Tasha Williamson says she is a civil rights activist. She organized the protest outside the Southern Division in Nestor Monday night, but she was far outnumbered by residents and business owners who showed up to support the officers and thank them for their service.
"You hear words like quota and you get a little nervous, but I don't, and knowing these police officers, I don't believe for a minute that any of this was racially motivated or supposed to be directed at communities of color. I've been a person of color, I've seen things, they're not happening here," said Jason Wells.
Williamson and a handful of other people at the protest are upset about an email sent by a police sergeant to the 90 officers at the Southern Division suggesting a reward based program for drug arrests.
Team 10 obtained the email from an officer who wished to remain anonymous out of fears for his job.
According to the email, the officer with the most points would be rewarded with the opportunity to work in a specialized unit for up to a month. The goal was to motivate officers, increase experience and target high-crime areas. It stated the program was being instituted in Southern Division and is strictly voluntary. It also stated that the program runs from March 1 (retroactive) to April 14.
Williamson said the fact the whistleblower felt the need to go to the media, not a supervisor, is another red flag.
"I'm also concerned that no one else stepped forward out of the 90 officers, only one, and I'm concerned about the culture in the department in how they are really an open door policy," said Williamson. The anonymous officer told Team 10, other officers were concerned but allowed him to speak for them.
Protesters also say "quota systems" breed corruption and target low-income neighborhoods with fewer resources to fight drug problems.
"I'm concerned that incentive-based programs within internally with the police department would cause corruption and the incentive-based program in low-income communities for drug arrests have primarily been discriminatory," said Williamson.
"Policing should not be a game. It's not fun to arrest people if you want to do a quota, do it on something that can't be transferred from one pocket to another during a stop," said another protester.
San Diego's new Police Chief David Nisleit told 10News the program was never authorized or carried out. Chief Nisleit said the email was sent by mistake and retracted within days. The chief said he's launching an internal investigation into why and how the idea was developed. We asked what happened to the sergeant who sent the email, we are still waiting for a response.
Williamson is calling on the chief to meet with her personally, along with other activists, so they can share their concerns.