Occupier Rant: It’s misconduct for a San Diego police officer to show bias against Occupy San Diego

by on November 11, 2011 · 6 comments

in Civil Rights, Reader Rant, San Diego

A couple of OccupySD supporters showing off their Halloween costumes. Photo by Will Gagan.

By Martha Sullivan

Per the San Diego Police Department’s webpage , “A citizen who is dissatisfied with police services or believes they have witnessed or been a victim of police misconduct can file a complaint using one or more of the following methods:” — which include email to the Police Chief, Citizens Review Board and/or Mayor, all of whom are addressed here.

My name is Martha Sullivan, and I am a resident of the City of San Diego at 2354 Carmel Valley Road, 92014; I also own a small business which is based in Sorrento Valley.

On the evening of Tuesday, November 8, 2011, I attended the musical, “Come Fly Away” at the San Diego Civic Theater with a friend, Barbara Cummings. After the performance, we exited the Civic Theater into the Civic Center Plaza, which we walked through in order to reach 3rd Avenue, where my car was parked in a pay lot between B and A Streets.

As we exited the barricaded entrance to the Civic Center Plaza at 3rd Avenue and B Street at about 8:45pm, we passed a uniformed officer of the San Diego Police Department standing behind a barricade, with several aluminum trays filled w/ foil-wrapped hot dogs balanced atop the barrier. My friend casually asked the officer if someone had dropped the hot dogs off for the officers on duty there, to which the uniformed SDPD officer replied that “Occupy San Diego ruined the hot dog business that had been located in the Plaza” and he was there “trying to help them out”.

At our interest in what he was saying, he further volunteered that Occupy San Diego had vandalized the hot dog cart. After I expressed my disagreement with this conclusion, I asked him how he knew this, and he said he had conducted the investigation, and believed the statements he had taken from the business owners. I then asked him if this is a pending investigation, which he replied it was; I offered my experience that law enforcement usually declines to talk about a pending investigation, of which this officer seemed to be unaware.

While this conversation was transpiring, the officer was packing up the hot dogs and began to prepare to move them to his marked SDPD vehicle, parked across 3rd Avenue. I asked for his name (Mapson) and took down his Badge Number (3988). I also asked to speak to his supervisor, and another officer standing by put that call in. While Ofcr Mapson was loading his car with the hot dogs and condiments, Sgt. John Harper arrived on the scene; I explained briefly what had transpired, and I asked how to file a complaint about Officer Mapson’s clear bias against Occupy San Diego in accusing it of vandalizing the hot dog cart and ruining the owner’s business. Sgt. Harper explained that Ofcr Mapson’s supervisor would be the one to talk about that, and I gave him my business card so said supervisor could contact me the following day (Wednesday 11/9/11).

Sgt. Harper himself left a voicemail for me the following afternoon (Wednesday 11/99/11), which I returned about a half-hour later but told him I would be unavailable until about 4pm. I called again today around Noon and left him a message to try calling me today. As I was preparing this email message, Sgt Harper returned my call, and we had a very positive conversation, in which I recounted the foregoing for him once more and in more depth and in which he acknowledged that SDPD officers have a duty and responsibility to remain impartial. I told him I appreciated his professionalism and his time in talking with me about this very disappointing incident.

I conveyed to Sgt Harper in my telephone conversation just now how shocking and dismaying it was for me and my friend, Barbara, to personally witness this overt bias by a uniformed officer of the SDPD on duty at the Civic Center Plaza to maintain the peace, against a group of San Diego citizens exercising their Constitutional rights of free speech and peaceful assembly. We both have participated in many peaceful marches, vigils and demonstrations in the City of San Diego over the past several years, and until the past month, have always been impressed by how professional the SDPD has been in working with the organizers of those events, and in maintaining the peace around them.

My father was 25 years in the FBI, and retired as Assistant Director in Los Angeles, so I am inculcated with respect for law enforcement AND for the rule of law. This is why this officer’s breach of his duty to remain impartial was so shocking to me.

I expect the San Diego Police Department to use this disappointing incident as a “teachable moment” to emphasize to our SDPD officers how essential impartiality is to a constructive relationship with the public. I look forward to hearing from you about how this is being accomplished.

Martha Sullivan, besides being an Occupy San Diego activist, is the Vice-Chair of the North County Democratic Party.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar editordude November 11, 2011 at 3:46 pm

To any and all OccupySD activists and supporters: got a rant against the system, the banks, the city, the police, the lack of bathrooms, the rightwing trashers? Say it here – just send us something in an email to obragblog@gmail.com and we’ll consider it for our irregular but new column by “Occupy Ranters”.


avatar barbaramartin November 11, 2011 at 4:19 pm

I was with Martha. A few days later, I am still stunned. Regret not getting a photo of the officer (s) with their trays of hot dogs and fixins. Wondering how many other citizens got his angry biased story foisted upon them. If there is a lawsuit at some point in time, I wonder how many citizens opinions were polluted by this officer. Although, I did not witness money changing hands, his comment, “since the OSD ruined the hot dog business, this is the least we can do” has played over and over in my mind. If there is another attack on the occupy people and this officer is in any way involved, I will be shouting the loudest to any lawyer that will listen. The other 5 officers standing there when we walked up, quietly and quickly faded out of the scene as soon as we questioned the efficacy of selling hot dogs on duty.


avatar George McGinnis November 11, 2011 at 4:25 pm

I am confused. The police officer laid down his personal property, that being the hot dogs, on the barricade? Couldn’t that be considered a violation of municipal code 54.0110? That is the law that the police are arbitrarily charging Occupy protesters with if they lay down any personal property on the plaza. Why was this officer not charged. Hot dogs certainly are not city issued property. Under the same standards they are charging the protesters with he is guilty. You you should ever hear back from anyone in charge over there you may want to point this out.


avatar Rick Chalmers November 11, 2011 at 6:11 pm

Wow, awesome citizenry, Martha,. Your respect and tenacity will keep our police focused on the details of their jobs! I have only had a few times where I did not get “America’s finest”. It has been to my surprise that for the most part they are good people.

Thank you,

Rick Chalmers


avatar Nathan November 11, 2011 at 7:40 pm

What is most distressing to me is to see the videos showing a very uneven balance: a bunch of skinny kids without even so much as a baseball bat being intimidated by officers looking like the Nazis’ blackshirts of the ‘thirties. I want to preserve my respect for our police and they don’t make that easy for me. Any one of those beefy cops could have taken down those tired protesters with one hand tied. Why did the cops wear helmets? I saw no indication that anything was likely to be thrown. One cop was holding a firearm – it may have been a tear gas gun but it was the size of a full auto and it looked menacing. The protesters were at worst noisy and untidy; the cops looked as if they wanted a riot and their attitude looked like provocation to violence.


avatar Frank Gormlie November 12, 2011 at 10:53 am

Will G – great photo, dude. When was it taken? on Halloween?


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