“Assault” on a “Peace” Officer in La Mesa

May 28, 2020

Chief Walt Vasquez of the La Mesa Police Department has this to say:

The La Mesa Police Department works with our community to protect life and property while striving to enhance the quality of life of all our residents.

We are curious as to which of these laudable goals is in evidence in this facebook video:

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What we see is one not very peaceful officer shoving around a citizen who, while justifiably angry over his disrespectful and violent treatment by the officer, makes no resistance.  We wonder whose life or property was threatened by this citizen?  Whose quality of life was enhanced by shoving him around?

Then, after all that aggression from the officer, he has the gall to arrest this poor man for “Assault on a Peace Officer.”  Seldom has so much irony been packed into such a little code as “241-C.”

We see four failures here.

Failure to de-escalate:

We must dismiss our need for immediate resolution to all kinds of resistance. — Harry Hammer, Inside the Art of De-Escalation.  Officers must learn to de-escalate situations, and not insist that citizens instantly comply with their every whim.

Anger management:

Hand in hand with de-escalation is that officers must learn to manage their own anger.  Officers should not be shoving people around.  We shudder to think what might have been done had there been no video cameras around.

Failure of Other Officers to Intervene

Several times we see a female officer step in to help restrain the innocent citizen who was the subject of this assault.  NEVER do we see or hear her or any of the other four officers on-scene attempt an intervention with the Officer who is the aggressor.  We are continually told by law enforcement that it is only a few officers who are “bad apples.” The point of a “bad apple” is that it spoils the whole bunch.  When officers intervene when one of their fellows are losing it, they protect both the citizen and that officer.

Of course, some officers are simply too violent and too dangerous to be helped, and must instead be terminated.

Community Relations

What none of our local law enforcement agencies seem to understand is that there is no number of softball games and toy giveaways that can improve their relations with the community when there are interactions like this caught on video.  Yes, we want to meet the chief and we’re glad when they are generous and helpful.  However, all of us in the African-American community know that if we put one single foot one single inch wrong, we may be thrown around, beaten up, have our necks knelt on, and then arrested to add insult to injury.  Assuming, of course, we even live to tell the tale.

When the City of La Mesa gets serious about improving the quality of life for its citizens, and gets serious about protecting its citizens FROM its police officers, the NAACP San Diego Branch stands ready to help.

Francine Maxwell, President
NAACP San Diego Branch

NBPA on George Floyd

Like all people of good will, we at the NAACP San Diego Branch are horrified at the wanton murder of George Floyd by officers of the Minneapolis Police Department.  We express our deepest condolences to his family and friends, and we hope justice will be done upon the killers.

We received a statement from the National Black Police Association regarding the incident.  We find it very telling that African-American police officers, some of whom are members of our Branch, see Mr Floyd’s death much the same way we do:

On the Violent Arrest of the Walker of an Unleashed Dog

May 13, 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.

Which brings me to the case of a young woman walking her dog on a public beach.  It is not illegal to walk a dog on this beach.  It is not illegal to walk an unleashed dog on this beach, except at certain times of day—surely a confusing situation for walkers of dogs.

We have no report that this particular unleashed dog had caused any harm at all, but they were breaking a rule.

The lifeguards are said to have approached the young woman and asked her to leash her dog.  We understand that she declined.  We do not even know if this young woman was in possession of a leash.

The lifeguards could have just let it go.  The lifeguards could have called animal control, since the dog was the issue.  Instead, the lifeguards called the police.  Why?

Did they call the police because, as has been so persuasively explained in Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, after the Civil Rights movement there has been a concerted effort by racists to paint African-Americans as criminals, and that has seeped into minds of the lifeguards?  When they see black, do they see crime?

As for the officers of the SDPD, 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 had a further choice.  

They could have let her go.  She had done no harm to anyone.  Her dog had done no harm to anyone.  They could also have chosen to shoot her illegally.

They took a “middle” ground instead, and 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.

Why?  Are they also infected by the idea that black is synonymous with criminal?  Is it so important that they be instantly obeyed in every single circumstance?  Did they perceive in this young woman’s very understandable belief that she was being treated unfairly some existential threat to law and order?  Are they in police work because they are sadists?

We don’t know.

One of the reasons we don’t know is that the San Diego Police Department refuses to have a real conversation about bias and racism in their department.  We give Chief Nisleit credit; he at least can admit that his officers have bias, unlike his predecessor, whose verbal gymnastics around that issue were worthy of Olympic Gold.

Another of the reasons we don’t know is that the SDPD is not transparent about the names of officers involved in controversial incidents, and what their records, positive or negative, are with communities of color.

