Alonzo Harvey / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

For many San Diegans, it’s a foregone conclusion: Police are there to help. Many residents who live in or grew up in City Council District 4 have a different experience.

VOSD’s Maya Srikrishnan spoke with seven current and former southeastern San Diego residents about their constant interactions with police officers.

Many of the encounters that continue to haunt them share a common thread: Police contended they were looking for a criminal suspect, and used that justification to search and interrogate them – even if they bore little resemblance to the suspect.

Alonzo Harvey recalls taking his hat off in the car, not wearing certain colors and avoiding riding in a car with more than two people after he was first approached by police as a young teen. Officers told Harvey, then 12 or 13, they needed to take his picture because he had been interacting with neighbors they had documented as gang members.

Eric Morrison-Smith remembers being caught off guard at 16 when he and his basketball teammates drew the attention of four police officers as they drove home from a practice and Laila Aziz recalls being stopped as she left a high school graduation party with her girlfriends in National City.

“It’s generally felt by a lot of residents that the police are not looking out for the residents here, but they are more into finding things wrong and using a heavy hand,” Barry Pollard, former chair of San Diego’s citizens advisory board on police/community relations, told Srikrishnan. “There is really a lack of trust that generates all this discomfort.”

Environmental Advocates, Shipbuilders Enter New Phase of Faceoffs

The Port of San Diego last month voted against a proposal to consider opening a new repair yard for Navy ships in National City, the latest in a string of disputes between the shipbuilding industry and nearby residents concerned with industrial pollution, as MacKenzie Elmer writes in a new story.

This time, though, residents weren’t opposing the project on their own. They were joined by unions, and a neighboring business that worried the ship repair work would damage the Porsches it shipped from its property.

Shutting down the project from moving forward on Port property, though, doesn’t mean the project’s going away. The Navy – untouched by California’s environmental laws – could still choose to make way for the repair yard on its own property not too far away, and many expect it to do just that as a new fleet of ships seems increasingly needed in the Pacific.

The dispute is playing out just as regulators are beginning to, finally, install a robust network of air pollution sensors in the communities near the bay, to get a grip on what’s in the air and where it’s coming from.

Oh, and the Australian company that sought the opportunity on Port property brought in a familiar face to lobby the agency. Former Councilman David Alvarez – who grew up in Barrio Logan and represented the area when it saw a regulatory pan meant to protect the residential area and preserve existing shipyards on Port property get thrown out by city voters – was this time on the other side of the issue from the Environmental Health Coalition, which was urging the Port to reject the proposal. 

Schools Begin Unveiling Opening Plans

Amid the push to re-open the economy, one basic element of public life that’s been eerily quiet about its plans coming out of the coronavirus shutdown has been public schools.

That’s beginning to change. The Cajon Valley School District, for instance, released its reopening plan Tuesday, and it’s sort of a choose-your-own adventure novel. Want to stick with distance learning? Cool. Want to head back to the classroom? That’s an option. And naturally, there are hybrid plans, too. 

  • The Cajon School District is also currently investigating allegations that an employee called people protesting the killing of George Floyd “barbaric savages,” the Union-Tribune reported.
  • Tamara Hurley, a parent of two San Diego Unified School District graduates who has served on multiple district advisory boards, argues in a new op-ed that the district has always failed to meaningfully enroll parents in its decision-making process, and it needs to correct that history as it determines how to reopen schools safely.

Gómez, Montgomery Respond to Budget Vote Outrage

Outrage continued to pour into the City Council Tuesday, a day after hundreds of residents demanded the City Council “defund” the San Diego Police Department by cutting its budget by $100 million, and the Council largely ignored their demands by approving a budget that increased the department’s funding from last year.

Responding to the outrage, Councilwoman Monica Montgomery issued a statement that came close to embracing the defund movement. A former ACLU lawyer and criminal justice advocate on the Council, Montgomery wrote that the budget did not defund the department, but she committed to pursuing a plan that sounds awfully similar, but without using the word “defund.”

“I am committed to developing a plan that can reasonably and responsibly address diverting funds from SDPD,” she wrote.

Council President Georgette Gómez said the budget “plants the seeds of a multi-year effort to root out systemic inequities in San Diego while restoring and expanding community services” for disadvantaged communities.

Mayoral candidate and Councilwoman Barbara Bry, meanwhile, offered a simpler explanation for why she didn’t vote to defund the department: she doesn’t support it.

“I voted against de-funding the Police Department because, beyond the terrible and sometimes racist acts that dominate the political headlines of the day, I recognize the extraordinarily important, often dangerous, and too often thankless job that those wearing a badge must perform to keep our communities safe,” she wrote in an email from her mayoral campaign.

News Roundup

  • Inewsource reports that coronavirus stay-at-home orders and forced isolation have made some refugees already vulnerable to domestic abuse even more vulnerable. 
  • The city’s piers and boardwalks reopened on Tuesday. Times of San Diego lays out those and other openings coming later in the week.
  • Legoland has been hit with a class action suit alleging it didn’t give refunds for coronavirus shutdowns. (NBC San Diego)
  • Fox 5 reports that a La Mesa woman who was shot in the face with a police projectile during a protest last month has been released from hospital after coming out of a medically induced coma.
  • The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to direct $12.8 million in federal CARES Act funds to the city’s small business relief fund, Times of San Diego reports.
  • San Diego’s Georgia Street Bridge and protestors who crossed it last week are featured in a new national ad opposing President Donald Trump.
  • KPBS explains how coronavirus has put the spotlight on longtime social inequities, especially among those living on the streets who have struggled to access food and restrooms during the pandemic.

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

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