San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit speaks at a Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods committee meeting. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

The story of the San Diego Police Department’s use of a century-old law to punish speech that officers simply don’t like is a rare one in that it appears to have produced quick action: The department, once it was called out, said it would immediately stop enforcing the law; the Council is in the process of working to repeal it.

That’s that, right?

Not so fast.

Even if the law is repealed quickly, there are plenty of big outstanding questions surrounding how police used what’s widely considered an unconstitutional statute, whether officers who targeted people as retaliation for offending them will be punished or retrained, what will happen to people who were ticketed and fined inappropriately and more. 

San Diego Police Department Chief David Nisleit declined to answer any of these questions, as did a police department spokesman. 

But several legal experts weighed in on many of these questions, including by explaining what role and responsibility the court commissioner who weighs these infractions has to vet whether people were ticketed appropriately.

I was particularly chilled by one answer I got when I asked a law professor: Will police simply use a different charge to ticket people for speech they don’t like?

His response was quick, and definitive: “Yes.”

Michell, Out

Kris Michell, the city’s chief operating officer, announced her resignation Monday, VOSD’s Lisa Halverstadt reports.

Michell was the top unelected official in the city, a role the next mayor will now fill. The post requires City Council approval.

Michell said in a statement that her decision to leave has nothing to do with the ongoing 101 Ash St. scandal.

The deal to acquire 101 Ash St. predates her hiring as COO, but under Michell’s watch, the city rushed to evacuate the building in January after a series of asbestos violations emerged during an expanded renovation effort that went awry.

Michell also oversaw major city projects like the sale of the former Chargers stadium property in Mission Valley to SDSU, and the massive infrastructure project Pure Water.

Speaking of Ash Street, which definitely is not related to this Michell departure – we know that because city officials proactively asserted that her departure was definitely not related to Ash Street … 

NBC San Diego on Monday announced that it has suspended the two authors of a story about the 101 Ash St. scandal that has since been retracted, after it was revealed that it relied on fabricated documents sent to the station by an unknown source. 

From Bad to Worse for Day Laborers

Being a day laborer – the folks you often see outside Home Depot awaiting construction or other work – wasn’t exactly an easy gig before this year hit.

But 2020 has made things rougher for everyone, and in their case both the coronavirus and new Trump administration restrictions on asylum-seekers have compounded to make things harder for laborers, who are often here without immigration status, VOSD’s Adriana Heldiz reports in this week’s Border Report.

Employers now tend to only hire laborers who have their own cars, one laborer told VOSD, out of fears of contracting the virus.

On top of that, new rules requiring asylum-seekers to wait a year before acquiring a work permit has forced many asylum-seekers to look for day labor, compounding the competition.

Also in the Border Report: The county has been offering free COVID-19 testing at one pedestrian border crossing, for about a month now.

“As of last week, the county had administered a total of 1,939 tests at the site,” Maya Srikrishnan reports. “On average, the county administers 84 tests per day, with an average turnaround time for results of one to two days.”

In Other News

  • Our old pal Mario Koran wrote a beautiful piece about his struggle with addiction and how it’s impacted his reporting and his family. (The Guardian)
  • A new report from a local education task force drives home what anecdotal evidence has shown us: that distance learning is not equitable, and depends on access to qualified teachers, tech resources and more. (City News Service) 
  • The owners of the Cowboy Star steakhouse told the Associated Press they won’t follow the rules if the state orders San Diego County restaurants to shut down indoor dining again. 

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

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