Late at night last August, Kacie Bluhm returned to her downtown apartment after an evening out with work colleagues to find people trying to get into her complex. That’s where the arguments about what happened that night begin.

Bluhm, now 30, said she was confused about whether one of the men outside was a police officer, and said he wouldn’t say why he was there. But the San Diego police officer, George Smith, was in uniform and he insisted he had made himself clear: He needed access to the building to investigate a possible domestic violence incident inside. Bluhm said the man was threatening. Smith said the situation was urgent. A few minutes passed, and Bluhm told Smith she didn’t feel comfortable letting him in, but she was going to inside to sleep.

Everyone largely agrees on the most basic facts of what happened next. Bluhm opened the door and Smith tried to get into the complex behind her. Bluhm tried to shut the door on him. Smith grabbed, handcuffed and arrested her for resisting him, and eventually took her to the Las Colinas women’s jail.

But in the details, the stories diverge dramatically. Bluhm said the officer left her bruised, held her in his car an unnecessarily long time, refused to allow her to make a phone call or use the bathroom and didn’t explain why she was being arrested until after it happened. The experience, she told a police community forum in July, scarred her.

“Every time I walk through my front door, I have to think about it,” Bluhm said. “I have to deal with the fact that the only person in my life who has ever abused me is a San Diego police officer.”

For police, the incident was only remarkable because of Bluhm’s actions. Though the domestic violence incident turned out to be a false alarm, the cops didn’t know that at the time, department spokesman Kevin Mayer said.


We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

“Ms. Bluhm’s complete lack of assistance to the officers had the potential to be absolutely devastating to the female in the domestic violence call,” Mayer said. “This year alone, four people have been murdered in connection with domestic violence and the department takes each reported case very seriously.”

There are some inconsistencies in Bluhm’s version of events, but witnesses also back up key aspects of it.

Most notably, and though a timeline might be difficult to recall, Bluhm describes the incident from start to finish as occurring over a roughly 15-hour period. But records indicate the whole experience took less than 10 hours. SDPD also released records that indicate the officer only took six minutes to transport her from the apartment complex to a secured area where prisoners are processed before jail, significantly shorter than Bluhm said. Paul Pfingst, a former district attorney who’s now a criminal defense lawyer, told me that once Bluhm opened the door to the complex, he didn’t believe she had the right to deny the officer entry.

The manager for the apartment complex’s homeowner association, however, told me that SDPD should have had an emergency access code to the building, the same way that postal carriers do. So police shouldn’t have needed anyone’s help to get inside. (Mayer, the SDPD spokesman, said police didn’t have the code.)

Kacie Bluhm

And two witnesses to the incident largely confirmed to me Bluhm’s account of what happened outside the complex: Aside from her reluctance to let him in the building, Bluhm wasn’t resisting the officer, the officer aggressively grabbed her and hit her forehead on his squad car when he was putting her inside. Neither witness believed that Bluhm deserved to be arrested. And Bluhm was never charged in the case.

♦ ♦ ♦

Certainly a more thorough investigation by police could connect some of the dots between Bluhm and Smith’s wildly different accounts. But it’s taken a while to get one. Bluhm never filed a formal complaint with the department, saying she was scared of retaliation. The department, though, has heard concerns about what happened for a while.

A witness at the scene spoke with a sergeant outside the complex later that evening and was critical of Smith’s treatment of Bluhm. Bluhm herself retold her version of the events at the July forum, which was part of the Department of Justice’s review of misconduct problems surrounding the department. Neither instance triggered any action by the department.

Initially, when I contacted the department about the incident last week, Mayer responded by pointing out holes in Bluhm’s story. In a follow-up, he said the department would look into the matter further.

“The San Diego Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit will reach out to Ms. Bluhm,” Mayer said.

But any further action will come more than a year after a witness complained and almost three months after the victim herself shared her story at a public forum specifically designed to bring problems about the department to light.

The Police Department has faced numerous charges of officer misconduct in recent years, and one of the biggest criticisms to surface from those incidents is that the department doesn’t take officers to task for their misdeeds. Experts and attorneys have said the source of the problem is a complaint procedure that favors dismissing citizen complaints over accountability.

One expert hired by the victim of a sexually abusive officer found that SDPD reported only four serious complaints based on community allegations against officers were sustained in a recent four-year period. The report from Jeffrey Noble, a former deputy police chief in Irvine, remains sealed as part of a federal civil case against the department. But the judge in the case quoted from it in a ruling.

