Internal Police Review Says Officers Justified in Using Force in Arrest of Black Woman in Ocean Beach Last May

by on October 21, 2020 · 0 comments

in Civil Rights, Ocean Beach

Do you recall the May 1 rough arrest of a Black woman walking her dog at the water’s edge in Ocean Beach?

An internal police investigation just determined that officers were justified in using force during her arrest. Not everyone agrees with this result and it actually gives more cause to vote for Measure B which would establish a real police-oversight board. We raised the issue five and a half months ago in our report:

The arrest and rough treatment Friday, May 1, of an African-American woman for walking her dog at Ocean Beach without a leash raises troubling questions.

A video taken of the incident shows a Black woman in a white bathing suit being taken into custody by several San Diego police officers, accompanied by a couple of lifeguard on the shores of Ocean Beach. She apparently had been noticed by lifeguards walking her dog without a leash.

During the incident, she was taken to the ground at least twice by officers, with her arms twisted behind her and handcuffed. She was taken down on the sand and then on the asphalt. At one point the woman being arrested asked bystanders to continue taking a video of the incident.

Councilwoman Monica Montgomery and the head of the local NAACP have raised questions about “equity in enforcement”. Montgomery issued a statement Monday, May 4, calling for “equity in enforcement” after she had viewed the video of the incident on social media.

The NAACP San Diego Branch’s president, who filed a complaint over the arrest, said she didn’t agree with the findings

Here is David Hernandez’s report in the San Diego Union-Tribune from yesterday, October 20.

A San Diego police internal investigation determined that officers were justified in using force during the arrest of a woman who was pinned down twice while she was handcuffed in Ocean Beach in May.

An investigator also determined that the three officers did not discriminate against the 36-year-old woman, who is Black, based on her race, according to findings shared by the San Diego Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit in a Sept. 14 letter to Francine Maxwell, president of the NAACP San Diego Branch.

Maxwell raised concerns about the treatment of the woman and filed a complaint over the May 1 arrest after video recorded by a bystander surfaced online two days later.

Maxwell said earlier this week that she was not satisfied with the investigation based on the findings.

“No one in their right mind can say the treatment of that woman was justified,” she said.

The bystander video shows the police officers struggle with the woman, holding her arms behind her back as she falls to the ground and ends up face down — once on the sand and a second time on asphalt. The video shows an officer pin her down with his knee each time.

Police said the woman had been walking her small dog without a leash in an area where unleashed dogs are not permitted between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. She refused to talk with lifeguards and officers, police said in May.

She was arrested on suspicion of being drunk in public and resisting arrest. Police said she slipped out of handcuffs twice while the officers were detaining her. She was booked into jail after being turned away from a detox holding cell.

Maxwell said the incident was racist from the start — when lifeguards called police. She questioned why animal control officers were not called.

A spokeswoman for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, which oversees lifeguards, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Police spokesman Lt. Shawn Takeuchi cautioned the public against judgment based on the bystander video alone. “A detective sergeant looked over several hours of body-worn camera footage, conducted 10 audio recorded interviews and examined all available evidence before making the determination if the officers involved followed the department’s policy and procedures,” he said.

He added that the city’s Community Review Board on Police Practices reviewed the interviews and body-camera video.

In a Sept. 10 letter to Maxwell, the board said it reviewed the internal investigation and agreed with the findings. The board reviews police internal investigations into police-involved shootings, in-custody deaths and certain complaints against officers.

The investigation revealed that one of the officers who arrested the woman failed to document “one of the physical confrontations with the lady where he used force,” according to the Community Review Board’s letter.

Takeuchi said the officer was disciplined but wouldn’t specify what action the officer faced.

Maxwell and Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe, who also raised concerns about the arrest in May, said the findings of the internal investigation point to a need for stronger oversight of police.

Maxwell called the process under the Community Review Board flawed.

“These findings further underscore the need for an independent review of these cases to help restore the public’s trust in the process,” Montgomery Steppe said in a statement.

Both Maxwell and Montgomery Steppe support Measure B, which would replace the Community Review Board with a Commission on Police Practices. The commission, if approved by voters on Nov. 3, would have subpoena powers and its own staff, including independent counsel and investigators.

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