We understand that officers face life and death decisions, and de-escalation is sometimes not an option.  All the same, there is something seriously wrong when a small young woman in a bathing suit with an unleashed but inoffensive dog is treated like a threat to the safety of officers and the public.  If there ever were a time for de-escalation, this would have been it.

The SDPD says their vision is to “Accept, Adapt, Train and Assess” community policing to build and enhance relationships between the community and the police.  They seem to think this means playing softball and giving out hot dogs.  All the softball in the world isn’t going to make the community trust or respect officers, when those officers target people of color for excessive enforcement and force on a regular basis.

Might this young woman have chosen to cooperate had the reputation of the SDPD not been so poor among communities of color in San Diego?  True community policing results in mutual respect and better outcomes.  Lack of community policing polarizes these relationships, making life more difficult and more dangerous for everyone.

We call for an honest discussion on bias and racism in the San Diego Police Department.  We call for a culture, not of Monday-morning-quarterbacking of every Officer decision, but of an honest attempt to see where things go wrong and improve for the future.  We call for evaluation of officers based on their ability to build relationships with all communities. We call for a culture that holds egregious or habitual offenders accountable.

Francine Maxwell, President
NAACP San Diego Branch

Swastikas in Santee

May 9, 2020

This has been a busy week for the residents of San Diego.  From police violence and murder to symbols of mass hatred, our region has had many evidences that we are not where we want to be as a society.  Today’s hate incident was a couple sporting not only a swastikas on their masks, but pushing a child in a stroller.

Before we address this particular incident, we pause to recall some of the words of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr:

The inevitable counterrevolution that succeeds every period of progress is taking place. Failing to understand this as a normal process of development, some Negroes are falling into unjustified pessimism and despair. Focusing on the ultimate goal, and discovering it still distant, they declare no progress at all has been made.

With Dr King, we remind you not to despair.  Dr King told us that counterrevolution succeeds every period of progress, and certainly the election of Barack Obama as this country’s first African-American President was certainly a sign that progress has been made.  Knowing this was to be expected doesn’t make it welcome, but it should take out some of the sting.

Their hatred is particularly inflamed because they are being asked to make a sacrifice (the wearing of masks) for the common good (slowing the spread of COVID-19.)  It is intolerable to these people to take any action for the love of their fellow human beings.  While we reject utterly their hatred, we also pity them for their lack of love.

We understand that Food 4 Less employees asked these deplorable persons to remove the swastikas, and they refused.  We understand that Food 4 Less employees offered these deplorable persons replacement masks to wear, and they refused.  We thank these employees for trying to right a wrong while also keeping the peace.

We may not be able to stop people from advertising their hatred, even during this time of public crisis and stay-at-home orders.  What we must do is put our shoulders to the wheel and our boots to the ground to defeat such hatred and work for fairness and work for love.If you, with us, deplore the Confederate flag, the Klan hood, the swastika, the dead detainee or the brutalized beachgoer, it’s time to get off the sidelines.  We’ve been fighting this fight for 101 years, and we can use your help.  Please visit join.sandiegonaacp.org and become a member.  We are an inclusive organization; all people of good will welcomed.

Francine Maxwell, President
NAACP San Diego Branch

Resignation of Deputy is Not Enough

May 8, 2020

On Monday, we noted with sorrow the shooting of a detainee by Sheriff’s Deputies who were arriving at work as the detainee had escaped during a transfer from Park Police to the jail.  At the time, we expressed our doubts as to the need for the shooting, and said we would be watching closely.  Further details bear out our suspicions.

According to press accounts, the victim, Nicholas Bils, suffered from mental illness.  Evidently, the deputies’ bodycams were not turned on, which seems convenient for the Sheriff. The “deadly weapon” he was arrested over was a golf club, which was not in his possession while he was fleeing from custody.  He was not an immediate danger to human life, and lethal force should not have been used.

According to press accounts, the deputy who shot him was 23 years old and had been a deputy for all of 18 months.  He has since resigned from the Sheriff’s department.

We understand that three shots lodged in Mr Bils’ body, but the fourth only grazed him.  We wonder where that fourth bullet would have ended up had COVID-19 not meant the streets were deserted?  What bystander might now be dead or dying due to this unnecessary and ill-advised shooting?

The deputy’s resignation does not end the matter.

We DEMAND that the San Diego Police Department conduct a thorough and unbiased investigation into this shooting.

We DEMAND that District Attorney Summer Stephan conduct a thorough review to see if criminal charges should be filed against the murderer of Mr Bils.