“Such a low number of sustained complaints could mean that the officers of the SDPD are extraordinarily well behaved and they are performing their duties appropriately, or that the SDPD has systemic issues in their complaint and investigatory processes that makes it nearly impossible for an officer to be held accountable for their misconduct,” Noble wrote, according to the ruling.

Noble found that the department didn’t have a mandate to accept all complaints and, most significantly, allowed supervisors in the field to dissuade people from submitting them.

In one notable incident from 2010, an arrestee said that former officer Anthony Arevalos sexually assaulted her while transporting her to jail, but Arevalos’ supervisor initially didn’t treat her claim as a complaint. That led to delays in investigating Arevalos, one of the many criticisms from officers and prosecutors about how that criminal case against him was handled. Arevalos was cleared both criminally and in an internal affairs complaint and afterward solicited sexual bribes from at least three other women before he was finally caught.

Since she was hired in March, Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman has created a new policy to require officers to report the suspected misconduct of their peers and reinstituted an internal police investigatory unit. New police body cameras and increased spot-checks on officers by supervisors also are designed to increase accountability.

But even in recent cases, citizens have alleged the department hasn’t taken their complaints seriously. Last week, SDPD said it would initiate an internal investigation after video emerged showing an officer hauling a teenager to the ground last October. But the teenager’s mother and attorney said they previously filed a complaint with the department, and no one had followed up before. Last month, a City Heights man said two officers, including the captain of the Mid-City division, tried to dissuade him from filing a complaint about officer conduct following an incident at his home.

In Bluhm’s case, the department should have been investigating the incident even without a formal complaint, said Samuel Walker, a professor emeritus at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and an expert in police accountability issues.

“Ideally, a police department should investigate whenever they have ANY kind of evidence that misconduct occurred,” Walker told me in an email. “But this is not standard practice. The general approach is for them to hide behind the fact that no formal complaint has been filed.”

These are the kinds of issues that should be addressed in a much-anticipated Department of Justice review of the San Diego Police Department. The report will examine the department’s practices on handling complaints, hiring procedures and other matters. SDPD asked for the DOJ’s involvement and the review has been outsourced to the Police Executive Research Forum, or PERF, a Washington D.C.-based firm. A final report is expected by the end of the year.

Bluhm recalled her experience at the July community meeting in Sherman Heights, which PERF had hosted. Her account is moving, and you can listen to what she said below:

You can compare her description to Smith’s arrest report here.

    This article relates to: Investigations, News, Police, Police Misconduct, Share

    Written by Liam Dillon

    Liam Dillon is senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He leads VOSD’s investigations and writes about how regular people interact with local government. What should he write about next? Please contact him directly at liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5663.

    48 comments
    Gsgg Kekk
    Gsgg Kekk subscriber

    well first of all, this is not good for her standings in the female ranks...I bet her sisters would point a long crooked finger and say "shame on you,shame on you". what gives her the right to decide who she allows in the building ? I would almost bet all my pennies that building management would encourage tenants to allow uniformed officers access if in the purpose of responding to a call for assistance from within the building. if I had called and the police were delayed by some tenant who has no authority to make that decision, she thought the police handled her roughly....let me give her a few minutes of my displeasure if that were the case...she would call her police interaction tolerable compared to what she would get from me. there is 2 types of people...1 who looks at things that don't seem right and questions the events as to their validity...2 the person who thinks they are in the right for acting in a such manner, but in all honesty they have no business getting involved at any level. I think we know which of the 2 this case describes..

    Retiredguy53
    Retiredguy53 subscriber

    So the headline is false.   There were not multiple complaints.  And you don't comment on the relationship between Bluhm and the "witnesses who didn't think she should be arrested."   I hope once officers have cameras and people make false allegations like this (which at least are proven in part to be untrue by the vehicle GPS in this case) the officers start suing the liars in small claims court.  Which they are allowed to do.  I think the moral of this story is to #1 not be stupid and let the cops do their job #2 VOSD is stretching pretty far to keep the anti-police mantra up.  

    Greg Chick
    Greg Chick subscriber

    I do not trust powerful organizations, either governmental or for profit, or religious.  Power has everyone intoxicated.  TV and movie stimulation has worsened an already normal human fault.  

