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Editorial: San Diego County on right track with police reforms

06/19/20

Read the full article by the San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board here.

The 8 minute and 46 second killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, on Memorial Day by four Minneapolis officers — one who knelt on his neck and three others who watched — has led to a national reckoning that there is something wrong with police culture. It has already prompted the San Diego Police Department, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and other local law enforcement agencies to ban use of the carotid restraint chokehold as community members long wanted.

County leaders are scheduled to weigh additional reforms next week at the request of Supervisor Nathan Fletcher and some of those same community members. One would increase the funding for and the powers of the county’s Citizens’ Law Enforcement Review Board, which has a history of tolerating misconduct, sitting on a huge backlog of cases and showing an allegiance more to the Sheriff’s Department than impartiality. Fletcher wants far more community input to help choose members of the board — a key to making it more independent.

The first-term supervisor also wants to establish a countywide Office of Equity and Racial Justice to ensure underserved communities have input on policy and budget decisions. And Fletcher is proposing “mobile crisis response teams” so trained professionals — not armed officers — can respond to calls about unarmed individuals who are having behavioral health crises. The county fielded 54,000 such calls last year alone, so this makes sense.

All too often, past attempts at reform have been brought down by partisan politics or been thwarted by law enforcement unions. This time feels different. The supervisors should listen to their constituents.