Who polices the police?
In many cases, no one.
Currently, the San Diego Police Department is responsible for investigating themselves.
There is no way a department can objectively investigate itself considering what is at stake if any damning evidence is found. Departments should not be trusted to undertake such a task by themselves.
In San Diego the Citizens’ Review Board’s role is to review the SDPD. However, that is all they can do, and only when there is an Internal Affairs investigation. They do not have the authority to independently investigate the police department as does the county’s Citizens’ Law Enforcement Review Board.
Measure G is a critical step in holding the SDPD accountable. If the measure is approved Nov. 4, the new panel would have the authority to review, “all deaths occurring while someone is in the custody of the San Diego Police Department and all police-officer related shootings.” The mayor and the City Council would oversee the board. It is one of the most important measures on the ballot.
When an officer’s actions result in another life being taken and all they receive is a slap on the hand and paid time off, that does not represent a well-functioning system or even a system that is working equitably.
Police officers are not above the law and should not be treated as such.
This does not mean that there are not well-intentioned good cops. However, the system itself is founded on racist, biased principles that departments often encourage their officers to follow.
This summer, the Justice Department found the Baltimore City Police Department engaged in a pattern of practices that violate the First and Fourth amendment as well as federal anti-discrimination laws. This includes unequal application of the law that disproportionately impact African Americans. Similar practices were found in Ferguson, Missouri, San Francisco and other cities across the nation.
Justice Department investigations suggest police departments do not work hard enough to train officers on implicit biases which can lead to interactions with civilians based on nothing more than stereotypes. These practices work to disenfranchise people of color and to keep them from upward mobility.
Last year, SDPD shot and killed Fridoon Rawshan, a mentally ill and unarmed San Diego resident. The officer responsible for the shooting admitted to not complying with SDPD policy and not following what he was taught in police academy. Despite these facts, no disciplinary action was taken against the officer and no internal affairs review was conducted.
Measure G is a small but important step into expanding the oversight of the police and in holding officers accountable.