Assemblyman Todd Gloria and Councilwoman Barbara Bry attend a mayoral forum in Bankers Hill. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Policing and criminal justice reform are now at the center of the San Diego mayoral race thanks to the large and consistent showing and demands of protesters in recent weeks.

Andrew Keatts took a closer look at the visions and histories of the two Democrats who are squaring off in November and found that the record is, well, mixed.

Both City Councilwoman Barbara Bry and Assemblyman Todd Gloria are supportive of increased oversight of the Police Department and they’ve resisted joining the movement to reduce money from a budget that costs taxpayers more than half a billion dollars annually.

That’s significant because other Democrats are warming to the idea and one, City Councilwoman Monica Montgomery, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, is laying the groundwork for a line-by-line review of SDPD’s budget. The next mayor will be in the middle of those discussions.

As part of her campaign messaging, Bry has portrayed Gloria as a shill of police unions who needed their permission before signing off on a major bill that changed the standard of deadly force. But Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, who wrote the bill, said Gloria was always on board and took aim at Bry’s characterization of how things went down.

Other reformers, though, give Bry high marks and say Gloria is not a real champion of the cause. Proponents of a truly independent police commission said Bry championed their effort from the start while Gloria betrayed their first attempt to overhaul the group in 2016.

On the podcast …

Our hosts considered how criminal justice reform is playing in mayoral race and more

Wait, We’re Not Done Talking About Policing

Demands for reform have caught fire in recent weeks, and one of the recommendations from the state’s top law enforcement official caught our attention. 

Attorney General Xavier Becerra said he’d be willing to sponsor legislation that would decertify police officers for serious misconduct and require law enforcement agencies to complete investigations even after the officer leaves. 

Last year, we were part of a statewide team of newsrooms that investigated cops convicted of crimes and found that the Golden State is one of only five that doesn’t automatically decertify sworn police for misconduct. The Mercury News zeroed in on a town in the Central Valley known for hiring officers with dubious pasts

In San Diego County, local police agencies have been rewriting their policies around use of deadly force and posting the documents online. They also began new training courses earlier this year — with an emphasis on de-escalation, bias and more — but those sessions were delayed because of COVID. 

In the meantime, Imperial Beach is reviewing its contract with the Sheriff’s Department amid calls to steer funding away from police. The city set up a panel to look more closely at spending and  programs that dispatch social workers instead of deputies. 

This is quite a quote from Councilman Mark West: “I have been on the record since my election saying that the sheriff contract is bankrupting our city in so many ways.” 

I’m Sorry, Did You Think We Were Done Talking About Policing?

San Diego County’s Democratic Party has told its candidates to reject endorsements and money from police officer unions. But what the party means by “reject” seems open to interpretation. 

Going into this weekend, several of the party’s high-profile candidates were still touting the San Diego Police Officers Association endorsement on their websites. Interestingly, the party chair told the Politics Report that he doesn’t expect candidates to straight up disavow the support. He and other activists can’t control what outside organizations do. 

Typically, the political value of a police union endorsement comes from the donations to political action committees, which, legally-speaking, are separate from the candidate’s actual campaign. 

The Democratic Party is a much different organization than it was even just a few years ago and it enjoys a remarkable advantage in voter registration data. Democrats are now the largest group of voters in every San Diego City Council district, even in the city’s most conservative parts. Independents are the second biggest group. 

North County Looking at New Shelter, Temporary Housing for Homeless

Oceanside has accepted a state grant to pay for a 50-bed, year-round homeless shelter. The U-T reports that officials don’t have a site picked out yet, but they’re looking at the former Ocean Shores High School, 3.5-acre campus.

We’ve written a lot about how homelessness has been rising in Oceanside for years and how the lack of shelter for the city’s homeless became a more prominent concern during the pandemic

The U-T also reports that the Del Mar Fairgrounds is planning to install temporary housing for homeless veterans, one of several ideas for boosting revenue. 

In Other News

  • Federal prosecutors in San Diego have filed charges against two men arrested during recent protests (for allegedly possessing molotov cocktails and aiming a laser at a police helicopter). No other federal prosecution office in California has done that. (Union-Tribune) 
  • U-T columnist Michael Smolens considers the politics of raising the height limit in the Midway District to create a denser and more walkable neighborhood. The City Council likely will put the issue on the November ballot.
  • An SDSU professor is trying to make Nathan Harrison famous again. A former slave, Harrison was the region’s first black homesteader and a local legend. Tourists sought him out for photographs. (NBC San Diego)
  • Instead of arresting three young men for tagging, a cop encouraged them to keep going. The mural is being displayed at a church in El Cajon. (NBC San Diego) 

The Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.

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