Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise

One overarching takeaway was clear when I read through the police review board’s investigation into a 2015 shooting I’ve been following since it happened: Everything the victim did leading up to the shooting was used against him, while everything the police officer did – even if it violated policy – was used to his benefit.

The review board, for example, considered documents related to Fridoon Nehad’s immigration status as it investigated the case – though immigration played no role in the shooting. And when Bonnie Dumanis weighed whether to charge the officer involved, she laid out Nehad’s previous interactions with police – as if those, too, were in any way relevant to what happened. They were not.

But the review board concluded that because SDPD Officer Neal Browder hadn’t turned on his body camera before the shooting, he deserved “the benefit of the doubt” as far as whether his actions were reasonable. Breaking the rules, it turned out, served him pretty well.

This same dynamic – the idea that victims deserve their own deaths, while cops deserve grace and understanding – certainly isn’t unique.

Also this week, the Union-Tribune reported on some truly disturbing allegations against a San Diego Sheriff’s deputy – but in doing so, bizarrely spent multiple paragraphs describing the officer’s high school athletic career. He was afforded the grace of being known for other accomplishments beyond the heinous acts at the center of the story.

Over and over, we give this grace, and these benefits, only to the people who deserve them least.

Last year, in our series on law enforcement officers who’ve themselves been convicted of crimes, we found countless reminders that the system bends over backward to reward and excuse officers – even when they’re the ones who’ve broken the law.

When a CHP officer from Alpine battered his wife and then destroyed property, the judge determining his fate took pains to let him know he could have his service weapon back if he wanted.

“You know, I’m not distrusting you,” Judge Roger Krauel told the man as he was pleading guilty to a crime. “I’m not thinking I’m dealing with some crook that I need to worry about what he’s gonna do when he turns around and leaves.”

What VOSD Learned This Week

The Nehad case is far from the only time body cameras have failed to live up to their promise. One homeless man’s encounter was captured by three different body camerasyet none of the footage was available to him to aid in his defense.

Speaking of cameras that were sold to the public as a transparency tool, Jesse Marx revealed that the transit and mobility data that was a key selling point of the smart streetlights program has quietly been turned off. The cameras are now exclusively a tool for the police.

We wrapped these stories together for our discussion on this week’s podcast.


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What I’m Reading

Line of the Week

The turtlenecked girl had an idea.” – This is the most wonderfully efficient description of The Babysitter’s Club.

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

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