Analysis by Reporting San Diego
July 31, 2017 (San Diego) 66-year-old Raymond Wiley was detained by Two San Diego Police Officers in Encanto, during his morning walk. He was searched, arrested, charged with possession of burglary equipment and a baton. He had to post a $20,000 bail. With the help of the National Action Network, Wiley got good legal representation and the office of the District Attorney decided not to charge. In effect, they cannot prove what the arresting officers claimed, beyond a reasonable doubt.
Police make mistakes. They are allowed to make mistakes. But SDPD has a history of these kinds of arrests that usually end in the courts as a violation of civil rights, that does not end well for the taxpayer. The best example was Kolender v Lawson, which the city lost in the Supreme Court.
The background for that case is as follows:
Appellee Edward Lawson was detained or arrested on approximately 15 occasions between March, 1975, and January, 1977, pursuant to Cal.Penal Code Ann. § 647(e) (West 1970). Lawson was prosecuted only twice, and was convicted once. The second charge was dismissed.
Lawson then brought a civil action in the District Court for the Southern District of California seeking a declaratory judgment that § 647(e) is unconstitutional, a mandatory injunction to restrain enforcement of the statute, and compensatory and punitive damages against the various officers who detained him. The District Court found that § 647(e) was overbroad because “a person who is stopped on less than probable cause cannot be punished for failing to identify himself.” App. to Juris.Statement A-78. The District Court enjoined enforcement of the statute, but held that Lawson could not recover damages because the officers involved acted in the good faith belief that each detention or arrest was lawful.
The city not only lost. It also threw out the statue used to detain Lawson as a violation of the Fourth Amendment. Part of the underlying facts of the case is that he was stopped for walking in white neighborhoods north of Interstate eight
Then there is the settlement with Zack Greene, who said he was harassed by SDPD in Pacific Beach. Greene is also African American. Pacific Beach is not just north of the eight, but somewhat of a tourist town.
The department is also facing a civil rights lawsuit over the death of Fridoon Nehad, 42, on April 30, 2015. The shooting was found justified by then District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. However, the officer responsible, Neal Bowder, fired his service weapon at a crib in the Bayview district. Fortunately, the crib was empty.
Chief Shelley Zimmerman once told the Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee that we all have biases. This was during hearings about racial profiling which activists allege is happening. She is correct. We all have biases. However, a police officer has a responsibility to be aware of these biases and train to reduce, if not outright eliminate them when in contact with the public.
Admitting to biases is somewhat of a step forwards. However, departments need to train officers in implicit bias, and de-escalation techniques.
The department has had good officers who practice community policing. Tragically Jeremy Henwood was shot soon after he bought some cookies for a young man in City Heights in 2012. That is the kind of community policing that once was widely practiced department wide. This is the example the department needs to adopt. With the shortages of officers, they are “chasing the radio,” and do not have time for that, for the most part.
As to this particular case. The city should acknowledge the error from the two officers. These two officers should get training at the very least. Implicit bias is real, and the full department should also receive training.
The city attorney should volunteer a settlement. It should cover attorney’s fees, at least double of what Wiley had to post for bail ($40,000) and a very public apology. Going forward the city must strive to avoid these issues. The first step is admitting we have a problem.we are seeing some movement forwards.
While researching data for this article, we found via the Union Tribune that the department has started enhanced training. Some of it involves diversity training, as well as dealing with the mentally ill. However, it is hardly sufficient to just do it at the Academy. There is a need to continue throughout the career of an officer.
This kind of training will not only make officers more effective at their work, but might make a very dangerous job safer.