A San Diego Police Department officer pulls over a driver on University Avenue in City Heights. / Photo by Sam Hodgson

San Diego police are more likely to stop LGBT people for reasonable suspicion and more likely to handcuff them, according to police stop data analyzed by Voice of San Diego and the UC San Diego Extension Center for Research.

The data, which was collected between July 2018 to July 2019 to comply with a new California law known as the Racial and Identity Profiling Act, also shows transgender people were stopped far more often for “reasonable suspicion” than for traffic stops. Reasonable suspicion stops are more subject to officer bias, because they can be conducted for subjective reasons like an officer determining a person looks suspicious. A separate analysis conducted recently by Campaign Zero for the ACLU drew similar conclusions about the data on LGBT and transgender police stops.

Analysis of the same data also showed that black people stopped by SDPD are searched more often than any other race, even though officers find contraband on them less often.

The reaction to the numbers on LGBT and transgender stops played out the way these discussions always do: Representatives for the marginalized community at issue said the data confirms the biased treatment they’ve long suspected; a representative from the Police Department said there’s not enough information to draw any conclusions.

U-T columnist Michael Smolens pointed out this weekend that so far, the leading mayoral candidates, minus activist Tasha Williamson, haven’t been willing to put police profiling front and center in the campaign.

At VOSD’s Politifest in October, Williamson drew intense applause from the crowd when she said, “We are talking about scooters and bikes so passionately,” she said, “but I can’t get police officers to stop killing people.”

Which brings us to …

Council Bans Scooters on Boardwalks

The City Council voted Monday to ban motorized scooters on beach boardwalks. 

The vote breakdown was an interesting one, with usual allies and members of the same party veering in opposite directions: Democrats Barbara Bry, Jen Campbell, Monica Montgomery and Vivian Moreno voted for the ban, as did independent Mark Kersey. Two other Democrats, Chris Ward and Georgette Gómez, joined Republican Councilmen Chris Cate and Scott Sherman in voting no.

Bry sent out an email to supporters ahead of the vote urging supporters to call Council members to advocate for the ban. Campbell said during the Council meeting that she almost got run over by a scooter on the boardwalk earlier this year and hasn’t been back since, according to the Union-Tribune.

“The City Council must rely on sound scientific data, not politics and emotion when considering good policy. Scooter regulations were just approved barely six months ago and an initial review shows that they have improved safety and reduced accidents,” Sherman said in a statement following the vote. “Data driven policy, not a blanket ban is the right path forward.”

Gómez Strips Moreno of Housing Committee Chair

Councilwoman Vivian Moreno is no longer in charge of the Council’s committee on land use and housing.

Council President Georgette Gómez stripped Moreno of the position Monday, a week after the Council passed Gómez’s signature policy priority, which Moreno had opposed, stalling its passage for months.

The strengthening of the city’s so-called inclusionary housing policy, which requires developers to pay the city a fee if they don’t build low-income homes as part of their projects, had become a sticking point between the two allies. Gómez supported Moreno’s campaign last year and appointed her to lead the city’s land use and housing committee, before electing not to take the inclusionary update she championed through the housing committee at all.

Moreno then voted against the update, depriving Gómez of the sixth vote she needed to overcome a mayoral veto. Gómez ultimately came to a compromise agreement with pro-business groups who opposed the measure, and Moreno approved the scaled back changes.

What the Supreme Court’s Homelessness Decision Means for San Diego

Enforcement affecting homeless San Diegans is unlikely to change – at least for now – following the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear a case on how cities can police homelessness.

The Supreme Court announced Monday it would not take up the Martin v. Boise case following a ruling last year in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals barring western states including California from citing homeless people for sleeping on sidewalks if no other shelter is available.

Homeless advocates, including in San Diego, cheered the decision.

Cities including Los Angeles had filed briefs urging the Supreme Court to hear the case, arguing the ruling hampered cities’ ability to maintain public health and safety.

San Diego did not join the case but city leaders, including Mayor Kevin Faulconer, have long argued that enforcement can be necessary to balance the concerns of homeless San Diegans and residents.

Leslie Wolf Branscomb, a spokeswoman for City Attorney Mara Elliott, said the city believes its years-long practice of offering shelter beds to homeless San Diegans before issuing citations ensures it’s in compliance with the appeals court ruling.

“The Boise decision is consistent with the city’s policy of not enforcing illegal lodging laws against individuals sleeping on sidewalks between 9 p.m. and 5:30 a.m., unless the individual is offered a shelter bed and declines it,” Branscomb wrote in an email to VOSD.

Those offers followed a 2007 settlement requiring those offers in the wake of a lawsuit challenging the city’s enforcement of illegal lodging, a ban on settling somewhere without permission. The settlement prevents police from ticketing or arresting homeless San Diegans if shelters are full, a predicament police have said is rare.

But attorney Ann Menasche of Disability Rights California, who is representing homeless San Diegans who live in vehicles in an ongoing suit over crackdowns affecting people living in cars and RVs, said she thinks the decision could be a game-changer. She plans to cite the case in an ongoing federal court challenge to the city’s vehicle habitation and oversized vehicle ordinances. Her team’s next court hearing is in February.

“Access to shelter means it has to be truly accessible to people,” said Menasche, who noted there are many reasons shelters may not be able to accommodate all homeless San Diegans.

For example, Menasche said, a packed shelter can trigger people with post-traumatic stress disorder and a person living in a vehicle might be forced to abandon his most valuable possession if he enters one.

The city doesn’t have nearly enough enough shelter beds to accommodate all homeless San Diegans living on city streets, she said. 

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by Sara Libby, Lisa Halverstadt and Andrew Keatts, and edited by Scott Lewis.

Leave a comment

We expect all commenters to be constructive and civil. We reserve the right to delete comments without explanation. You are welcome to flag comments to us. You are welcome to submit an opinion piece for our editors to review.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.