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Most people who live in southeastern San Diego have had interactions with the police. Living in one of the city’s most highly policed neighborhoods, most of them also agree that police need reform and more accountability.
But what not everyone agrees on, writes Maya Srikrishnan, is to what extent law enforcement can help the community solve its problems.
Srikrishnan talks to several community advocates from southeastern San Diego about the role they think police should play in helping their community. Some think that working with the police can help curb violence in the community. Others think organizations could be doing the community harm by even taking money from law enforcement.
Candidates for Sheriff Debate Jails, Vaccine Mandates
Scott Lewis kicked off our fourth day of Politifest discussions on law and justice with the candidates vying to fill one of the most important jobs in the county, sheriff, who oversees the daily operations of thousands of personnel. Bill Gore announced earlier this year that he would not seek re-election and endorsed Undersheriff Kelly Martinez as his would-be successor, along with a host of establishment Democrats.
Jails were a big part of the conversation, thanks largely to the Union-Tribune’s reporting over the years on deaths inside facilities. Those reports have encountered pushback from inside the department, but Martinez appeared to welcome outside review.
“If the state audit could bring forward some recommendations, we would really like those,” she said.
Each of the candidates agreed that it wasn’t a good idea to contract out services inside jails to private companies, as Gore previously suggested and fought for. The candidates also spoke about low morale among the rank and file, and a lack of public trust in law enforcement generally.
Dave Myers, a former sheriff’s commander who challenged Gore in 2018, linked the two together, arguing that low morale drives a wedge between deputies and the communities they serve.
“There’s a crisis of confidence in law enforcement and we must talk about it consistently … and not bring it up every four years because there’s an election,” he said.
The candidates also agreed that, while violent crime is still below its peak in the 1990s, it’s nonetheless concerning. John Hemmerling, an assistant city attorney, said the sheriff should be working with community groups to find alternatives to jail for the most vulnerable people.
“If we do that,” he said, “we can get back to focusing on violent crimes and gun violence.”
A few more highlights…
Vaccines: Myers was skeptical that deputies would quit in large numbers because of tougher rules while Martinez declined to give an opinion on any vaccine mandates beyond what the county is already doing. The county currently requires that employees be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing. New hires don’t have the same choice. Deputies don’t want to get vaccinated for a variety of reasons and not because they’re right-wing idealists, she said. “Some believe this will affect fertility among women. We’re working through that.”
Communications: Martinez didn’t disavow the department’s decision to release a video purporting to show a deputy overdosing on fentanyl (it went viral and got torn up). “We’ve been taught for years that was absolutely what could happen,” she said. “It was enlightening for us to talk to professionals afterwards.” She claimed the video was no longer online, but as our buddy Jack Molmud pointed out, it was still on the sheriff’s YouTube channel last night.
Journalism: Hemmerling argued that he never threatened NBC 7 reporter Dorian Hargrove with prosecution after Hargrove obtained confidential information. Here’s the letter. You be the judge.
Today marks the end of Politifest week. Lisa Halverstadt will host our final panel of the week at 5:30 p.m. about the role police play — and should or shouldn’t play — in addressing homelessness. She’ll be chatting with Mitchelle Woodson of Think Dignity, homeless advocate John Brady and San Diego police Capt. Shawn Takeuchi, who oversees the police division focused on homelessness and quality of life issues.
There’s still time to register to tune in. It’s just $10 and free for students. You can do that here.
Catch up: Halverstadt published a story yesterday reviewing Mayor Todd Gloria’s approach to police enforcement affecting homeless San Diegans. She also recently teamed with VOSD’s Adriana Heldiz on a San Diego 101 video about the most common violations homeless San Diegans are cited for.
The State of Police Reform at San Diego Unified
Last year, activists demanded that San Diego Unified get cops out of city schools.
More than a year later, our Will Huntsberry found that the school district has started tweaking policies dictating how officers work in schools. The most noticeable changes will be new uniforms for school police and a decision to stop assigning officers to single schools but instead to clusters of schools.
School board president Richard Barrera defended the reforms that the district has proceeded with and said the district hasn’t made the overhaul activists requested because he’d rather have officers trained to work with students.
For him, there is a clear and simple reason not to defund San Diego Unified police: He’d rather San Diego Unified-trained police officers respond to incidents instead of city police.
Photo of the Week
From Adriana Heldiz: Earlier this week, we wrote about an increase in Haitian migrants arriving in Tijuana. Hundreds have applied for identification documents that allow them to remain in Mexico, but it’s still unclear whether many will stay in Tijuana or try to find opportunities elsewhere.
Photojournalist Joebeth Terriquez documented those waiting in line at COMAR, Mexico’s refugee agency, last Wednesday. We spoke to Terriquez about what he saw.
What was the scene like at the refugee agency?
When I first visited the COMAR facilities it was after midnight and I found dozens of migrants sleeping at the gates. When morning light hit, hundreds of people started to gather, and by 9 a.m. the place turned hectic and desperation took over. Even though it only lasted a couple of hours, the language barrier became too much to handle for the Mexican authorities and there was some pushing and shoving. COMAR personnel did not want the media in the facilities, which made it difficult to work.
What’s something new you learned during your visit?
I’ve learned that even though Tijuana has grown accustomed to an intense migration flow, the government still has a lot of work to do in better preparing their staff on how to deal with these types of scenarios. And they need to do it quickly because more immigrants are continuing their journey towards the border.
In Other News
- The Union-Tribune reports that the city is likely to “hand over ownership and operation duties” for a block of city-controlled open space near San Diego Bay at Broadway and North Harbor Drive to a private developer in exchange for financing and running a community park. (Note: This story is only for subscribers.)
- A federal judge this week denied an attempt to block a new city ordinance banning ghost guns, Times of San Diego reports.
- Environmental activists aren’t pleased with the county’s plan to finalize a new climate action plan by 2023, a timeline they say doesn’t match the urgency of the climate crisis. (Union-Tribune)
- 10 News reports that Ocean Beach residents are protesting the removal of a row of palm trees that the city and Federal Aviation Administration have deemed a safety threat for planes flying in and out of the airport.
- A signature-gathering effort to recall Oceanside City Councilwoman Kori Jensen failed to qualify, the Union-Tribune reports.
- 10 News reveals that San Diego State researchers are trying to follow the trash in the San Diego River — and where it’s coming from.
This Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt, Jesse Marx and Maya Srikrishnan. It was edited by Megan Wood.