    William Sweeney
    William Sweeney subscriber

    Sounds like the sniveling whiner got what she deserved. Guess the cop should have left and let the possible victim get beat or killed. I wonder if Bluhm was getting her butt kicked if she would have appreciated her neighbor delaying the cops. Waaaaa everyone's a victim.

    Will Wurth
    Will Wurth subscriber

    Being uncooperative with a police officer , who is trying to protect a citizen, is irrational- and being arrested is not a pleasant experience. This young lady needs to STFU and move on- hopefully with a greater understanding of her errors that night.

    Janet Shelton
    Janet Shelton subscriber

    I don't know about this specific event, but I have personally observed bad behavior (not in San Diego) on 4 occasions.  In one, police officers turned my nephew over to me and only told me about his psychotic behavior after they had released him to me.  He should have been transferred to a mental hospital, and the reason I still took him was because I feared they wouldn't get him treatment (which they did not while they held him).  The reason they were called is to get him help, but they charged him with attempted burglary while they tried to coerce a motel owner to press charges for that or trespassing, which the owner refused to do because my nephew had rented a room there and was just behaving strangely, (According to the motel owner, standing next to a window of a room and calling "Lisa, Lisa, are you in there?" over and over.)

     

    I have been told about misbehavior on a number of other occasions.  In one, my brother who has type 1 diabetes had low blood sugar (confirmed by paramedics at 48) and was convulsing and struggling.  A total of 4 police officers and 3 paramedics were on the scene. Their solution rather than subduing him so the paramedics could administer glucagon (because I suppose they might break a fingernail) was to taze him as the apartment residents begged them not to because he has heart disease.  You can characterize a person in a coma and convulsing as resisting an officer and taze them, and that's what they did in dismissing the complaint.  Apparently even unconscious, on the ground and in seizures is no excuse. They did not dispute any of the other details, and all civilian witnesses agreed on the details of what happened. 


    So given my personal experience and the statistics about the outcome of complaints, it appears to me that the police know they are highly unlikely to be held accountable for bad behavior or errors.  Whether it is the police or any other group, knowing bad behavior is only rarely punished leads to more bad behavior.  Yes, most officers are ethical and professional but this really encourages the bad actors.

    Jake Resch
    Jake Resch subscriber

    The police cannot get people committed to a mental health facility for simply acting strange. Certain criteria have to be met in terms of being gravely disabled or a threat to oneself before the police can place a mental health hold.

    As for the diabetic, you said he was in a coma but you also say he was struggling. Which one was it? Did the emergency personnel know it was a diabetic issue or were they called for other reasons? We're you a witness to the incident or was this story based all on hearsay? These can make a big difference I your examples.

    I fit was not a medical call the police don't have time to assess for all medical issues if there is a safety issue that must be dealt with first. A scene needs to be stable for first aid can be rendered.

    Janet Shelton
    Janet Shelton subscriber

    @Jake Resch I have replied twice to this and my replies disappeared.  Should they not appear, I will rewrite.  The calls were both medical, no other reason, but only the police responded in my nephew's case probably because the strange behavior got translated into probably drunk or on drugs.  The call about my brother was that he had fallen to the ground and was having seizures, nothing else.  The police in that town always respond along with the paramedics when the call is from specific areas, probably because of a history of drug problems.  Both the issues occurred in small cities, and I suspect that is because the police are not as well-trained as in larger cities.

    Janet Shelton
    Janet Shelton subscriber

    @Jake Resch I don't have time to fully rewrite.  Yes, of course I was present when my psychotic nephew was released to me by the police and then told me about it, present when I had to call 911, present when the police pressured my husband and me to press assault charges against him because he moved me aside to try to exit the room, and my husband held him down till they arrived (and had some bruises), not because of anything my nephew did but because we wanted to get him help, not have him leave and probably get arrested again for strange behavior and put in jail again.  Also present when they had to be pressured to get a psych eval.  He was admitted and diagnosed at the time as schizophrenic or bipolar.  And present when we drove 900 miles because they refused to drop charges on drug and alcohol charges until the day of the hearing.  His public defender said they had had the results for over a month.  Present when the cops involved in my brother's situation admitted they knew his blood sugar was 53, had been told he had heart disease and the ruling was that they had the right to choose how they handled the situation (him lying on the ground about to enter diabetic coma and struggling when they tried to administer glucagon to raise his blood sugar).  Because in their view, he was struggling when they tried to hold him down on the ground and that was resisting an officer.  But there were only four of them and 3 paramedics.  How could they possibly control him except by tazing him as he lay on the ground???  The sad thing is you don't have to make stuff like this up . . . .

