Morning Report: 3 Body Cameras, No Footage

Morning Report

Morning Report: 3 Body Cameras, No Footage

Xavier Herrera, a code compliance officer, logs ticket fare inspections throughout the day. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Officers employed by the Metropolitan Transit System, which runs many of the region’s buses and trolleys, cited a man last year for failing to comply with their orders. The man denied that he was uncooperative and said the body cameras attached to the officers would prove him right.

But by the time a lawyer got involved and asked for the footage, it no longer existed. It had been purged, so he couldn’t use it as a defense in court.

Lisa Halverstadt reports that the incident reveals gaps in the transit agency’s policy for handling footage. MTS says it will ask an independent consultant to analyze and recommend potential changes to its body camera policy as part of a broader review into the agency’s enforcement structure and practices.

Citing costs, MTS only holds onto body camera footage for 60 days unless it’s flagged as part of a criminal investigation, complaint or potential lawsuit. (It’s not clear why footage involving the man was deleted within 60 days even though the agency pursued a charge against the man.) The agency also has a unique security force, as we considered last month. Two thirds of its officers work for an outside company that manages its own body camera footage. 

The homeless man’s case is ongoing. In March, his attorney argued that MTS should be held in contempt for failing to comply with her subpoena and the city attorney’s office should be sanctioned for its failure to assist. A judge dismissed the motions.

City Council Pumps the Brakes on Streetlight Funding

By unanimous vote Tuesday, the San Diego City Council set aside the funding for the scandalous smart streetlights program — which began as a means of saving energy and evolved into a police tool.

In May, Mayor Kevin Faulconer proposed that the city scale back its network of audio and visual sensors aimed at public rights of way. Going forward, he offered to pay for the program’s approximately $825,000 annual cost through the community parking district budgets.

Activists with the Trust SD Coalition have raised this question while also advocating for a surveillance ordinance and a new privacy advisory commission. They’ve pointed to past legal memos out of the city attorney’s office defining the very narrow circumstances under which parking meter funds can be used — i.e., “parking and traffic-related purposes that impact the parking of vehicles within parking meter zones.”

The parking money is so restricted that much of it goes unspent, Andrew Bowen at KPBS reported in 2017. The chair of the Uptown Community Parking District board proposed using the funds for cleaning bus stops, but the city said no.

Homeless Moving Into Former Super 8 Motel

Faulconer’s office announced Tuesday that the city and nonprofit Alpha Project have begun moving homeless families into a makeshift shelter in South Bay. 

As Halvertstadt reported in May, homeless families have largely been left out of the push for more shelter. During the pandemic, three of San Diego’s biggest homeless service providers were forced to dial back their efforts to serve families in need of shelter. 

To help address the gap, the city decided to temporarily have families stay at the 42-unit hotel on Palm Avenue which will ultimately serve people suffering from acute drug and alcohol addiction with numerous misdemeanor offenses on their record. The city purchased the building in July 2017 and had been renovating it until the facility opened to homeless families this week.

In the meantime, the U-T reports that a lawsuit accuses the city of pushing homeless people into the Convention Center for the federal relief funds instead of hotel rooms, which discriminated against the disabled.

In Other News

  • As coronavirus cases continue to rise in San Diego County, reports of other highly contagious diseases like pertussis and mumps have declined. (KPBS)
  • The county announced Tuesday that it will ramp up coronavirus education and outreach to Latino residents in San Diego. Latinos make up 34 percent of the population in the county, but account for nearly 61 percent of cases. (NBC 7)
  • The City Council unanimously approved an ordinance Tuesday that will allow homeowners to install movable “tiny houses” in their backyards. (Union-Tribune)
  • In a new VOSD op-ed, backers of the Midway Sports & Entertainment District argue in favor of their plan for the Sports Arena property. Last week, Jason Riggs, founder of the San Diego Stadium Coalition, raised questions about the plan and threw his support behind the group’s opponents, ASM Global and Brookfield Properties.
  • This is the last week to purchase our photo print from a Black Lives Matter protest in June. Proceeds will help support the San Diego Association of Black Journalists’ scholarship fund.

The Morning Report was written by Megan Wood and Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly noted that officials were reviewing the legality of using parking revenue to fund the smart streetlights program. The city attorney’s office confirmed Thursday that it is not. City Council members simply removed the streetlights from the Community Parking District budget after some raised questions about its legality. 

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