Morning Report: Why Some Cops Can Keep Their Guns After Domestic Violence Incidents - Voice of San Diego

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Morning Report: Why Some Cops Can Keep Their Guns After Domestic Violence Incidents

The news organizations review found judges routinely grant cops who are the subject of restraining orders exemptions that allow them to keep their weapons. / Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, The Press-Enterprise

Being the suspect of a domestic violence-related crime normally requires you to give up your firearm. Unless you’re a cop in California. The Golden State offers special exemptions to peace officers who rely on a service weapon for their livelihood.

That means, despite attempts by Congress to take weapons out of the hands of abusers, an officer who beat his wife could continue responding to emergency calls with his firearm so long as a judge signs off. But it usually doesn’t come to that.

In a new story, Jesse Marx and VOSD contributor Katy Stegall report that cops are often able to secure plea deals to lesser crimes that don’t necessarily trigger a prohibition on firearms. Three domestic violence cases in San Diego County in recent years have ended with officers pleading down to property damage crimes.

The former sergeant who launched SDPD’s domestic violence unit said she found plenty of resistance from within the department. “They would call me a feminazi,” she said, and would make jokes like, “I like my women battered, not fried.” 

Marx and Stegall’s story is part of a series running in newspapers across the state all week. 

In a written response to the series, Ronald Lawrence, the president of the California Police Chiefs Association, defended the ability of local agencies to decide for themselves whether an officer convicted of a crime is still worthy of employment. 

“If an officer’s actions were for less than termination causes, there are means to still hold them accountable and ensure the behavior changes,” he said. “For those who are deserving and willing to embrace accountability and retraining, there must be a way to retain experienced, well-trained officers in an environment that is already difficult to recruit new hires.”

California is one of only five states that doesn’t decertify cops for misconduct and less severe offenses, including misdemeanors, but that might soon change. A San Diego cop and the head of California’s largest police union said he expects legislation to decertify officers in the near future. He insisted he isn’t automatically opposed.

“I just want to make sure there is a fair process if an officer is decertified. I think they should have the right to appeal that, and I think there should be some due process rights,” he said. 

Also be sure to check out the work from our media partners this week.

UC Berkeley’s Investigative Reporting Program and the Mercury News teamed up to detail how one farming town in the Central Valley has become the destination for police running from unsavory pasts. One of every five officers in McFarland had been previously fired, sued for misconduct or convicted of a crime.

Some had been rejected by Banning, a city in Riverside County. Its chief complained to the state in 2012 that McFarland had never asked to see his department’s personnel files for former cops. He called McFarland “a rogue agency, employing officers who should never wear a badge again.”

The Desert Sun also dug into inconsistent discipline happening behind closed doors. Two Riverside City police officers were charged with multiple felonies in separate domestic violence incidents. One got fired, the other kept his job. 

San Diego County Jails Will be the Subject of a Study … Again

After an in-depth investigation on deaths inside San Diego County jails by the Union-Tribune, county supervisors OK’d money for a new study on jailhouse best practices. It won’t be the first time (or second or third) that the issue has gotten a close examination in recent years.

“It will be at least the fourth independent review of San Diego County jails in three years, not including annual surveys performed by the grand jury. Sheriff Bill Gore has been reluctant to adopt some recommendations by outside researchers,” Jeff MacDonald and Kelly Davis report.

Gore has declined to speak with the U-T about its findings.

County supervisors also recently approved a raise for Gore, in the wake of the U-T’s reporting.

How Border Officers’ Jobs Are Changing

Policies at the border are constantly in flux, and data shows that far more children and families have been crossing in recent years.

That means that border officials’ jobs have been shifting too, Maya Srikrishnan writes in this week’s Border Report.

Customs and Border Protection officers “now conduct preliminary asylum interviews, something that used to be done by U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services asylum officers,” Srikrishnan notes, and they “also have had to manage many of the logistics of the Migration Protection Protocols — or so-called ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy — which requires asylum-seekers to await their asylum proceedings in Mexico.” In both roles, they’ve attracted a good deal of scrutiny.

Smart Streetlights Are Still Causing Drama

San Diego officials are pushing back on city attorney candidate Cory Briggs’ claim in recent weeks that the city is tracking people through thousands of smart streetlights and “almost certainly” letting a private company sell people’s personal information. 

The Union-Tribune reports that, according to both the city and the company, the data is owned by San Diego. (As Marx reported earlier this year, it’s available free of charge to the public.) The company, which financed the installation of the project, is in possession of data that’s aggregated and stripped of personally identifiable information. 

Tension has been building over the smart streetlight program for nearly a year. Three members of the City Council, including Council President Georgette Gómez, recently called for a moratorium on the installation of new smart streetlights.

In Other News

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

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