    Xavier8425
    Xavier8425 subscriber

    Once again, SDPD has missed an opportunity to show that they take their duty "to protect and serve" seriously. Any other respectable organization would take a complaint like this very seriously and have a very strong desire to identify poor performing officers and purge those who serve to further erode the public's trust. Had they taken appropriate steps previously, maybe Ms. Bluhm would've felt a little more secure in letting the officers into her residence? Instead, SDPD has managed to reinforce the stereotype that causes a young woman to feel threatened enough to defend herself from those who are assigned to protect her.

    Further, I am confused as to the officer's logic in arresting Ms. Bluhm when he was supposed to be responding to a domestic violence call? If he was as concerned enough to force his way into the building, why would he not immediately proceed to the residence of the potential victim?

    Finally, to those who have attempted to use the CRB member as proof of the officer's justification, check out the reputation and past performance if this group and get back to me:

    http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2012/may/22/grand-jury-bullying-common-on-police-review-board/

    kateyav
    kateyav subscriber

    First, the community forum at which she first told her story publicly was hosted by Women Occupy San Diego, the National Lawyers Guild and the ACLU, and the PERF members were invited guests, to hear from the community.  Second, Ms. Bluhm also said that she waited to tell her story publicly because SDPD told her that she could be prosecuted for making a false complaint and she waited the one year statutory period before talking about her case.  She was threatened by the SDPD, as are so many others who have been abused by SDPD.  WOSD is working on trying to get the Citizens Review Board changed so that it is transparent and truly accountable to the people, has independent powers to subpena witnesses and make their own investigation, independent of SDPD. 

    jeff jordon
    jeff jordon subscriber

    I'm sorry how was she threatened? 

    Mark Giffin
    Mark Giffin subscribermember

    The police should receive the benefit of the doubt IMO. 

    Was the officer alone on this call? Evidently not. 

    If Ms.Bluhm had a problem her error was acting upon it during the police call rather than the appropriate way which would of been after the call.

    Having a confrontation with officers during the call leads to one outcome as it should.

    put yourself in the officers shoes.

    cmiller
    cmiller subscriber

    Here is a reason why a woman on her own should be wary to let a uniformed officer into an apartment complex: http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2014/08/01/police-man-impersonated-cop-raped-robbed-woman-in-brooklyn/

    The officer was belligerent and intimidating, which itself is also suspicious.  He was not acting in the calm and collected manner that officers of the law should.  Smith should have found another way in, especially since he should have emergency access codes.  And if he didn't have the codes, then radio in and find a way to get the codes.  Physically forcing himself on a woman half his size and then smacking her forehead on his car is not an acceptable way to treat someone who just wants to go home and sleep.

    Again, 3 people, including 2 neutral parties, say it happened one way, while the officer says another.  And yet people are more inclined to believe the officer just because of his uniform?  Even if she was actually charged with a crime (she wasn't) the use of excessive force by the officer was completely unwarranted.

    jeff jordon
    jeff jordon subscriber

    I believe the story says, "Bluhm opened the door and Smith tried to get into the complex behind her. Bluhm tried to shut the door on him."  That's a little different than just not giving the officer the code.  Additionally, just because someone is not charged does not mean the arrest was false or unjustified, I don't know when the last time someone went to court for being drunk in public.  This doesn't mean SDPD doesn't arrest dozens of people daily for this offense. 

    jeff jordon
    jeff jordon subscriber

    @cmiller  were you there?  Did you witness the incident as to describe the officer as "belligerent and intimidating."  If so, then maybe you should contact internal affairs and be interviewed as to your observations or encourage Ms. Bluhm to do so if she was falsely arrested and subjected to unlawful force.  Next, do you actually believe SDPD gets updated codes to every apartment building in the City, sorry but we don't and we can't just radio in to get them like you suggest because the dispatchers don't have updated codes either.  Lastly, this incident supposedly took place in front of a member of the civilian review board, but this person apparently did not file a formal complaint either.  I find it hard to believe a CRB member said or did nothing if she witnessed a category one complaint relating to false arrest and excessive force, which is another reason I find this story a little implausible.  But I'm open to seeing this case investigated, just unhappy as to the headline and the assumptions made by the reporter and those commenting on it.

    joseph
    joseph subscriber

    These stories are not even remotely similar.

    cmiller
    cmiller subscriber

    @jeff jordon Two neutral witnesses agreed that "Bluhm wasn’t resisting the officer, the officer aggressively grabbed her and hit her forehead on his squad car when he was putting her inside." That sure sounds like excessive force when she wasn't resisting.

