A Long Train of Abuses

The possible racial bias of the San Diego Police department has reared its ugly head again and it cannot be tolerated. Video from the incident, reported in the Union-Tribune on May 4, 2020 (Woman’s arrest at beach prompts ‘equity in enforcement’ questions), shows an African American woman being violently arrested by San Diego police on the beach for doing what a lot of white people were apparently also doing. No white persons were accosted, detained, assaulted and arrested. No one who recorded the event seems to know what she was arrested for. Nothing in the video seems to suggest the level of violence used by the police was justified. Audio in the video suggests she was just minding her own business. What was the threat that caused the officers to single her out and treat her so harshly?

Police officers are public servants and their behaviors, as well as department policy, must conform to public expectation. The police department and its officers cannot engage in “a long train of abuses” without it reflecting negatively on our city, county and society. Do you think you would be treated fairly by the police in Venezuela or El Salvador or Syria? The lack of comfort you might feel there is the way Black people are made to feel in San Diego. Police officers put themselves at risk for the sake for the rest of our community. We appreciate and applaud those officers who comport themselves with honor. They deserve the same protections that all citizens should have. However protecting officers from public reprisal should not shield them from justice for their inappropriate actions. 

If they are just “doing their job” then we have to look to police department leadership, the mayor, the City Council and the people of San Diego for accountability. Do David Nisliet, Kevin Faulkner, Georgette Gomez, the rest of the City Council and our good white citizens think this is the right way to treat Black people - or any of our citizens? Do you also think it’s okay for white men to wear white KKK hoods and swastikas on their COVID-19 face coverings? Is the killing of Ahmaud Arbery okay with you? Is the City of San Diego supportive of white supremacy and the perversion of society it represents? Is it okay for the cops to kick your dog!? And before you dismiss these questions, ask yourself what it is about San Diego that made these individuals think it was okay to actually wear a KKK hood or swastika-ladened mask in public, or for police to target the actions of people of color while ignoring the same activities when done by white people?

Deaths in the jails go uninvestigated. The homicide by police of Earl McNeil and Alfred Olango, the death of Aleah Jenkins, the abuse of Tasha Williams and others who protested these incidents: These actions point to a long train of abuses by law enforcement in San Diego - and not just against Black people.  Toby Diller, Danny “the Walker” Woodyard, Fridoon Rawshan Nehad,... are all cases of poor judgement, excessive force or police brutality. The Declaration of independence states that “...when a long train of abuses... pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty,... to provide new Guards for their future security.”  

If police officers cannot adhere to de-escalation training, if the SDPD leadership cannot manage the conduct of their officers, if the mayor and city council will not oversight the police department, we may as well live in a police state where corruption and police violence are commonplace and the Declaration of Independence means nothing. 

We demand a full investigation into whether this conduct was in accordance with SDPD policy. If this was considered excessive use of force, have there been other complaints of bias and/or excessive force lodged against the officers involved, and were those complaints 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. And we demand that we the people of San Diego hold our public servants accountable. 

Clovis Honoré is the Social Justice Editor for Indian Voices

UNITY - We Stand Together or We Fall Apart. cmh (5/29/2019)