By Terrie Best / OB Rag
While following local politics I was surprised to find intelligent people right here in urban San Diego who will vote against their own interests. This particular anomaly is one I’d long ago set aside for white people in the rural south – the ones who are in bad need of dental check-ups but nevertheless want Obama Care repealed.
When I hear of communities targeted by law enforcement, I assume their leaders will be savvy enough to seek out and oppose the perpetrators of racist practices in the justice system.
Recently, what I saw in the name of party line politics is folks actually stacking the deck against those who would make life better for people of color and therefore, all of us. This show of self-sabotage was carried out all while pretending to lead without bias.
I’m talking about the Latino American Political Association, which hosted the District Attorney Forum last week and afterward endorsed Republican Summer more-of-the-same Stephan. LAPA also disregarded the public who were only trying to do what LAPA was offering: to learn more about the two DA candidates at the forum.
I can’t begin to imagine what it is like living daily with police terror, but I have seen police treat my brown and black neighbors badly. While jogging in Golden Hill Park, I encountered a group of Latino boys sitting on the curb, pockets turned inside out, pleading with a couple of San Diego police officers who were demanding their nicknames. I understood immediately that the officers were profiling these children to put them in the District Attorney’s street gang database. By asking for nicknames, the cops were tricking the kids into saying they had gang alias. The boys’ ages were from about 8 to 12 years old.
This is the road our DA takes to saddling a black or Latino child with a law enforcement-steeped future and every parent should be horrified. I wish would have intervened and walked those boys home. If I ever see police scaring children again I will because I know the world is a much lousier place when a bunch of our kids are marked as criminals and not thriving in our communities.
How could the folks at LAPA sign on to these kinds of continued policies? We’re only hurting ourselves when we brand kids with criminal stigma many can never overcome. Who knows what they might have contributed had they been allowed to. How often do cops hang out in Bird Rock or Scripps Ranch, emptying kids’ pockets and profiling them? This is the way of the DA office though — tough on vulnerable communities, soft on the established wealthy.
The District Attorney race might be one of the most important San Diegans face in 2018.
We have the opportunity to take a community focused approach to public safety and really make a change to outdated broken-window policies. When police are in riot gear and tanks, they are not a part of the community. A progressive DA could halt these practices.
Dumanis — a Republican whom everyone thinks is a Democrat because she’s a lesbian — has made the DA office into a partisan machine. While doing so, she has harried the black and brown communities without remorse since 2003 to keep her conviction rate solid. Dumanis, a former judge and a failed San Diego mayoral candidate, named and endorsed her successor, Summer Stephan, in January when she decided to leave the top cop office. There’s no reason to think Bonnie didn’t deliver the reins into the hands of a malleable successor, one who now holds the position of incumbent in the 2018 race.
The DA’s office is unstoppable and is currently used as a handy stick or a concealing shield depending on if you are in the circle and what kind of campaign donor you are.
Some weeks ago, LAPA, a self described “non-partisan” organization, created a public Facebook event inviting citizens to compare the policies of the DA candidates in a district attorney forum. The description of the event had no requirement to RSVP but, on the day of the forum, a post appeared stating that “reservations were closed.” This post left those of us who had clicked that we were “going” wondering if there was a separate RSVP list and if we were on it. It took DA candidate Genevieve Jones-Wright’s campaign manager to track down the rule makers at LAPA to confirm that Facebook responders would be on the list to get in.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
When I arrived at Andres Restaurant where the event was held, the street outside the banquet hall was swarming with DA staff. Among them was Steve Walter, former head of narcotics and currently assigned in El Cajon. I understood from other citizens I spoke with that nobody was being admitted, yet the room for the forum was nearly full. I stood in line and overheard a deputy district attorney I recognized say, “I received an invitation and was told to RSVP,” but like the rest of us who stood outside watching all the white people in suits inside, nobody knew who else would get in to watch the forum.
I decided to crowd up to the entrance and was let in after my name was checked off the RSVP list. Most of those outside didn’t get in because the room was already full before our hosts broke out the list. Were these all DA staffers who had been let in beforehand?
If LAPA’s intention was to showcase the two candidates to the Latino community and public, why was there an invitation sent to DA staff with instructions to RSVP and why were seats not saved for more of the public? If LAPA wanted to keep the public out while they vetted their candidate they should not have made a show of inviting citizens and then keeping most of us out.
LAPA’s obvious attempt to hand select Summer Stephan’s supporters is all very troubling when matched with the track record and ongoing systematic targeting of Latino communities by her office.
The forum questions were mostly softball pitches worded for Stephan to try and shine her way though the tainted image of the office Dumanis left behind. In Dumanis’ efforts to pick a puppet, she forgot to consider the sturdiness of her selection’s spine. Stephan can’t stand alone, she needed her handlers around her, stacking the audience and feeding her cherry picked questions.
The question screening panel was made up of two people from the DA office and one public defender who was not even shown the questions beforehand as the other two were. If the questions had been screened by other than a couple of prosecutors, perhaps more of them would have focused on public safety issues and not just questions about managing budgets.
LAPA is going to have another chance to show they live up to their mission of non-partisan politics when they host the County Supervisor District 4 Forum in January. Lori Saldaña, a longtime member and champion of the Latino community, is among the candidates who will participate. So is Bonnie Dumanis. Please attend this forum. It will take place at Andres Restaurant in the banquet hall at 7:30 p.m. on January 16. Be sure and call LAPA to RSVP.