    I notice that you use "we" a whole lot when referring to the department.  This is the reason why civilians are scared to report crimes against police officers, as was the case here.  Because cops will always have each others' backs. They'll defend one of their own no matter what the circumstances.

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    Mr. Miller: Your linked example cites an instance in which a woman met a man on the street in plainclothes and during the conversation the man showed the victim a gold shield and identified himself as a police officer. Thereafter the woman invited the man up to her room and was raped. Hardly analogous to a uniformed police officer asking assistance in gaining entry to an apartment building. If Ms. Bluhm was worried about the officer's bona fides she could have let him in and then called the police herself.

    Mr. Dillon reports that two witnesses state, “Aside from her reluctance to let him in the building, Bluhm wasn’t [physically] resisting the officer.” So in other words, aside from physically resisting the officer, she wasn’t resisting the officer. Huh? Basically, the witnesses confirm that she physically resisted the officer, which she apparently admits.

    What is missing from this dialog, from my perspective, is that Ms. Bluhm has made this about her. What about the person who called 9-1-1 for assistance and had the response delayed by Ms. Bluhm’s misbehavior? The call for help may have turned out to be unfounded, but what if it weren’t? What if it were you or me calling for help? We need to see ourselves as being in a partnership, as a community, in helping the police help our fellow citizens in distress. Not throwing obstacles in their way when the respond to calls for help.

    Years ago the Kitty Genovese case caused a national stir when citizens purportedly failed to call the police while a woman was stabbed to death. That purported failure to summon police to help another citizen was viewed nationally as reprehensible. In this case, Ms. Bluhm went a step further. She obstructed the responding officer by her own admission. To me that is more reprehensible than failing to call.

    cmiller
    cmiller subscriber

    @Chris Brewster Here's an example of someone impersonating a uniformed officer, rather than an undercover one: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/23/fake-cop-raped-woman_n_4329325.html


    The point is officer impersonation is a lot more common than you think, and women have every right to be wary: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2008-07-13-police-impersonating_N.htm


    The only form of resistance Ms. Bluhm was doing was not divulging the access code. That in itself is no reason for the officer, a man twice her size, to physically abuse her. Whether you feel like she should have told him the code is irrelevant because she had every right to keep it to herself.  If it were truly a life or death situation, the officer is well within the law to break into the complex himself, and he has the tools to do so.  Instead he chose to physically abuse and arrest (falsely, since no charges were actually filed) Ms. Bluhm.

    jeff jordon
    jeff jordon subscriber

    We in the San Diego Police Department would like people to file complaints, in some cases they are very justified.  We have a duty to investigate them thoroughly.  Yet, I find it interesting that someone who is supposedly so scarred by an incident such as this will go to a forum and discuss it for over ten minutes, but not bother to file a formal complaint over the phone from the comfort and security of their own home.  As for "having each others backs," I'm a strong believer that the officer has a right to a fair discipline process. The officer should know the specific allegations against them as presented in a formal complaint by persons who work cooperatively with the police department to ensure complaints are properly investigated and the findings are just.  I don't have some sacred duty to a fellow officer that you allege, other than to make sure the process is fair and in some cases a fair process results in dismissal and criminal charges. 

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    Mr. Miller: As Mr. Jordan notes above, you are mischaracterizing the reason for her arrest. In any case, there is no honor in delaying emergency response to the call for help of another person. There is only shame.

    joseph
    joseph subscriber

    ThIs woman is obnoxious.

    jeff jordon
    jeff jordon subscriber

    I just love when academics like Walker chime in:

    “Ideally, a police department should investigate whenever they have ANY kind of evidence that misconduct occurred,” Walker told me in an email

    First, what is evidence as used in this statement?  A comment, an opinion, a feeling tell me please?

