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San Diego NAACP leader calls de-escalation plan 'utterly inadequate'

SDPD police car
Posted at 1:27 PM, Jun 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-13 16:27:13-04

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The president of the NAACP San Diego Branch Saturday criticized the proposal to de-escalate confrontational law enforcement situations adopted Wednesday by the San Diego County Police Chiefs and Sheriff's Association.

The plan calls on all police personnel to "use tactics and techniques to persuade" suspects to "voluntarily comply" and mitigate the need to use increased physical tactics to resolve situations safely, the association said.

Francine Maxwell, NAACP San Diego Branch president, issued a statement in reaction to the proposal: "We find this document to be profoundly tone- deaf and utterly inadequate. This document seems to have been prepared inside an echo chamber of highly paid law enforcement officials. Where was the input from the taxpaying public?"

The policies unanimously adopted by the group are the culmination of a project that began last June with the creation of a committee tasked with exploring the hot-button issue. The committee included representatives from all countywide municipal police agencies, the San Diego County District Attorney's Office and a local psychiatric emergency-response team.

Guiding the development of the new policy was "the overarching principle of reverence for human life in all investigative, enforcement and other interactions between law enforcement and members of the community," according to the association.

But Maxwell responded to the proposal by asking, "Where in this document is it affirmed that the purpose of law enforcement is to protect and to serve, not to dominate and control? Where in this document are the policies and procedures needed to reign in the abuse, violence, and death that so regularly occur in citizen interactions with law enforcement?"

Maxwell asked the law enforcement group to apologize for and withdraw the proposal, which said argued "does nothing to restore the public's trust and faith." She made a few other recommendations as well, including asking law enforcement to sit down with individuals who have suffered trauma and abuse, and she asked that officials move swiftly to build a new spirit of service and protection into their departments.

She said officers who will not change should be removed, "rather than allow them to corrupt another generation of recruits with their aggression and violence."

According to the association's strategy, peace officers should consider these concepts:

-- Pre-engagements which involve "the process of gathering and assessing information prior to deploying the available personnel, tactics, equipment and other appropriate and obtainable resources" so as to "enhance the probability of a peaceful outcome."

-- De-escalation, which hinges on the use of techniques intended "to gain voluntary compliance from an individual in order to gain or maintain control of an incident while reducing the need for physical coercion."

-- Disengagement, or "tactical withdraw," an enforcement method that can "be a viable option for individuals in crisis who pose no additional threats to others, or resistant offenders who may later be apprehended under safer conditions."

The mission of the project "was to not only define best practices for de-escalation, but to do so collectively to ensure the county is of one mind on the philosophy," said Chula Vista Police Chief Roxana Kennedy, president of the police-leadership body. "As part of this community, we understand the importance of violence prevention whenever possible, and de- escalation techniques are the best way to get there."

The association included the law enforcement leadership of the county and all local cities, as well as San Diego Harbor Police, the county Probation Department and the police departments of the San Diego Community College District, San Diego State University, San Diego Unified School District and the University of California San Diego.