San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit at the Land Use and Housing Committee meeting in city council chambers in downtown on April 13, 2023.
San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit at the Land Use and Housing Committee meeting in City Council chambers in downtown on April 13, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

Two years ago San Diego’s police chief made a promise: racial disparities in police encounters would go down. 

That promise, so far, has been empty, according to a new analysis by reporter Will Huntsberry. 

San Diego police officers stopped half as many people last year as they did in 2019, but that dramatic reduction in police actions didn’t change racial disparities among those stops at all. In fact, disparities got worse.

Huntsberry has been rolling out this week his new analysis on SDPD stops in recent years – that’s traffic stops, stops on foot, times an officer pulled a rider off the trolley, any time an officer stopped a resident for some reason.

While his finding that police are making half as many stops as they did just a few years ago is new, reports of racial disparities in SDPD stops are not. City and outside nonprofit reports in recent years have found the same, and it’s been an ongoing debate between the current and former mayor, the last two police chiefs and the City Council.

In 2022, SDPD officers stopped people about 96,000 times. Black people represented just under 20 percent of those stops, comparable to their share before the pandemic, but well above the six percent of the population they represent. The share of people stopped by police who are White has declined steadily during that time, while the share of people stopped by police who are Latino has increased.

And despite the dramatic decrease in overall stops – there’s been no such decrease in uses of force. That number has actually increased, even as overall stops have plummeted.

Read the full story here. 

City Attorney Sues for Control of California Theatre

The California Theatre seen here on Aug. 10, 2022, was partially surrounded by fencing that didn’t keep people from entering the building . / Photo by Jakob McWhinney

City Attorney Mara Elliott has filed a civil suit against the owner of the California Theatre, the decaying neighbor of City Hall, hoping a Superior Court judge will declare the building a public nuisance, she announced in a press release Thursday. 

Elliott is asking the court to make the owner repair the hazardous condition of the property, or let the city do it itself and bill the owner for the cost. The suit says significant structural problems and the presence of toxic substances conspire to pose a public health threat. 

Catch up: Lisa Halverstadt covered the city’s attempts to intervene in the California Theatre last year.

Elliott called the building a potential deathtrap for people who enter it unlawfully – homeless people often seek shelter in the building. She’s seeking $2,500 per day in penalties against the owner.

Her description of the property, though, also made it sound maybe not so horrible, as she called it “a venue for skateboarders, young explorers, and graffiti artists.”

San Diego Takes Second Crack at Deploying Wireless Water Meters 

Teresa Morse sticks her hand under the faucet in her bathroom in Golden Hill on March 10, 2023. Morse says it can take several minutes to get warm water.
Teresa Morse sticks her hand under the faucet in her bathroom in Golden Hill on March 10, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

Attempts to deploy wireless or “smart” water meters in San Diego’s past ended in expensive, faulty equipment and incorrect or late billing for thousands of frustrated customers. 

Smart meters were supposed to replace human water meter readers, individuals hired to physically read water use data from individual meters all over the city and manually log numbers into a database. 

Here we go again: San Diego is taking another crack at restarting its smart water meter roll-out, known as Advanced Metering Infrastructure, after a scathing audit brought the first rollout to a halt in 2019. Voice of San Diego and NBC 7 jointly investigated the city’s lack of planning behind the smart meter program failure, which, in part, prompted that audit. 

The city is slated to spend up to $30 million for new meters in the coming years and hired an outside engineering firm to oversee its deployment, according to CBS 8. Crews have already installed about 129,000 wireless meters though only 23,000 are currently online and sending data via the new wireless mechanism. 

WaPo Spotlights San Diego’s Homelessness and Behavioral Health Crises

A safety assessment form in a medical examination room at Sharp Mesa Vista
A safety assessment form in a medical examination room at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital on Sept. 20, 2022. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

The Washington Post hit the streets of San Diego to spotlight the challenges ahead for the state – and the county – as it seeks to implement a new state Care Court system aimed at compelling more people with mental illnesses – including those who are unhoused – into treatment. The Post notes that the state’s housing crisis is “the single largest obstacle to moving those being treated into safe places to live.” Our Lisa Halverstadt reported last fall on how a years-long shortage of long-term care options for behavioral health patients – including board and care homes – could also complicate implementation efforts

In Other News 

  • inewsource uncovered a wild case of officer misconduct. SDPD Officer Cesar Alcantara used fake blood to stage his suicide, then shot a gun in his home while his girlfriend was present. He also solicited sex from sex workers from his cell phone while he was on duty. He was placed on leave during an internal affairs investigation, and resigned from his job before the department could issue any punishment. 
  • Former SDSU punter Matt Araiza was not present in any of the videos taken the night a former high school student alleges she was gang raped by members of the SDSU football team, and he reportedly left the house before they were recorded, according to an audio recording obtained by the San Diego Union-Tribune of prosecutors briefing the woman and her attorney in December. 
  • Also, a judge ruled on Thursday to unseal the video clips recorded when the woman said she was gang raped. The videos would not be released to the public, but news reporters would be allowed to view them. The judge’s order won’t go into effect for two weeks. (Union-Tribune)
  • It’s going to get really warm this weekend, before it again gets really cold by Tuesday. (Union-Tribune)
  • San Diego Unified high school students are voting on the two new student board members to represent them as advisory members of the district’s school board. (KPBS)
  • Imperial Beach continues to grapple – today – with the effects of rising sea levels. (KPBS)

Correction: Wednesday’s Learning Curve cited the wrong figures in a contract dispute at UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Advanced continuing students began the year making $35,000 and will end the year at $40,500.

The Morning Report was written by Andrew Keatts, MacKenzie Elmer and Lisa Halverstadt. It was edited by Andrea Lopez-Villafaña.

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1 Comment

  1. Thank you for bringing this important issue to light. It is disheartening that reducing the number of police stops did not reduce the racial disparities we see in our justice system. We must continue to strive for substantive change that will help to right the injustices that exist in our society.

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