Local News

Community leaders continue push for San Diego County to support federal policing bill

Community leaders on Wednesday urged the county Board of Supervisors to pass an anticipated resolution in support of a sweeping federal police reform bill named after George Floyd.

“I call on our supervisors to do what is right,” the Rev. Shane Harris, a civil rights activist, said during a news conference outside the County Administration Building.

The Board of Supervisors will decide Tuesday whether to direct the chief administrative officer to support the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act on the county’s behalf.

Among several reforms, the legislation would ban chokeholds, racial profiling and qualified immunity, a court-established concept that shields police officers and other government officials from lawsuits except in cases in which officials violate “clearly established” constitutional rights.

Harris and others rallied behind the bill last week, a day after a former Minneapolis police officer Dereck Chauvin was convicted of murder in Floyd’s killing.

Among the community leaders who joined the calls Wednesday for the board to support the legislation was former Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña, who said too often the narrative often centers around a few “bad apples.”

“The fact is the whole system needs reform,” Saldaña said.

She said support from the county would send a strong message about accountability.

Yusef Miller, co-founder of the North County Equity and Justice Coalition, said the “George Floyd issue” reflects a national problem. He listed the names of men who died in recent years during or after encounters with police across San Diego County, including Alfred Olango, who was shot by an officer in El Cajon in 2016 when he pointed what turned out to be a vaping device at the officer.

“We have suffered for far too long,” Miller said, “and we sit by and hear excuses from law enforcement, from district attorneys, from county boards of supervisors, from city councils, while we’re dying here on the streets in North County, while we’re dying here on the streets in East County, while we’re dying here on the streets in South Bay, while we’re dying here on the streets in central (San Diego).”

“Hopefully this goes nationally so that we can take care of the Black and brown people who suffer under violent, unlawful, deadly policing throughout our nation,” he said.

Attorney Dante Pride called attention to qualified immunity, which he said gives officers the “benefit of the doubt” unless there’s a specific court case that proves officers’ conduct was improper.

“I’ve seen too many cases where a person is harmed, maimed, killed by police and the courts give the police officer the benefit of the doubt,” Pride said.

If qualified immunity ends, officers will have to answer for the actions, he said.

“It’s on the supervisors to tell the people of San Diego what we want to be remembered for,” he said.

Bishop Cornelius Bowser, of the Charity Apostolic Church in San Diego, said one the most pressing issues the legislation addresses is racial profiling, which he said leads to traffic stops that target Black and Brown men.

“It will greatly impact how our communities are being policed,” he said, adding that often police see Black and Brown people as threats or criminals. “We believe this (legislation) will change it.”

He called on all supervisors to support the legislation and not vote along party lines. “This should be a unanimous vote,” he said.

Abdur-Rahim Hameed, president and CEO of the National Black Contractors Association, also urged the Board of Supervisors to act.

“Pass this legislation so this gives policing the reality check — that they are under the law,” Hameed said.

The legislation cleared the House of Representatives last summer but died in the Senate. The House passed the legislation again in March. President Joe Biden has vowed to fight for the passage of the bill and has urged the Senate to pass the legislation.

“The renewed interest at the federal level in the ‘George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021’ is a positive step in the right direction,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Nathan Fletcher said last week in a statement. He endorsed the action the board will consider Tuesday.