    Next Professor, "ideally" SDPD should also have adequate staffing, equipment, facilities and resources to adequately investigate the crimes, reports, and complaints we get from citizens in this community.  Unfortunately, we do not and have not for over a decade.  SDPD's available staffing for patrol hit a decade low this summer, even after we gutted all of our investigative units to backfill patrol for 911 calls. 

    Lastly, maybe Liam can advise how many "formal" complaints SDPD received on this incident and where they were filed:  internal affairs, civilian review board, patrol division, mayor's office etc. 

    If our community wants SDPD to investigate every time a citizen informally complains to their friends, neighbors and coworkers, I am sure we as a Department can commit to do this right after SDPD is provided the kind of resources that would be needed for this type of response from our elected officials. 


    Jeff Jordon

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    Mr. Dillon: Thanks. Understood. In my view she is not credible based on your reporting.

    Liam Dillon
    Liam Dillon memberadministrator

    @jeff jordon Hi Jeff. Here's a link to Professor Walker's book, The New World of Police Accountability, which recently printed its second edition: http://books.google.com/books?id=2FAXBAAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=samuel+walker&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Dz9FVPPACsXfiQKOkIGYBQ&ved=0CEkQ6AEwBw#v=onepage&q=samuel%20walker&f=false.


    No one filled out a formal complaint form about the incident. However, as the story states, a witness complained that evening to a sergeant about the arrestee's treatment. You could give everyone the benefit of the doubt about that not triggering a formal complaint. But it seems like after the arrestee gave a 17-minute speech about her version of events alleging misconduct at an event sponsored by the the group performing a Department of Justice review of SDPD's misconduct policies, that should be considered enough to warrant another look at what happened. 

    jeff jordon
    jeff jordon subscriber

    @Liam Dillon My first comment, how do you know the arrest report was not reviewed following her new version of the events in her public speech by anyone in SDPD, DOJ or PERF? Next, your headline sure makes it seem that for a year and many formal complaints later SDPD did nothing regarding this matter, not really accurate is it as SDPD received no formal complaints per your statement?  Maybe I missed it, but there is also no mention in your story that the suspect smelled of alcohol and later apologized for her behavior at the scene following her arrest.  Granted, you can link to the arrest report and read it, but how many of your readers actually will do this?  Most will simply read the headline or the story and base their opinions on it, not examine it further.  I think you could have gone further to explain the matter, rather than sensationalize it and just provide links.  As long as were criticizing, these are mine of your reporting. 

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    Mr. Dillon: Ms. Bluhm freely admits that she obstructed a uniformed police officer trying to respond to a crime in progress in which some other person unknown to her was potentially at risk. Is there any reasonably intelligent person who doesn't know that's unlawful? She was arrested. In my view she failed the basic test of good citizenship by failing to help the police respond to the aid of another person in need.

    Liam Dillon
    Liam Dillon memberadministrator

    @jeff jordon A few points.


    1. SDPD didn't tell me that the case had been reviewed following her public speech.

    2. There was a complaint the night of the incident. The department has been criticized for allowing supervisors in the field to dismiss complaints rather than encouraging people to file them.

    3. Yes, there's no mention of the alcohol in the story, like there's no mention of lots of things in the story. I spoke with the arrestee and witnesses about the alcohol and they said she wasn't drunk. She notes the officer didn't perform a sobriety test on her. She also said she was saying things to the officer that she hoped would appease him and never signed off on a statement.

    4. With respect, I don't think the story sensationalizes the incident. We lay out key assertions from both versions of events and I point out some aspects of both versions that don't seem to add up. Again, my hope the primary takeaway from this story is that this incident seemed to merit a follow up from the department and there doesn't appear to have been one until now.

    jeff jordon
    jeff jordon subscriber

    @Liam Dillon first, you know we don't comment on investigations, but you assumed in your story that we did nothing.  Second, in the story you said there was no formal complaint and repeated this again in your earlier comments, now you claim there was a complaint again.  Which is it Liam, was there a formal complaint filed or not?  A neighbor who doesn't like a police enforcement action or feels a person should not be arrested is not automatically a complaint, it may just be a question about our policies, procedures or the law which do not justify a formal investigation.  Next, I don't think the arrest reports indicate the suspect was arrested for being drunk in public, but it sure indicates she lied to officers at the scene regarding her actions.  Lastly, read your headline again given the circumstances of this incident, one where you even state no formal complaint was filed, and tell me it does not sensationalize this story.  That would be laughable.

