Amid widespread calls for police reform, San Diego saw the creation of an independent police oversight commission, but community advocates say progress is slow and are upset by the proposed increase in police spending in the city’s fiscal 2021-22 budget.
Speaker 1: 00:00 Joining me now is KPBS racial justice and social equity reporter, Christina Kim, to talk about the police reforms happening here in San Diego and across California. Christina. Welcome.
Speaker 2: 00:12 Hi Jen. So
Speaker 1: 00:14 What type of police reforms were spurred by Floyd’s murder and then the following protest here in San Diego. So right
Speaker 3: 00:21 Away in June, we saw some reforms happen. The San Diego police department and the Sheriff’s department banned carotid restraints, which has when officers apply pressure on the sides of a person’s neck, in order to subdue them later that month, they also made deescalation a requirement instead of just a recommendation as they had previously. And they put more explicit measures for how officers could intervene if they saw their fellow officers using excessive force. However, it’s important to remember that there had been a big push for police performed years before George Floyd’s death in large part, because we’ve known since at least 2016, there’s been at least three studies that have shown that San Diego police and Sheriff’s departments disproportionately stop arrest and use force against black and Latino people. So for the advocates that have been pushing for change, these reforms were seen as kind of too small and a little bit late.
Speaker 3: 01:13 And what we saw in July was the coalition for police accountability and transparency, which is an Alliance of community groups here in San Diego that formed in 2016, they released a number of police accountability, reforms that they wanted to see that they felt pushed the envelope more that included cutting the police budget, the creation of an independent police oversight committee, as well as a stop to pretext stops. And so it became, it opened up a conversation as more San Diegans were open to the conversation of reform. And what we saw is that shortly after the coalition, you know, release these kind of new reform ideas or kind of this package of reforms, the city council then put measure B, which again had been in the works for a while, which would change the city charter to create an independent oversight committee on the November ballot. And what we saw is that in November, it passed with nearly 75% of the votes. So that’s where we saw some, some real reform happen here in San Diego. And
Speaker 1: 02:11 You know, one of the issues with previous police oversight commissions is that they don’t have any teeth. You know, they, they have no authority to make changes or really investigate. They’ve only been able to make suggestions. Do you have any sense of how that might change under new legislation? Right. Well, with
Speaker 3: 02:29 Measure B and the new CR and the creation of the commission on police practices here in San Diego, this commission is going to be able to do independent investigations, meaning they will no longer rely on internal police investigations of incidents, be it use of force or when a police officer, uh, discharges a weapon. So that independence is very crucial and seen as a real, uh, re-imagining of, of police accountability. They’re also going to have the power to subpoena. So that makes it very different. The community review board that existed prior to the commission on police practices, that said, it’s important to note the San Diegans voted for measure B in November we’re in may. And that, that new commission still hasn’t been implemented. Some advocates have said that this is just moving too slowly. And even though we have an interim commission that interim commission doesn’t have the capacity to do those independent investigations or subpoena power thus far, they’re just reviewing cases as the previous community review board had done.
Speaker 1: 03:29 And as you mentioned, these are changes. Local advocates have been calling on for years. What’s been their reaction
Speaker 3: 03:35 Advocates have been a little bit concerned about how slow moving, implementing this new commission has been. I spoke with Andrea St. Julian, who is the founder of San Diego for justice, as well as somebody who actually helped craft measure B. She says, she’s still hopeful, but she’s remaining vigilant. And something that she was concerned about when I spoke with her is just last week, the transition team that’s setting up this new commission on police practices actually voted on a motion on whether to allow police officers to attend, to close deliberation and voting. When the commission is investigating incidents in the end, the rules committee decided to not make that recommendation. However, St. Julian feels that this is a concern because it could really jeopardize the commission’s independence, which is really what measure B was founded upon. That said, in terms of the speed in which this is happening, she does feel like there’s a real Goodwill and a good sense that it’s going to happen. And that’s been echoed by city council member, Monica, Montgomery step. Who’s championed to this commission for a long time. She says, no one is dragging here. And to really just remember that these kinds of monumental changes take time and need to be set up correctly.
Speaker 1: 04:48 And so we know what’s happening here locally in San Diego. What are you seeing on the state level?
Speaker 3: 04:53 There are bills that are looking to expand the ban on the use of choke holds. Uh, we’re also seeing some bills in the state legislator that would create a victim’s compensation fund for any injuries sustained during an interaction with law enforcement. And I think most importantly, and we’re where I’m really keeping my eye on is SB two, which would empower the state to create a decertification process for any police officers that have to engage in misconduct. So it’s essentially a licensing system in the way that if a lawyer or a doctor commits malpractice, they can be removed from the profession. Well, this would provide that very same.
Speaker 1: 05:31 And we talked a lot about policing. How does that fit into the larger movement? Right.
Speaker 3: 05:36 I think it’s important to remember that we’re talking about this today because it’s the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s death. And while we really focused on police reform, I think it also opened a larger societal question about racial inequities. And really if we’re going to talk about race and inequity in this country, it has to go beyond policing. And so I think as we continue to grow as a society and reflect on this anniversary, it’s important to think about how inequities exist in our society beyond policing. And I’m thinking specifically just the way we, we see and feel them now, for instance, according to a 2018 study by Redfin, only 30% of black San Diegans own their home in comparison to 61% of white San Diego wins. We also know that during the pandemic in San Diego, Latino and black people contracted COVID-19 at disproportionate rates. And so I bring these things up to say, I think that these are the conversations that are going to move us forward. And they’re actually very much related to criminal justice because in the end, when we talk about this it’s intersectional and we have to see the way that systems of inequities are really pushing up against each other and why we’re seeing these outcomes time and time again, I’ve
Speaker 1: 06:47 Been speaking with Christina Kim KPBS, racial justice and social equity reporter. Christina, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you so much, Jade.