- Voice of San Diego - https://www.voiceofsandiego.org -

Morning Report: Newly Unsealed Docs Highlight Police Watchdog’s Limitations

Fridoon Rawshan Nehad was shot and killed by a police officer in a Midway alleyway in April 2015. / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

When the board that reviews San Diego Police Department shootings looked into the 2015 shooting of Fridoon Nehad in an alley in the Midway district, it was not allowed to see an outside review of the case, commissioned by then-District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.

The review also notes that an assistant SDPD chief refused to let the department’s Internal Affairs investigators speak to him. The review board relies on IA investigations for its reviews.

Both revelations came from the review board’s report, which was newly unsealed by a federal judge overseeing a civil lawsuit by Nehad’s family, Sara Libby reports in a new story [1].

They also come as city voters are poised to decide whether to replace the review board as it exists today, for one that has the power to subpoena witnesses and documents, and to investigate incidents independently, without relying on SDPD’s Internal Affairs department.

Nehad was an unarmed, mentally ill man who was killed when Browder shot him, after a 911 caller reported that Nehad was threatening people with a knife. Browder arrived on the scene without turning his police lights on or identifying himself as a police officer, and shot Nehad in fewer than five seconds. He did not turn on his body-worn police camera before engaging Nehad, but the incident was captured on a surveillance camera of a nearby building.

Dumanis released that footage following legal intervention at the time by Voice of San Diego and other local outlets.

In a deposition in the civil case, obtained by Voice of San Diego in 2016, Browder said he was not disciplined or reprimanded for the shooting [2], and that it did not even come up in any context in his performance review that year. 

Gina Champion-Cain Pleads Guilty in Massive Ponzi Scheme Case

Local businesswoman Gina Champion-Cain pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court [3] to conspiracy, securities fraud and obstruction of justice, the Union-Tribune reported, in a case connected to a $400 million Ponzi scheme that could land her in jail for up to 15 years.

Champion-Cain ran multiple restaurants and vacation rentals in San Diego, and was found to have enticed investors by promising to cut high-interest loans to restaurateurs seeking liquor licenses. She instead funneled the money into her own business expenses, including covering payroll, or to pay back previous investors, the Securities and Exchange Commission alleged last year. The liquor license scheme involved over 100 investors and $400 million from 2012 through 2019.

U.S. Attorney Bob Brewer called it “by far the largest Ponzi scheme discovered in the district.”

An assistant U.S. attorney teased that Champion-Cain’s plea agreement mentions co-conspirators, though no charges have been brought against anyone else yet.

New Privacy Commission Clears Another Hurdle

By 5-0 vote, the San Diego City Council’s Rules Committee gave the greenlight Wednesday to the creation of a new privacy advisory commission. It passed the Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee last week [4] and goes next to the city attorney for legal analysis, then the full City Council. 

If approved in its current form [5], the commission would essentially keep track of how San Diego monitors its own residents with the use of technology and produce annual impact reports. Officials would be required to turn over an inventory of all surveillance devices in their possession for review. 

Going forward, the commission would make recommendations anytime officials want to purchase new devices capable of watching or listening to the public. Its nine members would represent a mix of citizens and experts [6] in law, auditing and other subjects, and they couldn’t financially profit off the commission’s work. 

The Trust SD Coalition, a group of tech-minded activists, and City Councilwoman Monica Montgomery have led the effort. They’ve been frustrated to see how the city’s smart streetlights program evolved into a tool for law enforcement [7] when was approved in 2016 as a means of counting cars and reducing energy bills. (It’s unclear what the program will look like in the future, as its proposed source of funding was pulled earlier this week [8].)

The frustration goes beyond the streetlights, though. As City Councilman Chris Ward noted Wednesday, San Diego also has license plate readers [9] and gunshot-detection software [10] at its disposal. Having an “outside City Hall perspective” on the uses and future acquisition of these technologies would be, he said, “a huge value-add for an already important topic — the freedom for every person in our city.”

North County Parents Protest Lack of Plan For In-the-Flesh Schooling

While governments stutter-step over whether kids will return to school in flesh this fall, parents in northern San Diego are starting to crack.

Parents of foster kids, students with special needs or military schedules erupted at school board members in Oceanside this week [11], reports Kayla Jimenez.

The district had begun to plan its reopening around a variety of hybrid, in-person models. But then Gov. Gavin Newsom announced schools in high-risk counties would have to stay digital until COVID-19 infections were under control.

Some Oceanside parents even joined a weekend protest, putting pressure on the district to develop metrics that define when it’s safe to return to school. A district survey showed over half of parents who responded are interested in having their kids resume school in person.

For now, school districts will have to heed what the science says (and what the state says) about this currently incurable and highly contagious killer disease.  

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by Andrew Keatts, MacKenzie Elmer and Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.