The San Diego Police Department / Photo by Megan Wood

This week, Andrew Keatts reported that after years of SDPD insisting some rape kits had no investigative value, those same kits are now turning up DNA hits when tested by a third-party company.

In many ways, the flaws and issues identified in Keatts’ years-long investigation into how SDPD handles its rape kits have been addressed. The crime lab leader who pushed technicians to lower their standards in order to clear the backlog is gone. The department agreed to send its kits to a third party.

Yet Keatts’ story also included a disturbing, infuriating component: In the face of clear, hard evidence that their policy was misguided, an SDPD spokesman steadfastly refused to admit they should have been testing the rape kits all along: “I don’t know if we should have tested all kits before,” he said. “I think you have to look at it as, as society changes, what are the demands and requirements on law enforcement? I think we viewed it as, there was a decision made prior to Chief (David) Nisleit, the chief made the new decision, and times have changed and laws have changed and we’re changing with the times.”

Though I believe this signals much deeper issues within SDPD itself, it’s also indicative of a problem that afflicts virtually every public agency and official in San Diego.

Some examples:

Our civic discussions often feel like the Kidz Bop version – a rendition of a real conversation that’s been comically sanitized to the point of meaninglessness.

We simply can’t bear to admit things are bad, or wrong. And in turn, problems that other cities dispose of relatively easily seem to fester here. It’s become enough of a phenomenon that we gave it a name – the San Diego Special – and this is a big part of why it keeps happening.

If San Diego wants to put any number of challenges to rest, it will necessarily involve forcing ourselves to have difficult discussions, and crucially, willingly admitting when we messed up.

The rape kits should have been tested. Is it really so hard to say?

What VOSD Learned This Week

The candidates for the 79th District Assembly race discussed police performance and accountability in the debate we hosted this week, and I parsed their stance on police union contributions in this week’s Sacramento Report.


Councilman Chris Cate once remarked that the City Council was incapable of governing because of how disastrously the city had handled vacation rentals for years. But this week, it actually passed an ordinance to regulate them. Lisa Halverstadt detailed what we know about just how many rentals there are in the city. We talked about the plan and what’s next on this week’s podcast.


MacKenzie Elmer delved into brown waters and a blue highway this week. That is, she and Vicente Calderon examined Mexico’s claims that it has fixed the problems leading to sewage spills in the Tijuana River. And she unveiled a plan from the Port to create a marine highway that could eliminate some truck traffic in neighborhoods like Barrio Logan.


Our contributor Randy Dotinga laid out the dilemma he’s facing as he takes part in a COVID-19 vaccine trial.

What I’m Reading

Line of the Week

“There were exactly eight tweets, each one rooted in what can best be described as reality.” – Well, this is a weird feeling.

Sara Libby

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

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