SD’s Public Safety Committee Lacks Minority Representation
The San Diego City Council’s appointment of members to sit on the Public Safety committee that oversees the police department did not include any of the minority Councilmembers that represent communities most affected by crime, police shootings, and gangs.
Last week, Councilwoman Myrtle Cole was elected to serve as the Council President and one of her first duties was to assign committee chairmen and members. Councilwoman Cole appointed four members to the Public Safety Committee; Chairman Chris Cate, who represents Mira Mesa; newly elected Councilwoman Barbara Bry, representing La Jolla; Councilwoman Lorie Zapf, represents Point Loma; and newly-elected Councilman Chris Ward, who represents Downtown, Hillcrest and North Park.
But not on the committee are Cole, who is African-American and represents the areas of Southeast San Diego; David Alvarez, who represents Barrio Logan, Logan Heights, and San Ysidro; and newly-elected Councilwoman Georgette Gomez, who represents Southcrest and the College area.
Critics were quick to complain that the communities most affected by police actions and crime were not unrepresented on the committee.
“The fact that they appointed all these people on the Public Safety Committee is a slap in the face to civil rights,” said Rev. Shane Harris, President of the local chapter of the National Action Network. “It’s a slap in the face to minorities across the city and it is a slap in the face to the district Myrtle Cole represents.”
Rev. Harris also said Cole was in for “a tough next two years”, referring to when Cole would next face re-election. Harris promised to field a candidate to run against Cole in 2018.
“North of [Interstate] 8, they do not have the same issues with police reform and policing that south of the 8 does,” Rev. Harris said, referring to the districts of the new members of the committee. Only committee member Chris Ward represents areas south of Interstate 8, usually the geographic line that splits more affluent communities in the North from underserved communities in the South. Ward’s southern areas included downtown, Hillcrest, and North Park.
The Public Safety Committee oversees the police department and has in the past dealt with contentious policing issues, including diversity among SDPD officers, the use of police body cameras, and most recently, racial profiling in traffic stops that were the topic of a SDSU study released earlier this month.
The study concluded that Latinos and African-Americans were stopped and searched by San Diego police officers at disproportionate rates, while Whites and Asians were stopped at rates lower than their respective populations.
The SDSU study reviewed 260,000 traffic stops that occurred in 2014 and 2015. The results showed that although the race of drivers stopped in line with the population, Latinos and African-Americans were three times more likely to get searched or questioned more than Whites.
And the study also found that after the extensive searches, Latinos and African-Americans were less likely to have illegal contraband compared to Whites.
Critics of the appointment also charged that the assignments were politically motivated.
“She’s paying back her Republican friends who voted for her for council president,” said Rev. Harris.
Harris was referring to Cole’s election last week as Council President over her colleague, Councilman David Alvarez, with the support of all four of the Republican members of the Council and Democrat Barbara Bry. Cole and Alvarez, both Democrats, jockeyed for the position in recent weeks. Alvarez had the support of Councilmembers Chris Ward and Georgette Gomez.
“I’m really alarmed and concerned about these appointments and I think Myrtle Cole has demonstrated that she really doesn’t care about her community,” said Bishop Bowser of Charity Apostolic Church in San Diego. “She needs to demonstrate some independence in her decision making to show she’s going to be fair to everyone.”
The selection of Cole as President with the support of the Republican members helps Mayor Kevin Faulconer but having a more moderate Council for him to deal with. Alvarez has supported more progressive issues and battled with Faulconer on issues like the community plan for Barrio Logan and funding for affordable housing and homelessness.
Rev. Harris suggested that Cole should have assigned herself, Alvarez, or Gomez to the committee to better represent the communities affected by policing issues.