Feb 17, 2016 (San Diego) The San Diego Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has approached the Department of Justice (DOJ) to request a federal investigation into San Diego Police use of force. This is specifically against people with mental issues. The letter specifically requests this investigations “particularly incidents of force used against people with mental illness or suffering a mental health crisis where the SDPD may have failed to make reasonable accommodations for the person’s disability.”
Among the incidents mentioned in the letter to the DOJ is the death of Fridoon Rawshan Nehad, on April 30, 2015 in the Midway district. As the letter makes clear, he was an immigrant from Afghanistan, suffering from among other issues, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The letter notes that:
The San Diego Police Department failed to interview Officer Browder immediately after the shooting, or to test him for drugs or alcohol. While Officer Browder initially admitted at the scene of the shooting that Mr. Nehad had no weapon, they cut off questioning at this point, and only resumed questioning five days later, after Officer Browder and his attorney had watched the video of the incident. The San Diego County District Attorney declined to press charges against Officer Browder, and there has been no public announcement indicating that he has received any disciplinary action from SDPD command
The letter also alleges that District Attorney Boney Dumanis had no sense of impartiality while investigating this matter. Nor did she release the tape captured by a business camera, nor emphasized that Officer Bowder was wearing a body cam at the time, but that body cam was off during the incident.
The other incidents listed in the letter are as follows:
- Philip McMahon, 27, who died on Feb 16, 2015
- Ja Ma Lo Day, 21, who died on Jul 13, 2014
- Nathan Manning who died on May 20, 2010, and for whom there are many discrepancies.
- Bradford Sarten who died on Apr 26, 2010
The letter requests this investigation under the requirements of the The Violent Crime and Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. It also urges the DOJ to investigate if there is a pattern of practices “that deprives persons of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.”
In the letter they also state:
The District Attorney’s use of the phrase “suicide-by-cop” is troubling not only because it attaches all agency and responsibility to the targets of police violence, but also because it provides unwarranted justification for Ms. Dumanis’ public statements about police violence (as in the Fridoon Nehad case), and her apparent reluctance to prosecute officers who employ excessive force, regardless of the circumstances and evidence. In a climate in which the District Attorney’s office has publicly tried victims of police violence, blaming them for their own deaths, a Department of Justice investigation is the only way of ensuring public confidence that there is meaningful review of SDPD’s use of lethal force against persons with mental illness.
While they have used this phrase in their report on officer involved shootings it offers a certain level of justification that should not be there, according to the ACLU. The letter also makes it clear that there is a certain level of reluctance on the part of the DA’s office to hold any officer accountable, regardless of the circumstances.