SDPD, CRB Greenlight Violent Arrests for “Walking a Dog While Black”

September 27, 2020

As President of the San Diego Branch of the NAACP, it is my responsibility to be on the lookout for and respond to racism, discrimination, and violations of human and civil rights.

That brought me to the case of a young woman walking her dog on a public beach.  I have written about this case before, back in May, when it occurred.  To recap:

An African-American woman was walking her unleashed dog on a section of the beach where unleashed dogs were permitted, but only at certain times of day.  We have no report that this particular unleashed dog had caused any harm at all.  When she refused to leash her dog, the lifeguards, rather than call animal control or simply let her go on her way, felt the need to call the police.

As for the officers of the San Diego Police Department, they also had choices available to them.  They could have called animal control.  They could have given the woman a citation and let her go.  They chose to cuff her instead.  When she tried to walk away, they apprehended her violently, slamming her to the ground three times, knees in her back, and kicking the poor dog that tried to come to her rescue.

The video may be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiZzTnXLWHU.

At the time, we filed a complaint with the Citizens Review Board on Police Practices, as residents are encouraged to do.  This week, we received a reply, both from the SDPD’s Internal Affairs unit and from the CRB.

Let’s take the SDPD’s response first.  They determined our complaints about unnecessary force, bad decisions and the bias that likely led to them were:

“Exonerated.”  “Exonerated.”  “Exonerated.”  “Unfounded.”  “Unfounded.”  “Unfounded.”  “Unfounded.”

In other words, body slamming and brutalizing this young woman and her dog was a perfectly appropriate response to her walking her dog without a leash at the wrong time of day.  Clearly, the treatment of black women does not matter to the SDPD.

What did the supposed voice of the people, the CRB, say in their report?  Did they bring sanity and accountability to the process?  Let’s see:

“The CRB agreed with the Internal Affairs’ finding.”
“The CRB agreed with the Internal Affairs’ finding.”
“The CRB agreed with the Internal Affairs’ finding.”
“The CRB agreed with the Internal Affairs’ finding.”
“The CRB agreed with the Internal Affairs’ finding.”
“The CRB agreed with the Internal Affairs’ finding.”
“The CRB agreed with the Internal Affairs’ finding.”

We will say that the CRB did find that the paperwork proper to the brutalization of a young woman for walking her dog without a leash at the wrong time was not correctly filed by one of the officers.

Law Enforcement in San Diego needs a sense of urgency.  There need to be intentional conversations taking place to stop these incidents from occurring, not just reflexive justifications and denials of the wrongs that continue to be done. Each of these incidents only increases the racial tensions in our City, the San Diego Police Department needs a cultural shift, and we need policies and procedures to accelerate that cultural shift.

All of this also underlines the absolute necessity for Measure B, which will bring some degree of independence to citizen oversight.  The current CRB, with no investigators, no subpoena power and no legal counsel (except the same ones who defend the police) can hardly be expected to be able to do more than rubber stamp the decisions of Internal Affairs.  We know there are people of good will on the CRB, but they are prevented from having a positive effect by a CRB that is deliberately hamstrung by the City, the City Attorney, and the Police Unions to which the City so meekly submits.

So long as the Mayor and City Council fail to show leadership to control the SDPD, so long as they continue to let the SDPD have its way with the residents of our City, stronger citizen oversight is an absolute MUST to protect life and dignity within the city limits.

On November 4th, vote for bolder leadership, and vote YES on Measure B, to establish a more independent Commission on Police Practices to replace the existing CRB.

Francine Maxwell, President
NAACP San Diego Branch