Morning Report: MTS Says Its Officers Are Exempt from State Law

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Morning Report: MTS Says Its Officers Are Exempt from State Law

Security officers carry out a special enforcement unit at the La Mesa trolley station in 2015. / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

California last year reformed its law regulating when officers can use deadly force, but the Metropolitan Transit System says it doesn’t apply to its officers.

MTS employs code compliance officers who don’t carry firearms, and it contracts with private security guards, half of whom carry guns. Because the code compliance officers don’t carry guns, and the guards who carry guns aren’t employed by MTS, the agency’s police chief said they are not bound by the new state law, Lisa Halverstadt and Jesse Marx report.

Nathan Fletcher, MTS’s board chair, and agency spokesman Rob Schupp, however, both said MTS officers adhere to to the law, even if the agency has interpreted the law to say they don’t have to.

A spokesman for Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, though, said the intent of the law was for it to apply to all law enforcement officers in the state, including those with transit agencies.

MTS’s board is increasingly paying attention to the quasi-public police department MTS operates, where officers do not receive the training or certification typical of law enforcement.

In the past, the agency has deployed large-scale shows of force in search of fare violations, partnered with the Sheriff to search for parole violators with fare violations as a pretext, as Voice of San Diego reported at the time. MTS officers once violently arrested an Iraqi immigrant for trespassing at a trolley station, even though he was a janitor reporting for work.

In the last five years, the agency has quadrupled its fare enforcement. The agency did not track the fact that the tickets it gave for failing to pay a $2.50 fare were escalating into exorbitant fines that were wreaking havoc on the lives of the riders who received them.

The Pandemic Is Still Very Much a Pandemic

For the second day in a row, San Diego County set a new record Thursday for new cases of COVID-19, as the Union-Tribune reported. The county has recorded more than 300 cases for the fourth time in five days, after weeks in which cases hovered in the low- to mid-100s. 

The number of hospitalizations is increasing, too, as is the percentage of tests that are coming back positive. 

UCSD, however, said the surge in cases has now put in doubt its plans to reopen in the fall, the Union-Tribune reported Thursday, before the county announced its new record for daily cases.

County officials told NBC 7 San Diego to take the increases with a grain of salt. Supervisor Greg Cox said it would be a cause for concern if the county started to approach its hotel bed capacity in ICUs, but “so far we’re at a very safe level.”

  • Unemployment in the region improved to 15.9 percent on June 13, a month after hitting 25 percent, as more businesses opened and the economy emerged from the depths of the pandemic-induced shutdown. (Times of San Diego)

Buy This Print, Support Black Journalists

Hundreds of protesters march through University Avenue to demand justice for George Floyd, a Black man killed by a White police officer in Minneapolis.⁣⁣ / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

A photo taken by VOSD’s Adriana Heldiz of a large Black Lives Matter protest passing down University Avenue in Hillcrest generated enormous interest and social media shares.

We’ve decided to make a print of the photo available for purchase, with half the proceeds benefiting the San Diego Association of Black Journalists. You can purchase the print here.

County Takes Steps to Sustain COVID-19 Hotel Initiative

Earlier this month, VOSD’s Lisa Halverstadt wrote about the uncertain state of San Diego County’s initiative to place hundreds of vulnerable homeless San Diegans and others who have or may have coronavirus in motel rooms as hotels prepared to reopen.

A county spokesman said Thursday that the county is in talks with contractor ResCare Workforce Services, which it hopes can take over county efforts to oversee rooms for those who have tested positive or have been potentially exposed to coronavirus next month. The county now has more than 1,300 rooms for this purpose but says the number of rooms ResCare is expected to serve will be based on the needs of its coronavirus response.

The county also reports its contract with the Regional Task Force on the Homeless, which has operated about 220 rooms for homeless San Diegans considered particularly vulnerable to the virus, has been extended through October. That contract had been set to expire July 31.

As of Wednesday, 243 of the roughly 1,600 rooms the county has procured were occupied.

In Other News

  • A group of grad students at UC San Diego argue in a new VOSD op-ed that the city’s current waste policies are a drain on general funds, and are unequipped to meet the city’s zero waste goals. They’ve instead come up with a model for two policies they think the city should consider as alternatives.
  • Our Scott Lewis has been producing The Friday Five with NBC 7 for years now, and Friday night marks the last segment. Instead of our usual news of the week, Scott will preview five things to watch for in the coming months. Catch it around 6 p.m.
  • The Supreme Court has strengthened the Trump administration’s ability to deport asylum seekers without allowing them to make their case to a federal judge. (Associated Press)
  • When environmental activists began pushing cities to compete with utilities like San Diego Gas & Electric, they said they could provide two advantages: lower costs, and a greater share of renewable power. The power provider started by Solana Beach, though, is already doing away with its price discount, and will now offer power for the same price as the investor-owned utility.

The Morning Report was written by Megan Wood and Andrew Keatts, and edited by Sara Libby.

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