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When Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman was forced to retire, Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced he was conducting a “nationwide search” to find the next police chief.
But the person he picked didn’t come from Rhode Island or Florida or Nebraska, he came from within the inner circle of existing SDPD leadership.
So perhaps it should not be surprising that Chief David Nisleit responded to video of a group of officers beating a black man during an arrest in much the same way local law enforcement officials have responded to other incidents in which officers hurt or killed someone: by immediately vilifying the person on the receiving end of violence, and by publicly releasing selective evidence that bolsters their case.
“I’ve looked at the video, both what I saw on social media and what’s available to us from body-worn cameras,” Nisleit told media. “And I can tell you I believe my officers did the right thing, I believe they used the right amount of force to take a very violent and dangerous person into custody.”
Nisleit’s remarks are especially troubling because they came before an internal affairs investigation has taken place. What do you think is the likelihood that investigation will determine the officers were in the wrong, when the chief has already publicly proclaimed they were not?
It’s the same playbook law enforcement pulled from when they selectively released a photo of Alfred Olango, who was shot and killed by El Cajon police, in which he appeared to be taking what they called a “shooting stance.” He was unarmed, and carrying only a vaping pen. Yet by releasing the image early on, police were able to successfully set the narrative in their favor.
It’s also how law enforcement was able to paint Fridoon Nehad, an unarmed man shot and killed by San Diego police, as somehow deserving of his death, by releasing YouTube videos of people wielding butterfly knives – which, this can’t be emphasized enough – NEHAD WAS NOT CARRYING. Again, they released videos of unrelated people wielding weapons that were not involved in the incident to justify killing an unarmed man.
Given that Nisleit’s department hasn’t yet conducted its investigation, it’s downright irresponsible for him to be publicly defending the officers’ actions. Nor do his comments leave any room for the very real possibility that the man they arrested did indeed have a violent, criminal past and yet could still have been unarmed and undeserving of excessive, violent force.
I often tell journalists who are about to get sucked into toxic Twitter fights that simply not tweeting is an option. Someone should tell Nisleit that not making knee-jerk defenses of officers involved in violent episodes before an investigation has taken place is not just an option, it’s probably the best option.
What VOSD Learned This Week
For more than a year, Maya Srikrishnan has chronicled many of the ways the zero tolerance crackdown on migrants has made the court system rife with injustices. The case of one asylum-seeking couple is filled with many of them.
Local police departments, meanwhile, are still in the process of complying with SB 54, the so-called sanctuary state law. Some are doing better than others.
As the border remains a central issue in national politics, residents in San Ysidro continue to feel overlooked.
No one can reveal and explain the absurdities of water politics like Ry Rivard. This story about a little-known company making massive water deals, for example, manages to include Harvard University, the Mormon Church and Enron.
Escondido Union School District figured that if it changed the name of some special education teachers, it wouldn’t have to abide by the rules guiding how those teachers work. It was a risky interpretation that appears not to have paid off.
Over in San Diego Unified, the local NAACP says it was barred from touring Porter Elementary, where we’ve revealed ongoing problems.
Officials predicted the new Rapid bus from the South Bay to downtown would serve 4,500 riders a day in its first year. It’s actually serving … 1,500 a day.
A bill moving its way through the Legislature might not axe San Diego’s coastal height limit after all. Meanwhile, on this week’s podcast and a special bonus episode, Councilwomen Vivian Moreno and Monica Montgomery weigh in on more high-profile measures.
What I’m Reading
- Tech platforms are sucking up all of the digital news industry’s profits while doing none of the work. (American Prospect)
- For your Mother’s Day reading, here’s a lovely, funny essay on becoming a mother later in life. (Longreads)
- This is an honest, thoughtful take on navigating newsrooms as a minority. (The Open Notebook)
- I’m preaching to the choir here when it comes to the value of local news, but this beautiful piece is local news at its community-based, absolute best. (Philly Inquirer)
- Gun manufacturers make good money on licensing deals with toy companies, which create replicas of guns that can end up getting kids killed when police can’t tell the difference. (The Trace)
Line of the Week
“I told you—I been on some flounder shit for the past four days!” – Tracy Morgan, describing his diet.