The Vista Detention facility. / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

A San Diego County group that reviews cases of possible police misconduct is pressing the Sheriff’s Department over its body-worn camera policy, or lack thereof.

The deputies are not required to activate their cameras during certain encounters. In the city of San Diego and elsewhere, they are.

VOSD contributor Kelly Davis reports that one member of the Citizens’ Law Enforcement Review Board said she’d seen investigations in which deputies failed to turn on their cameras and didn’t provide a reason later on. Although it might not be a widespread problem, the board highlighted body-worn cameras as an ongoing area of concern.

A sheriff’s liaison said the department does “spot checks” to see if deputies are following guidelines and conducts an annual audit that involves pulling incidents for review.

To keep track of the issue long-term, one former member of the review board has advocated that the group start keeping track of instances when a deputy doesn’t activate his or her camera.

Historically, Davis notes, the board has been short-staffed and underfunded. In 2017, it dismissed 22 death cases without review. 

EPA: 10 Ways to Fix the Tijuana River Sewage Problem

The Environmental Protection Agency is considering 10 projects on both the U.S. and Mexican sides of the border to fix the Tijuana River sewage pollution problem. But it’s still unclear which of them will get a slice of $300 million set aside by the Trump administration.

The EPA unveiled the to-do list at a public meeting Friday but didn’t say how much it would cost to complete them all. That’s still part of an ongoing study with no projected end date, EPA officials said.

A project that would turn sewage into drinkable water and spearheaded by a private U.S. company or a Mexican engineering conglomerate were not among the list of priorities, though. 

“We’re looking at projects that would benefit the U.S., which is recycling at an existing water treatment plant,” said Doug Linden from EPA when asked why.

His response doesn’t negate the possibility that either would get funded since the Mexican project claims to stop and treat millions of gallons of sewage before it even reaches the border. Other proposed projects include funneling some of the sewage to the South Bay Wastewater Reclamation Plant, which is owned by the city of San Diego.

Liden said the city has “expressed interest” in selling that 15 million gallon-a-day plant. 

The EPA also proposed studying what it would take to just go in and fix all of Tijuana’s collection and treatment systems that are broken. One of Tijuana’s main treatment plants, called San Antonio de los Buenos, is broken right now, meaning untreated sewage is flowing into the Pacific Ocean just six miles south of the border, Linden said. 

Judge Sides With County on COVID Outbreak Data

A San Diego County court ruled last week against VOSD, KPBS and the Union-Tribune in a lawsuit seeking epidemiological reports that would reveal the locations of COVID-19 outbreaks. 

Judge Joel R. Wohlfeil was sympathetic to the county’s argument that releasing more information about the virus might make businesses less likely to inform the county of positive cases in their midst. Public health officials also argued that the disclosure of outbreaks at small businesses might also compromise the privacy of infected people. 

More than nine months into this mess, they’ve asked the public to just trust them. 

Felix Tinkov, an attorney for the news outlets, countered that allowing the county to keep the information secret sets a dangerous precedent and that releasing it might actually encourage people to comply with the efforts of contact tracers. 

Part of the dispute centers on different interpretations of AB 262, which was written by San DIego Mayor-elect Todd Gloria. He weighed in on Friday

“There may be reasons why the County feels it’s in the public interest to withhold this information, but I don’t agree with them using my legislation, intended and designed to increase transparency, as a means to limit transparency,” he tweeted. 

Council Prez Race Getting Hotter

City Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe joined the podcast to explain why she wants the job of Council president and why she thinks she can use it more effectively than her predecessors while still addressing the needs of her district.

Councilwoman Jen Campbell, who’s expressed interest in the job as well, declined our request for an interview. The new Council will take a vote when all the newly elected officials are sworn-in next month.

The Politics Report, meanwhile, has details on how the Democratic Party and the Labor Council weighed in on the contest, both voting last week to support Montgomery Steppe. Montgomery Steppe told us Thursday that the Labor Council’s delegates had voted to endorse her on Wednesday. On Friday, when we sought confirmation of the endorsement from the Labor Council, they played coy, declining to provide a statement confirming or denying its decision. But by Saturday morning, after the Politics Report published, we received a statement from the Labor Council confirming that it, indeed, supports Montgomery Steppe for Council president. The group shared the news on social media, too.

In Other News

  • A year after a fraternity pledge died after a night of heavy drinking, a U-T investigation details the extent to which SDSU has tried unsuccessfully to control alcohol abuse and sexual harassment and abuse allegations within its Greek system. 
  • San Diego is still setting record highs for coronavirus cases. (City News Service)
  • San Diego is one of many cities across the country where voters approved tougher police oversight boards. “However, the oversight boards don’t address other points of contention, such as the lack of diversity in many departments, and the perception of a different standard of police for Black residents than white,” the Associated Press points out.

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

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