Amid mounting questions over a campus police officer's decision to fire a Taser at a student during a fight at Lincoln High School, San Diego Unified has called on the Sheriff's Department to investigate the conduct of the officer.
The San Diego County Sheriff's Department has launched an inquiry into Bashir Adbi's actions during a chaotic Feb. 26 fight at Lincoln High, which sent the officer and several students to a hospital.
The brawl started as a playful game of "slap-fighting" that reportedly escalated. Adbi has said he went to break up the fight, and then followed a student toward a parking structure and out of range of surveillance cameras, where he said he was assaulted and forced to use his Taser gun.
Adbi has been on medical leave since the brawl. The administrative investigation into his conduct is largely a personnel issue, but its findings — or a portion of them — ultimately could be made public, said Andra Donovan, general counsel for the San Diego Unified School District.
"We thought it would be prudent to bring in an outside agency to conduct the investigation to avoid the perception of bias," Donovan said. "The scope of the investigation focuses on whether officer Adbi was in compliance with rules and regulations."
Three students face a combination of felony and misdemeanor charges stemming from the incident. However, all of them have been allowed to continue their education (one student is back at Lincoln, one transferred to another high school and one is completing his senior year from home) during the criminal investigation into their behavior by the District Attorney's office and San Diego Police Department.
Since San Diego Unified purchased Tasers in 2009, they have been discharged four times — twice by Adbi.
Some in the community, including the local chapter of the NAACP, have criticized what has been described as the escalating presence of police at schools. The NAACP also has demanded that all charges against the students by dropped.
Jesus Montana, president of the union representing the district's police force, opposes dropping charges against the students. What's more, he defends the use of Tasers as a safe an effective tool for diffusing a dangerous situation.
"A lot of comments have been made about why he used a Taser, why not diffuse the situation with his hands," Montana said. "The officer used a Taser, and the student is back attending school. Kids used hands and fists on the officer, and he is out on medical leave and might not ever be able to return to work. The Taser is one of the most effective tools we have to avoid injuries."
Maureen Magee writes for the San Diego Union Tribune.