Union-Tribune Article on Police Bias

March 30, 2021

 

Lyndsay Winkley
Lauryn Schroeder
San Diego Union Tribune
600 B Street, Suite 1201, San Diego, CA 92101

 

Dear Ms Winkley and Ms Schroeder,

We are writing to thank you for the article in Sunday’s Union-Tribune regarding bias in policing in the San Diego Police Department and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department(1).  You raise an important issue and make many good points.

We at the NAACP San Diego Branch recognize that policing is a difficult job.  We know it is made more difficult by the nearly complete refusal of our society to address the legitimate problems of the poor and the non-white, and to instead use policing to suppress their reactions to injustice.  

We understand that criticisms of policing, however carefully researched and phrased, naturally result in defensiveness and resistance on the part of many in the policing community.  We recognize that most in the policing community honestly want to improve the outcomes for all our residents, including residents of color.

And yet, study after study, yours included, shows that disparate outcomes remain.  Far more African-Americans are arrested than their share of the population.  Far more African-Americans wash out of our Police (and Fire) applications and training processes than their share of applicants.  We also know from recent studies and events that there are a significant number of avowed white supremacists  in our public safety organizations.

Unfortunately, decades of court decisions have eroded the remedies available to such disparities, leaving us in a situation where the only way to get a judicial remedy is for an officer to have conscious race hatred and be foolish enough to express it openly.  Amazingly, even this does continue to occur.

Looming over all this is the specter of violence.  Recruits fresh out of the academy are put on the street, armed with deadly weapons and nearly no possibility of judicial accountability for those they may injure or kill.  They have been taught that every situation is potentially lethal.  They have been taught that anything less than instant compliance on the part of civilians is a form of violent aggression.  It is hardly a wonder that terrified officers shoot terrified civilians, in what is a tragedy for both.  It is hardly a wonder that so many of these uncalled-for shootings involve Black and brown folks, given the biases that make them so much more likely to be stopped, and so much more likely to be considered dangerous when stopped.

It is long past time to study.  It is long past time to prove, again and again and again, that bias is an issue in policing and our society.  We cannot count on the courts to act, especially with the radical makeup of the current Supreme Court.  The problem of bias must be solved locally.

That is why we call on Mayor Todd Gloria and the San Diego City Council to act boldly.  That is why we call on Sheriff Gore and the San Diego County Board of Supervisors to act boldly.  That is why we call on San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan to  act boldly.  There is much that they can do to start fixing this problem.  We would be delighted to explain in detail what they can do, now, to make progress toward “justice for all.”  Our list would start with swift and thorough training in de-escalation, include ongoing wellness checks for all officers, and swift progress with the Mobile Crisis Response Teams; it would not end there.

We welcome engagement with the San Diego Police Department, as well as all the other law enforcement agencies in San Diego.

Criminal Justice Committee
NAACP San Diego Branch

Legal Redress Committee
NAACP San Diego Branch

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