    Jeff Toister
    Jeff Toister subscriber

    One bit of reporting would be helpful:

    How does SDPD define a complaint?

    My guess is the definition is very different from how an average citizen would view it. Perhaps that's where the chasm begins.

    For example, there seems to be an assumption that a witness sharing their concerns with an officer at the scene should register in that officer's mind as a complaint. That seems rational when you report on it much later, but there are many unknown variables about what actually happened that could cloud whether it really was reasonable for the officer to identify that as a complaint.

    Liam Dillon
    Liam Dillon memberadministrator

    @jeff jordon I asked about what SDPD had done to look into the arrestee's complaints. They said they were now going to have someone from Internal Affairs contact her. 


    I'm not contradicting myself. If someone complains to a supervisor that's a complaint, which happened here. But yes, that's different than someone filling out a complaint form, which didn't happen here. This is relevant and meaningful because SDPD has been criticized for discouraging people from filing complaints, including in recent incidents. Again, giving the benefit of the doubt to the PD on the neighbor complaining the night of, I think there's much less of an excuse after the July public forum.


    There are some questions about the officer's version of events in the arrest report, too. For instance, it says that two officers were involved in handcuffing her. No one, not the arrestee, the two witnesses I spoke with nor the citizen's review board intern in the police report, say that anyone handcuffed her other than the one officer.

    jeff jordon
    jeff jordon subscriber

    You can rationalize this anyway you like Liam, you do contradict yourself which is clear in the story and comments.  The readers can come to their own conclusion by reading them.  Next, to demonstrate the absurdity of your comments above, please tell me when a person calls a sergeant to a scene to complain about receiving a ticket from an officer, when they believe they should only being given a warning, do I need to begin a formal investigation?  Why or why not?  Oh I got it, it's really meaningless right, because a complaint is a complaint is a complaint.  Unfortunately, it's not always a clear as you like to make it seem Liam.  For example, I got dispatched to a radio call where a person was extremely pissed that an officer did not know when their recyclables were being picked up, in your opinion this should require a full blown investigation, after all it's a complaint.  I resolved it by telling the person where to find the information they wanted.  Maybe, the sergeant at this scene did not get a complaint, rather an inquiry as to why the person was arrested.  One way to make this crystal clear for all parties involved is just make a formal complaint, put it to paper and have the person sign it and forwarded it to IA. 

    Liam Dillon
    Liam Dillon memberadministrator

    @Jeff Toister Hi Jeff. Thanks for the question and sorry for the delay in responding. 


    It's a bit of a gray area about when a complaint should be considered a complaint. As Jeff says above, if someone says, I'm upset with the way you treated me and the supervisor on scene explains the rule/law to that person and they're satisfied that's considered a public service inquiry and not a complaint, per department rules. However, as my story notes, the department has been criticized for supervisors on scene discouraging people from filing formal complaints even when they remain aggrieved.  


    This is an area that should receive scrutiny from the Department of Justice review. Here's a link to a recent version of SDPD's policies on citizen complaints: http://voiceofsandiego.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/1.10-Citizen-Complaints-Officer-Involved-Shootings-In-Custody-Deaths.pdf

    Liam Dillon
    Liam Dillon memberadministrator

    @Chris Brewster Hi Chris. Ms. Bluhm told me the officer didn't make clear why he was there to her. There was a security guard from a nearby building also at the scene trying to get in, which she also said was confusing. She told me that had she known the officer was trying to get in to investigate a domestic violence incident she would have absolutely let him in. She also assumed the police had an emergency access code to the building. I don't say this to defend her, but simply explain her version of events.

    rhylton
    rhylton subscriber

    This is pain and grief to me, but and it seems that the officer was in uniform. 


    Do as the police say. Sue them later.

    Liam Dillon
    Liam Dillon memberadministrator

    Good morning, everyone. Thanks for reading. For those who want to know more about this situation beyond the story, I encourage you to listen to Bluhm's speech from July and read the arrest report from the incident. Both are linked above in the story. You'll see more discrepancies between the two accounts there.


    An intern from SDPD's Citizen Review Board was on a ridealong that night and witnessed the incident. A statement from her is included in the police report. Unfortunately, she declined an interview request with me to talk about what happened.


