Statement #1 : How Do We Stop Police Brutality?

Statement #1

Report from Platform-Building Meeting of the San Diego Socialist Campaign: How can we stop police brutality?

By Cecile Estelle

A January 12th report by NBC San Diego revealed that:

  • In 2014, San Diego police documented 16,238 incidents in which an officer used force, like drawing his weapon or firing a taser.
  • Officers pointed their firearms 1,658 times in 2014, and used a carotid restraint, otherwise known as a chokehold, 246 times.
  • SDPD has nearly twice as many officer-involved shootings than any other city, out of more than 40 mid-size cities surveyed. The 25 officer-involved shootings in San Diego for 2012, 2013 and most of 2014 involved at least 12 fatalities.

So many self-reported uses of force by local police in one year is shockingly frequent – translating statistically to San Diegans being forced to submit about every 33 minutes last year to police force.  Are members of the San Diego public really so dangerous as to justify this kind of twice-hourly terror?  The San Diego Socialist Campaign thinks not, and that we can do better. Here are some points that came out of our community discussion on January 15th:

1. Disarm first responders –Deadly force should not be an automatic first response. Therefore first responders should not be armed or authorized to use deadly force. Officers who use deadly force in such instances should be discharged and be subject to prosecution.

2. Demilitarize the police –the people of San Diego are not public enemies, and should not be treated as such.  Decommission ALL military grade weapons distributed to the SDPD by the U.S. Department of Defense. Instead, use resources earmarked for the acquisition of weaponry for needed projects in San Diego such as building safe housing for our homeless, and upgrading school classrooms and athletic and art facilities – especially in the poorest neighborhoods of San Diego where programs are the most underfunded.

3. Dismantle policing practices associated with the failed “War on Drugs.”  Instead redirect resources towards rehabilitation, education, and other wellness programs.

4. Stop the racist practice of Curfew Sweeps in City Heights & Skyline/East San Diego. Youth and families in the most racially diverse communities of San Diego should not be treated differently from other San Diegans. Why do curfew sweeps only happen in these select communities? The police should not be racially profiling or criminalizing youth of Color, or policing communities differently based on their racial, ethnic, or class composition.

5. Disband the Mayor-appointed Citizens’ Review Board, and replace it with an ELECTED Citizens’ Review Board of 9 seats – with one member elected from each District.  The new CRB needs to be transparent in all of its processes, with open reporting on the progress of complaints being addressed from the community. It also should have the power to send officers to be charged in cases of abuses of power and other crimes by an independent prosecutor’s office which will be sufficiently funded to deal with the number of cases being directed to it for prosecution. It should also have the power to discharge officers permanently from the force without tax-payer funded benefits (i.e., without the pensions offered to officers who’ve been allowed to retire from the force honorably).

6. We demand that in cases of police use of deadly or brutal force that the police release the names of the officers involved. After such incidents, police departments often conceal the identity of the involved officer, while the victim’s identity and other relevant information is released to the public, often subjecting them to public scrutiny, misrepresentation, and slander. Police officers need to be held accountable for their actions and have their names released concurrently with other relevant information pertaining to the case.

7. Enact a policy of zero tolerance for police using discriminatory or prejudicial language against any group, since these types of attitudes are in direct conflict with their role as public servants. We need a method for addressing complaints regarding police officers who demonstrate a bias against a particular racial or religious group, immigrants, women, or sexual or gender minority, and assume these attitudes must in all cases affect how any officer is capable of conducting their job.

8. Remove officers who have lost the trust of the community. Complaints against abusive officers by the public should be immediately investigated. Officers found to have violated public trust should be held accountable. Repeat offenders should be suspended without pay, and then discharged dishonorably (without pay).

9. Stop profiling and over-policing within low-income communities and communities of Color in the name of “public safety”.   Real public safety begins with police serving people, not targeting them because of their appearance or where they live. Public safety should be begin with a recognition that everyone should have access to food, a job, a place to live, and other necessities. Instead of punishing or targeting those with less resources, we should make economic security a priority, and a precondition for San Diegans feeling safe. In practice, that will only come from establishing a living minimum wage in San Diego. There is less incidence of theft, loitering, and other poverty-driven “crimes” when people can pay for the things they need – including a safe place to stay. The brief experiment unwittingly committed by NYPD in the last two weeks of 2014 during their slow-down of “policing” proved that a reduction in enforcement does NOT have to mean an increase in crime – and in fact, the reality can be exactly the opposite. We must begin measuring the effectiveness of a city’s law enforcement apparatus by its reduction of spending on unnecessary costs such as the imprisonment of non-violent “offenders” who could be safely reintegrated into the public and offered jobs that serve the public instead.

10. End the policing of public protest, labor disputes, and other forms of dissent. End the practice of policing Constitutionally-protected activities such as public protest. End the practice of policing workers during labor disputes, which is a right enshrined by law. The act of policing protests, labor strikes, or other forms of protected  dissent amounts to armed intimidation, biased interference, and can lead to the suppression of civil rights.

11. Stop the criminalization of sex workers and start responding – with competent counselors and genuinely concerned investigators – to reports of rape and other instances of abuses, sexual attacks, and other types of assault against sex workers – with a special commitment to training SDPD officers to deal appropriately and sensitively, in a victim-centered way, toward victims who are also sex workers, undocumented members of our community, gay, lesbian, transgender or gender non-conforming, or otherwise especially at risk of being judged or mistreated by members of the public while or after enduring an assault by another member of the public.

12. Implement mandatory sensitivity training for SDPD, working with proven community-based organizations in San Diego such as the Center for Community Solutions – to stop the harassment and mistreatment of immigrant people, women, transgender people, and other sexual minorities in San Diego by SDPD. Work collaboratively with immigrant justice, feminist, and transgender activist groups to establish safe and respectful practices when engaging in social and legal interaction.

13. Discharge, dishonorably (without pension pay), any officers of the SDPD sex crimes unit who remain on the force in any capacity since the time that complaints were filed against them in 2011 by their peers for their rape-endorsement posters. Discharge any superior officer who failed to discharge those officers who were their direct reports between 2012 and now. Allow an immediate federal investigation of the unit, to be followed as soon as possible by an elected CRB investigation, to ensure that the unit is prepared to uphold standards of protecting and serving women and other people vulnerable to sex crimes in San Diego in a respectful and effective manner that ultimately serves justice – rather than re-victimizing them or diminishing the traumas they have survived.

14. End SDPD collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and any other border enforcement agencies, which may put victims of real violent crimes at risk from fear of arrest, detention, or deportation. The police should not engage in criminalizing migrant and immigrant families in San Diego who are a part of our society and community, but should protect and serve them like all other San Diegans.

Video footage from the forum: