There will always be tension between the police and its citizens. Some people who are investigated and accused handle it well while others are combative, defensive, etc. Police are there to ferret out crime. Like anyone else they get it wrong. The question is what clues are they picking when patrolling and ferreting out possible crime.
For example, I have a case where police pull up next to a group of Marines in a car in Pacific Beach at 2am. The shotgun passenger was no doubt impaired and looked over at the police. The officers make their turn. Several Minutes later the officers see the car in the Jersey Mikes parking lot. All the guys are outside smoking a cigarette.
They walk up and ask what are they doing there. The police ask who was driving. When the Marines do not want to answer the question they proceed to threaten and harass the guys for the next hour. When no one talked they decided to arrest the Marine who was the most steadfast and not talking (and it was not his car).
Those officers never saw the driver. They just had a hunch that these guys are drunk. A group of Marines…in PB….after 2AM. Just one problem. They did not see a violation nor did they see a driver. There is no need to threaten and sweat an admission out of these guys.
Below is a good discussion about racial bias here in San Diego.
The world was watching last month when tensions boiled over in Ferguson, Mo., after an unarmed black teenager was shot and killed by a white police officer.
Protests in the St. Louis suburb were met with a police response that included officers in military-type gear, firing rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the crowds. It was a spectacle that dominated the news for weeks.
San Diegans were watching, too.
Some who looked at the citizens of Ferguson, saw glimpses of themselves.
The people don’t trust the police,” said Mario Lewis, a business owner in the Encanto neighborhood of southeastern San Diego. “A lot of young people (here) are looking at the police as an occupying force.
Although there are population and demographic differences between San Diego County and St. Louis County, many local residents say the tensions are similar. Racial profiling has been cited as one of the contributing factors to the unrest in Ferguson, and some San Diegans say they, too, have been unfairly stopped and harassed because of the color of their skin.
“It’s always ‘Where are you going?’ ‘Whose car is this?’ ‘Are you on probation?’ ‘Are you on parole?'” said Lei-Chala Wilson, president of the San Diego branch of the NAACP. “It’s the initial contact that aggravates the tension.”
All sides agree that one of the best ways to prevent racial profiling, real or perceived, is to put a greater focus on community-oriented policing, something San Diego police say they’re already doing to some degree.
“We have formed many outstanding partnerships with different groups throughout the city and positive steps are being made every day to strengthen those relationships and build new ones,” said Lt. Kevin Mayer, a spokesman for the department. “We believe we can always do better. The chief has set the bar high for the department and when we reach those goals, we are going to raise the bar again.
“Our community deserves the very best police department.”
Community-oriented policing involves assigning officers to specific neighborhoods so they can get to know residents and merchants and work with them to identify and address the underlying causes of crime.
It’s been around in San Diego since the early 1970s, when a young lieutenant named Norm Stamper, who later became chief of police in Seattle, wrote a paper advocating its use.
Known by various names over the years, including “problem-oriented policing” or “STOP (Selective Tactics of Policing),” it gained traction here, and around the country, in the wake of the 1991 Rodney King beating by officers in Los Angeles.
One of the first areas where it was deployed locally was City Heights, which in the early 1990s had a rate of violent crime more than double the citywide average. STOP teams moved in, and by shutting down crack houses and fixing parks helped make the area safer.
Now community-oriented policing involves things like Neighborhood Watch, Citizens Patrols, and the Drug Abatement Response Team, which targets buildings known for drug activity.
Like-minded initiatives include gun buy-back programs and last-year’s retrofitting of a 2007 Crown Victoria patrol car into a customized lowrider known as “The Guardian” as a way to improve the relationship between police and the lowrider community
Some critics deride community-oriented policing as social work and say it stretches thin a department struggling to attract and retain officers. But Chief Shelley Zimmerman and other administrators believe it’s one reason overall crime dropped 1 percent last year and violent crime was the second-lowest it’s been in 30 years.
“Building and sustaining trust (in the community) is essential to furthering our department’s mission and vision,” Zimmerman said.
Some residents, however, believe that any trust between the police department and communities of color – many of which are located south of Interstate 8 – has eroded significantly in recent years.
“We are an island, and all the rest of San Diego is on the mainland,” said Lewis, who in addition to running Imperial Barbershop is a co-founder of the group 100 Strong San Diego.
Lewis said he’s talked with Zimmerman about racial profiling and the department’s gang suppression unit, the members of which he said behave like “storm troopers.”
“I honestly believe in her head that she wants to change the way the police department does business,” he said. “But you can’t change a culture. It’s embedded.”
He said the department has many good officers, but not enough.
Both he and Wilson, a former deputy public defender, have separately proposed offering community workshops to teach residents their rights when interacting with police.
Prompted by the unrest in Ferguson, the presidents of two legal associations submitted an opinion article to U-T San Diego. In it, they encouraged ongoing conversations between law enforcement and community members, and better officer training to “ensure that people who are dangerous are subdued while unarmed persons do not get killed.”
Omar Passons, president of the Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association, an African-American professional law society, said his own interactions with police in his mid-city neighborhood have been positive, but he understands that’s not everyone’s experience.
“This is not a black problem and Latino problem. This is an American problem that impacts and influences us all,” he said.
Renee Galente, president of San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association, said tensions were already high here before the unrest in Ferguson, because of complaints over racial profiling and a series of prosecutions in recent years involving police officers.
“We should not live in a society where we’re scared,” said Galente, a civil attorney, adding that people are often hesitant to report police misconduct, and some law firms are reluctant to file lawsuits against police. “It really undermines any sort of trust connection you feel.”
At the request of Passons and Galente, Zimmerman filmed a public service announcement about racial profiling. She said the department has zero tolerance for it, and invited community members to report any instances to a confidential police hotline or through the Citizens Review Board on Police Practices.
The outreach effort came after the city released a racial breakdown of traffic stops by police during the first three months of 2014 that showed black and Hispanic drivers were pulled over more often than white and Asian motorists.
The data also showed that blacks and Hispanics were searched more often when pulled over.
“Concerns about racial profiling in San Diego are very real,” said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties. “Of course it’s happening here.”
Dooley-Sammuli said she was encouraged by the San Diego police department recent effort to outfit officers with body cameras. She said it’s important to collect and interpret data about where traffic and pedestrian stops are happening, what tactics are being used and how officers behave in different communities.
“We’re just not going to get very far if we just point fingers in every direction,” she said. “That’s not a productive conversation.”
Mayer said officers get five hours of training in the academy on how to avoid racial-profiling, and then two hours of a refresher course every five years. The training course covers the history of civil rights and the impact of racial-profiling, among other things.
In addition, the academy includes more than 40 hours of training in cultural diversity and sensitivity.
Several local organizations organized rallies in support of the protesters in Ferguson. Less than a week after Brown was killed, about 150 people stood together in City Heights shouting out the names of other men and women who died in police shootings.
And last week, members of Bayview Baptist Church in Encanto and representatives from the ACLU gathered with the San Diego police and sheriff’s departments in a show of solidarity, and to address issues of mistrust.
“We want to bring all of the entities to the table to have the talk,” said Bayview Senior Pastor Terry Brooks. The pastor said he’s heard complaints from minorities in San Diego, particularly other black men like himself, who say they have felt unfairly targeted and disrespected by police.
“Don’t treat me like a criminal when I’m not one,” Brooks said. “I want to be safe. I want to be protected. But I don’t want to be preyed upon.”
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