scenes to identify who was about to come forward and to keep the accusations from going public.

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Some of the city’s longest-running dramas had their moments in the sun this week: A court declined to scrap Prop. B altogether but found the city must make whole employees hired after it went into effect. The process of moving utility lines underground is still slow-going, but the city says it’s about to speed up.

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It turns out, when you have someone watching local water boards, they find some interesting stuff. The Sweetwater Authority paid an engineer to agree to never work for the agency again; now he’s a member of the board.

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We talked about a new bill to rein in medical vaccine exemptions on this week’s podcast, and I broke down the details (plus how it was inspired by VOSD’s reporting) in this week’s Sacramento Report.

What I’m Reading

Line of the Week

“Having weighed the options, I would rather die from cycling too fast than disappoint her.” — The kind of devotion inspired by one Peloton cycling instructor.

Sara Libby

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

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