What We Learned This Week - Voice of San Diego

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What We Learned This Week

Balboa Park is closed to the public during the coronavirus pandemic. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

This week, several statements were issued, press conferences were held and interviews were given all trying to suss out inconsistencies in law enforcement’s approach to protesters during this pandemic, and yet for all that talking and writing, we’re no closer to understanding what the guiding principles are and when people might expect to face police intervention for violating stay-at-home orders.

Demonstrators who remained in their cars to protest the treatment of detainees inside the Otay Mesa Detention Center were ticketed by the Sheriff’s Department, yet protesters downtown and in Encinitas last weekend to protest stay-at-home orders were not.

When confronted about the discrepancy, the Sheriff’s Department and SDPD issued a joint statement that did nothing whatsoever to clarify their policies, and instead said only that they’re hoping to strike a “delicate balance” between respecting people’s rights and enforcing the law.

A group of civil rights activists then issued a bizarre and counterintuitive call for police to go after the leaders of the weekend protests. The same group that has consistently spoken out against inappropriate police intervention was now calling for inappropriate police intervention for the sake of retribution.

And, just as bizarrely, police seemed receptive to that call. They announced they’re pursuing a case against one of the leaders of the weekend protests. But if the protest itself was protected First Amendment activity and police determined those participating shouldn’t be cited, why would organizing that protected activity be a crime?

(Just to be clear, I think the protesters’ message that society should be reopened because freedom is idiotic; I just believe that the same First Amendment principles that have deemed journalists essential workers during the pandemic also extend to people with really stupid protest demands.)

Regardless of what you think of the protesters’ message, there is very clearly no overarching policy or principle guiding police behavior right now.

On the VOSD podcast this week, Mayor Kevin Faulconer, in what has become his trademark when pressed on law enforcement’s inconsistent enforcement policies, praised the department and escaped saying anything specific about what they might be able to do better.

“I think it’s important that you’re able to do your First Amendment activity and I think it’s incredibly important that our police department strike that balance. And I think they do a very good job of that.”

If the mayor believes it’s important to safeguard citizens’ First Amendment rights, then surely it must rub him the wrong way that police are pursuing charges against the organizer of last weekend’s downtown protest of the governor’s stay-at-home order?

“I think they’re going to have to make the decisions on a case by case basis based upon the facts on the ground as they see them,” he said.

Is that an answer? Well, what an answer is must be determined by each person in their own heart. (Just kidding. No. It’s not an answer. It’s many words strung together that add up to less than the sum of their parts.)

So, there you have it. According to activists and the mayor, police should limit intervention, except when – for no identifiable reasons whatsoever – they should pursue it against only certain people.

What VOSD Learned This Week

The county has only just this week begun to ramp up its coronavirus testing, but is still not testing to its full capacity. The other piece of the puzzle experts say we’ll need to emerge from lockdown is the ability to digitally trace people’s steps to alert them they may have been exposed to the virus – and San Diego County is only taking baby steps toward that effort.

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There are some dark explanations behind a drop in domestic violence calls to police during the pandemic. And one Carlsbad city councilwoman revealed some explosive details about her own experience while arguing for more resources for victims of domestic violence.

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School officials are scrambling to track down homeless students who haven’t yet logged on to San Diego Unified’s online learning portal. Meanwhile, as the city moves more than 1,000 homeless residents into its Convention Center, the demand is still outpacing capacity and officials are rushing to figure out what will happen to them once they’re forced to move out of the facility. Part of that plan involves buying distressed hotels at a steep discount, but the city’s progressives have some questions about how that would work.

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San Diego County is getting more than $330 million from the federal government to help battle the coronavirus. But that money can’t backfill county coffers, which have taken a major hit amid the economic shutdown. Meanwhile, we put together a handy explanation of which county officials are making big decisions during the crisis.

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Lawyers, inmates and staffers at Donovan state prison told VOSD’s Maya Srikrishnan that the conditions inside the facility could make it a powder keg if coronavirus took hold. The next day, the state confirmed a staffer there had tested positive.

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A temporary stop-gap effort to slow suicides on the Coronado Bridge doesn’t appear to be working.

What I’m Reading

Line of the Week

Has this bread corpse casually slithered off of your countertop, pre-heated the oven to 375 degrees, opened the oven door with its doughy hand, and baked itself until its crust has achieved the perfect, golden-brown hue?” – How to tell if your quarantine sourdough starter is ready.

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