March 31, 2016 (San Diego) Channel 10 reported last week that a young African American man stole a bag of chips from an AM\PM gas station on Euclid Avenue. The response from San Diego Police to this was 8 squad cars, a helicopter and a Canine deployment.
You can see the video posted by Channel 10 here.
This led to National Action Network (NAN) San Diego Chapter President Shane Harris to issue a statement. This was before the same AM\PM station where the alleged robbery happened. He came with Bishop Cornelius Bowser, who also heads the Community Assistance Support Team and is a board member of NAN.
Harris first addressed the media, and pointed to the video of an African American man who was in his late twenties or early thirties. He walked into the ARCO station, and stole a bag of Cheetos. Harris said that as he started to watch the tape, after they got the call, “I began to think about Rodney King.”
According to Harris, after the clerks called the police, the police responded with over 8 police cars, a helicopter and police dogs. “What we are here today is not to investigate the case because that is not our point and that is not what we do. But what we do is to look at the significance of the situation.”
Harris added that nobody should have police dogs, several police cars and helicopters looking for them because of a bag of Cheetos. This is the beginning of a movement, “K=9 for a $1.49. The question, Harris asked, is where are the tax dollars being spent? When you have all those resources deployed for a bag of Cheetos? “Where is the tax money going to come from? And that is why we are here.”
Moreover, Harris said, “dogs should not byte human beings. We shouldn’t put dogs on human beings, we should give dogs a bone.”
Harris said that he has met with Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman, and asked about the use of force in South East San Diego and City Heights. It is higher than in those neighborhoods north of the 8 Freeway. These would be districts 4, 8 and 9 where there is the most use of force against minorities.
Harris also pointed out that the data did not show age range, but he remarked that “18 year olds have been watching Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown all over the country on Facebook and social media. So when a police officer approaches them in this town, in this city, they feel scared. They feel frantic, because of the traumatic experiences they have seen.”
Bishop Bowser went into another aspect of this. Not only is NAN focusing on the negative, but also on the positive. They are working with the Department to train, especially young officers, on how to engage with the community in a positive manner. For example, tomorrow they will engage with young police cadets, in community engagement training.
This is in an effort “to change how they operate in dealing with folks in our community. Because one of the big problems we have in our community is excessive force from police officers. Especially the younger police officers that are still new that do not know how to interact and deal with folks in our community.”
He added though that using dogs takes people back to the 1960s. During the civil rights movement there was a lot of excessive force and use of force. This was especially against the Civil Rights activists who were fighting against Jim Crow.
He drew a parallel to modern times and the use of dogs, tasers and other means. “Young men are being shot, but we also find that young men are being tased, have dogs sicked on them.” He added that they are calling for San Diego Police to release the data on this use of force. They also want a comparison with the use of force on the other side of the 8 freeway, to make sure that “people in the community are being treated fairly.”
Harris also addressed something else. They have yet to decide whether they will file with the Citizens Review board and they are working with Women Occupy to make sure that the Citizens Oversight Committee on Police Practices is truly impendent. He also reminded the press that such an independent body is on the San Diego City ballot on June 7.
They are also in consultation with a Civil Rights lawyer, and they are exploring that option. They are also demanding from the AM\PM to know what happened. This is being handled by the national in New York.