VOSD Podcast: Cops and Cameras, Cameras and Cops

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VOSD Podcast: Cops and Cameras, Cameras and Cops

This week on the VOSD podcast, hosts Andrew Keatts and Sara Libby review the 2015 shooting of Fridoon Nehad — an illuminating story as San Diegans face a November ballot measure that could give a police oversight committee more power.

Police officers block off Fourth Avenue in downtown San Diego amid protests over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

A lot of cop talk is coming at you in this week’s VOSD podcast.

A report was recently unsealed in a case that hosts Andrew Keatts and Sara Libby have followed for years: the killing of Fridoon Nehad.

In 2015, Nehad was confronted by a police officer, Neal Browder, in an alleyway in the Midway district. Within seconds of exiting the car, Browder shot Nehad, who was unarmed. It’s been a messy case ever since. Browder did not turn on his body-worn camera as officers are now mandated to do; private security footage that happened to catch the incident had been blocked from the public initially.

Browder, as it turns out, was not reprimanded over the shooting. Much of what we know now, which Keatts and Libby lay out in the show, comes from documents that have been released from an ongoing court case brought by Nehad’s family.

The Citizen’s Review Board on Police Practices (as it was called at the time), Libby found, was not able to review an outside investigation commissioned by the DA on the incident. San Diego Police’s internal affairs team tried to have its own interview with Browder but was denied. Though the review happened years ago, it’s newly relevant in light of a November ballot measure that would give the board more power to access witnesses and documents.

If you want to learn more about that and some history on local police reform, one of the advocates for that measure, Andrea St. Julian, joined the podcast recently to talk about it.

What About Those Cameras, Though?

Speaking of body-worn cameras being useless in some cases (like if an officer never turns it on!), VOSD also reported this week that a homeless man ticketed by Metropolitan Transit System officers was recorded by three different body cameras, yet wasn’t able to access any of the footage to assist with his defense in court.

Nearly four months after the encounter, MTS had already purged the footage. The agency noted that it automatically deletes video after 60 days unless otherwise flagged, which potentially leaves a lot of questions unanswered, such as in this man’s case.

The Other Cop Cams

This week, the San Diego City Council set aside funding for the smart streetlight program — a program originally billed to monitor traffic and air quality that’s now exclusively used by police.

Now it’s unclear how or whether the streetlights program will be funded, and the Council is advancing policies to guide the use of surveillance technology in the city. Previously, the police made their own. Now the City Council is eyeing what to do about it.

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