We DEMAND that Attorney General Becerra open an immediate investigation into Sheriff Gore’s department and practices.  This investigation should not be limited to this particular shooting; this shooting is only one of a long list of in-custody deaths.  Specifically, we ask AG Becearra to investigate:

  • Recruitment and training of Sheriff’s Deputies
  • Use of force policies, training, and accountability in the Sheriff’s department
  • In-custody deaths of persons in the Sheriff’s system, including in the jails
  • Most specifically, a review of the Sheriff’s suicide protocols, as many in-custody deaths are being (conveniently) attributed to suicide.

Some have wondered why we, the NAACP, are interested in the death of a white man.  As has been said so many times, none of us are free until all of us are free.  The NAACP is a racially diverse organization that is dedicated to securing the civil and human rights of all persons, regardless of their race.  Every death caused by our out-of-control “law enforcement” personnel is of grave concern to the NAACP and its members.

Francine Maxwell, President
NAACP San Diego Branch

Complaint over Violent Beach Arrest

May 7, 2020

Last night, the NAACP Branch filed the following complaint with the City of San Diego CRB (Community Review Board on Police Practices):

I am the President of the NAACP San Diego Branch.  My members and I have seen video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiZzTnXLWHU) of an incident that occurred on May 1st at Ocean Beach.  A woman (according to press reports, her name was Ms ———) who was walking her dog was assaulted by three police officers.  These officers slammed this woman three times, put their knees into her back, and even kicked her dog.

The use of force was excessive.  The officers’ choice of victim, an African-American woman, raises questions of equity.  Was she arrested because of her race?  Was she assaulted because of her race?  Would the officers have found a better way to deal with the situation if Ms ——– had been white?  We have seen over and over again that bias, implicit or explicit, plays a role in the decisionmaking of SDPD officers.  This looks like it may well be another case of the police indulging their bias, sadism and need for control on a defenseless African-American.

We do not have the names of the officers, but the video did capture the number of one of the police vehicles (see photo); 6991.

We would like a full investigation into whether this conduct was in accordance with SDPD policy, if this was considered excessive use of force, if there have been other complaints of bias and/or excessive force lodged against the officers involved, and if those complaints were upheld.  If the conclusion is that all of the officers acted “according to policy,” as CRB conclusions so often are, then we will be demanding a change in SDPD policy and a more empowered and independent CRB.

To start with, we would like to thank the citizen who supplied this video.  We are very grateful to anyone who records the actions of law enforcement, as is the right of any member of the public.

There is a story circulating on social media that this young woman was arrested is that her dog was unleashed outside proper hours.  Evidently unleashed dogs are allowed on this beach, just not at the time she was walking hers.  The story goes on to say that the woman ignored lifeguards who asked her to leash the dog, and she then ignored the police whom the lifeguards called.

The excuse for the violent behavior of the SDPD officers, it is said, was that this young woman had the temerity to try to walk away from the police who had arrested her.  This resulted, the story goes on to say, in:

  • A violent takedown and abuse both of the woman and her dog
  • A citation for resisting arrest
  • A citation for public intoxication

These seem rather severe consequences for walking one’s dog without a leash.

The “public intoxication” that concerns us is that of the SDPD officers — intoxication with their own power over a young black woman.

We have, for hundreds of years, seen white men (and women) in this country use all manner of excuses to capture, abuse, beat and control black men and women.  This has been justified with (pseudo-)religion, (pseudo-)science, and (pseudo-)morality.

We do not believe, had this young woman been white, that things would have happened as they did.  We do not believe the lifeguards would have called the police.  We do not believe the police would have made the arrest.  Having made the arrest, we do not believe the police would have resorted to such violence.  Not on a white woman, who might have been the daughter of the white power establishment in our City and County.

We are not going to accept this kind of lawless behavior from “Law Enforcement.”

Francine Maxwell, President
NAACP San Diego Branch

Opposition to AB2261 – Facial Recognition

May 5, 2020

The NAACP San Diego Branch was founded in 1916, and has been standing sentry over the civil rights of San Diego residents for a century.  Just because we are 101 years old, however, doesn’t mean we don’t understand technology and the dangers to civil rights posed by that technology.

Every danger we face gives the authoritarians in government an opportunity to restrict our liberty, and those restrictions always fall most heavily on African-Americans and Latinx folks.  The “Communist Threat” gave us COINTELPRO, 9-11 gave us the Patriot Act (which was used to target brown folks), San Diego has been using “Smart Lights” to monitor our communities, and now our State legislators want to use COVID-19 to eliminate privacy in public life through the use of facial recognition software.

As usual, beside the loss of privacy that everyone will suffer, an extra burden falls on African-Americans and Latinx folks, because the software simply doesn’t work as well for them.  African-Americans will not be recognized and misrecognized at higher rates than the rest of the population.  This will lead to them being denied services and opportunities at a much higher rate than the rest of the population.

