November 18, 2020
Chief David Nisleit
San Diego Police Department
1401 Broadway Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
Dear Chief Nisleit,
We are writing to express our concerns with regards to on-duty San Diego Police Officers wearing Thin Blue Line facial coverings, as well as officers lacking facial coverings while on duty. Both of these actions violate Department regulations, and negatively affect the communities these officers serve. We are writing as concerned members of the public, as well as members of the NAACP San Diego Branch.
SDPD Policy Manual (9.14) states that on-duty officers may not “Engage in any political activity during working hours or in any City work area”. The Thin Blue Line mask is a direct political response to the recent Black Lives Matter Movement. While we appreciate the intent of the Thin Blue Line / Blue Lives Matter campaign, this symbol serves to further incite division and hostility within our community. When the Thin Blue Line mask is worn during law enforcement activities (while writing citations, conducting searches, supervising protests, etc) it creates fear, intimidation, and distrust, further isolating law enforcement officers from the community. It also goes against the police chief directive to only wear solid color masks.
This dynamic also threatens the intent of The Non-Biased Policing Policy (9.31 of the SDPD Policy Manual): “The Department’s commitment to non-bias based policing includes providing all members with ongoing training related to biases, including implicit, overt, and bias by proxy, and all members are expected to understand their negative impacts on policing.” The Thin Blue Line mask does not reflect a Department that respects or embraces non-biased policing practices.
The lack of facial covering worn by SDPD on-duty officers directly impacts the safety of the community. By further exposing individuals to the coronavirus, and by reflecting the notion that masks are not necessary, the SDPD does not fulfill its mission to protect and serve. By resisting basic safety precautions (such as wearing a mask while on duty) SDPD fails to offer its citizens the service they are entitled to as citizens. This resistance to wearing a mask also creates a negative example to the public.
For the sake of transparency and improved safety to our public, please respond to the below questions:
Have SDPD officers been counselled against the display of political symbols and messages while on duty? Have you addressed the Thin Blue Line masks?
Who is enforcing the requirement that SDPD officers wear masks while on duty? Is there a standard procedure to check uniforms and appearance before each shift?
We appreciate your response and proposed resolutions as we continue to explore the opportunities of a better connection between law enforcement and the public.
Citizens Justice Committee
NAACP San Diego Branch