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Woman’s arrest at San Diego beach prompts ‘equity in enforcement’ questions

A San Diego city councilwoman and the head of the local NAACP office are asking questions about “equity in enforcement” after a video showing an African American woman being arrested at a San Diego beach was shared on social media over the weekend.

The video shows the woman, who was spotted by lifeguards walking her unleashed dog Friday on a beach in Ocean Beach, taken to the ground twice by officers and handcuffed, once on the sand and once on asphalt.

For the record:
5:56 PM, May. 05, 2020 Because of incorrect information provided by San Diego police, this story originally misstated when dogs are prohibited on San Diego beaches. Dogs can be on beaches until 9 a.m.

The video is more than nine minutes long and ends after the woman is placed into a patrol car. She is wearing a white, one-piece bathing suit and appears to be barefoot.

At one point in the video, an officer can be heard telling a bystander: “Just go away.”

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The woman, while being handcuffed for the second time, tells the bystander: “No, don’t go away ... film that.”

Councilwoman Monica Montgomery issued a statement Monday calling for “equity in enforcement” after viewing the video on social media. She asked police leaders and the mayor’s office to look into the matter.

“The footage is particularly concerning and disturbing, as this incident occurred on the heels of protests that clearly violated the public health orders. No arrests were made,” Montgomery, chair of the city’s Committee on Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods, said in a statement. “My office is demanding answers as to why this young woman did not receive equitable enforcement and treatment.”

Montgomery said she did not know the woman or details about the incident but said she thought the way the woman was treated was troubling.

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“I have been concerned since my campaign about equitable enforcement in the city of San Diego,” she said.

She said bringing the issue to the “public eye” and discussing it could help improve the situation.

Police officials said the 36-year-old woman was walking in an area where unleashed dogs are prohibited from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. They said the woman refused to talk with lifeguards and police and tried to walk past them.

She was arrested on suspicion of being drunk in public and resisting arrest after she slipped off her handcuffs twice, officials said. She was booked into jail after she was turned away from detox for being uncooperative.

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“The San Diego Police Department has a strict non-bias-based policing policy and does not tolerate policing based on factors such as race, gender or national origin,” according to the statement.

Several people who watched the video noted that others who were unmasked and walking dogs in the area were not cited by police, said Francine Maxwell, president of the local NAACP chapter. Maxwell said the “same old problems” remain as residents try to follow health orders requiring facial coverings and keeping six feet apart in public areas.

“Over this past week, the NAACP San Diego branch has become greatly concerned about what appears to be racial discrimination by law enforcement in enforcing the social distancing mandate,” she said in a statement. “In San Diego, we reviewed a video of an African American female aggressively detained by police officers while walking her dog on the beach — while other beachgoers with their dogs were allowed to enjoy their day.”

Last month, Maxwell said she witnessed her own father, who is black and has dementia, being approached by a police van that “jumped the curb” as he was walking alone in a park when parks were closed. Two days later, local protesters, many not wearing masks or following social distancing rules, were allowed to demonstrate in downtown without being cited.

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“I am left ... wondering just what it was that made those officers feel that jumping a curb and driving up on a lone pedestrian was a sensible way to enforce a public health measure,” she wrote at the time. “Was their need to enforce their will on a black man really that strong? There was no need to charge their vans into the ‘Freedom Rally’ two days later, so we have to wonder.”

As for Friday’s incident, Maxwell said several people who have seen the video have questioned the “roughness of the arrest” and wondered why a female officer wasn’t called to assist. “Bystanders were offended by the way she was being flipped around,” she added.

Officials said they will review the conduct of officers involved in the arrest to determine if any policies were violated.

Kucher writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.


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