We urge you to write your State representatives and ask them to vote NO on AB-2261.  It will do far more damage than good.

Francine Maxwell, President
NAACP San Diego Branch

Discrimination and Racism

See related article in the Washington Post.

May 4, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought out the best in us, confirming the heroic status of our first responders and making heroes of janitors and grocery store workers. Sadly, due to continued discrimination and racism, we are also seeing the ugly side of America.  Recently, all over the United States mandatory social distancing orders began to be enforced, while some states slowly began to reopen. From mandatory facial coverings to social distancing on beaches and in stores, more Americans are adjusting to a new way of life.  Unfortunately, the same old problems are still with us.

Over this past week, the NAACP San Diego Branch has become greatly concerned about what appears to be racial discrimination by law enforcement in enforcing the social distancing mandate.  In San Diego, we reviewed a video of an African American female aggressively detained by police officers while walking her dog on the beach—while other beach goers with their dogs were allowed to enjoy their day. My own elderly father was accosted for walking alone in a park, while crowds of white protestors were left alone. In Santee, a resident wore a KKK hood for a facial covering to a local store and was allowed to shop. The NAACP San Diego Branch calls on the San Diego Chief of Police and the Santee Chief of Police to investigate both incidents and provide a full report to the community and a procedure moving forward to eliminate racial discrimination and harassment in the enforcement of social distancing.

Francine Maxwell, President
NAACP San Diego Branch

Fatal Shooting of Detainee by Sheriff’s Deputy

May 4, 2020

We learned with sorrow yesterday that a 36-year-old man was fatally shot by a Sheriff’s Deputy outside the jail in downtown San Diego.  The man had been in the custody of California Park Rangers, who say he had been arrested for “assault with a deadly weapon” on a park employee. 

We all remember last year the passage of AB-392, that raised the standard of lethal force to “when necessary to save human life.” While we will pass no judgment until a thorough investigation has been done, this shooting raises many troubling questions. 

While it might seem at first blush that a man arrested for assault with a deadly weapon would pose a threat to human life, we are unconvinced.

This man had already been in law enforcement custody.  He would have been searched and any weapons he had would have been confiscated.  We may therefore assume he was unarmed.

The sheriff’s deputy was one of two deputies arriving for work, not a detail arranged to receive this man from the Park Rangers.  How then, would they have known that this man was charged with a potentially serious crime?

Perhaps there are good explanations for this.  What is absolutely certain is that this case is one the NAACP San Diego Branch will follow with keen interest.

Francine Maxwell, President
NAACP San Diego Branch

Please see followup article: Resignation of Deputy is Not Enough

Teachers Needed for Study on Expulsions

PARTICIPANTS FOR RESEARCH ON THE IMPACT OF EXPULSION ON EDUCATION IN CALIFORNIA PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOLS

I am seeking volunteers to take part in a study as part of a requirement to complete my doctoral program at Walden University.  I am interested in understanding how teachers in the California public school system perceive the impact of expulsion from high school influenced the post-expulsion education decision of minority males of color as compared to their White male counterparts.  

PARTICIPATION:  Voluntary and there will be a $10 gift card for compensation for participation in this study whether you complete or do not complete all or part of the surveys, or you decide to discontinue participation entirely.  You do not have to provide any personal identifying information outside of your email address and phone number and data will only be reported in a consensus aggregate.  Your participation is confidential, and no one will know you participated or be able to connect any response to a specific participant. 

ELIGIBILITY:

Participation Criterion

  • Currently a credentialed teacher in a California Public High School (grades 9-12)
  • 5 years or more experience teaching in one or a combination of those grades
  • Personal experience talking with/counseling expelled students about the pros and cons of not completing their education

As a prospective participant, once you contact me, I will provide additional information on the study, answer any additional questions you may have, verify your eligibility, ask for contact information (i.e., telephone and email), and send you a Consent form to the email provided.  If you elect to participate, please return the Consent form with the words “I Consent” and it will be used to document your voluntary participation and understanding of your meeting the eligibility.  Once the Consent form is received, I will send you the survey link which means that you have been accepted as a participant.   This study will use the Delphi technique and will involve three iterations of surveys. The initial survey of 6 questions, will be followed by two follow-on surveys that you will be asked to complete. The three surveys are estimated to take a combination of approximately 40 minutes each. You may withdraw and not complete the survey(s) at any time. 

 For more information about this study, or to volunteer, please contact: Melvin Shepard (Walden University Doctoral Student in Public Policy and Administration) at 619-942-3448 or Email: [email protected]