    I'm happy to answer as many questions as I can. @cmiller, the department now is rolling out a body camera program: http://voiceofsandiego.org/2014/10/15/san-diego-police-trust-us-on-body-cameras/. This incident happened before officers were equipped with them.

    cmiller
    cmiller subscriber

    "two witnesses to the incident largely confirmed to me Bluhm’s account of what happened outside the complex"
     
    Surprise, surprise.  Another case of every witness agreeing on the victim's count of events while the single police officer has a different version.  The witnesses have no reason to lie about what happened, but the officer sure does.  And yet the court of public opinion will invariably take the officer’s side simply because of the uniform he wears.  It's just another drop in a huge bucket of abuses of power by police departments all across the USA.


    If you ask me, officers should wear cameras and microphones that are recording at all times when they're on duty. Retail workers have to deal with cameras on them at all times, so I think it's perfectly fair that police officers do as well.  Since police in Rialto, CA started using body cameras in February 2012, public complaints against officers plunged 88% compared with the previous 12 months, and officers' use of force fell by 60%.

    Anon789
    Anon789 subscriber

    @joseph Actually, I don't find it to be bizarre at all that a small woman who lives alone in an apartment building did not want to allow a man--who happened to be wearing a uniform, but who also happened to be accompanied by a non-uniformed individual--into her building late at night.  Any woman with basic common street smarts has been told to watch her back, especially late at night, because people can pretend to be cops (and I would think it was strange, too, if a non-uniformed man was tagging along, also trying to get into the building).  I would also think it is not a citizen's duty to give an officer access to a building--how in the world should she have known this? She was only trying to protect herself and the others in her building, because it was late at night and she's a young woman who lives alone. That makes complete sense to me, and I think it is terrible that people are suggesting she was starting trouble, when all she was doing was trying to get home without letting two strange men follow her inside.

    joseph
    joseph subscriber

    First, she wasn't alone, she was with a freind and there were others present as well apparently. Second, two fully uniformed SD police officers (not one) alongside one (if not two) fully marked SDPD police cars, a uniformed security guard and another individual displaying identification where involved. Not even close to the New York story you cite. Yes, bad things happen in the world, and often bad things can be avoided using common sense and caution. No doubt. That isn't the case here. She acted irrationally

    joseph
    joseph subscriber

    Bologna. Even taken at face value this woman's actions were bizarre. These were uniformed cops performing routine public safety services which any reasonable (sober) citizen would ordinarily identify as such and cooperate.

    She's got issues.

    Anon789
    Anon789 subscriber

    Why was a security guard from another location present, and what reason did he have for trying to get into the building?  Wouldn't you find it strange if you saw a cop and a random security guard trying to get into your apartment building?

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    The following does not seem to be disputed: "Bluhm opened the door and Smith tried to get into the complex behind her. Bluhm tried to shut the door on him."

    Here is the California Penal Code 148.  (a) (1) Every person who willfully resists, delays, or obstructs any public officer, peace officer, or an emergency medical technician ... in the discharge or attempt to discharge any duty of his or her office or employment, when no other punishment is prescribed, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail not to exceed one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment."

    It is beyond me how someone sees a San Diego Police officer in uniform who advises he is responding to a domestic violence call and needs assistance gaining access to the building, and not only declines to assist him, but tries to shut the door in his face. I don't think the stories diverge wildly as this story suggests. I think both parties essentially agree on the facts. In my view, Ms. Bluhm acted irrationally and by her own admission obstructed the officer. She was then arrested, which I will bet she did not accept calmly considering she was trying to physically shut the door in the officer's face.

    Elmer Walker
    Elmer Walker subscriber

    Sounds like another case of police command structure not doing one of its tasks. They are fairly certain a violation has occurred but stick their head in the sand to save their own skins.

    joseph
    joseph subscriber

    What violation?

    These officers were responding at the request of a father concerned that his daughter was in immediate danger. This story could be going much differently for "this woman" had her bizzare interference resulted in police playing her game on the sidewalk out front while an assault or worse was taking place inside the building. She had no reasonable cause to prevent the police entry.

    Matty Azure
    Matty Azure subscriber

    Las Colinas, huh. Reminds me of "Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes."

    Signed,

    Susan Lankford