Appalled, Simply Appalled
I picked up a copy of the Reader yesterday and read your “SDPD — Got an Attitude?” story (“City Lights,” December 4). I am outraged by the behavior of the two police officers that handled Mr. Vegas’s case. I perceive the police officers as callous, and it bothers me, and it should bother every other San Diegan in several different ways. Part of the police job is to help and to protect us. Better said, here’s what the San Diego Police Department’s mission is:
Vision: We are committed to working together, within the department, in a problem-solving partnership with communities, government agencies, private groups and individuals to fight crime and improve the quality of life for the people of San Diego.
Values: The principles upon which we base our policing are:
Human Life — The protection of human life is our highest priority.
Ethics — We will demonstrate integrity and honor in all our actions.
Crime Fighting — Our efforts to address neighborhood problems will be based on a partnership with the community.
Valuing People — We will treat each other with dignity and respect, protecting the rights and well-being of all individuals.
Loyalty — We will be loyal to the community, to the department and its members, and to the standards of our profession.
Open Communication — We will listen to one another’s opinions and concerns.
Fairness — Our decisions will be based on common sense and will be balanced, moral, legal, and without personal favoritism.
Diversity — We appreciate one another’s differences and recognize that our unique skills, knowledge, abilities, and backgrounds bring strength and caring to our organization.
Mission: Our mission is to maintain peace and order by providing the highest-quality police services in response to community needs by apprehending criminals, developing partnerships, respecting individuals.
It seems that those two officers failed miserably upholding the values of the department: ethics, human life, crime fighting, valuing people, open communication, fairness, and diversity. They didn’t treat Mr. Vega with respect, they didn’t apprehend the person who assaulted him, and one of them intimidated Mr. Vega — the victim — by threatening to put him in jail.
In addition, the first police officer passed judgment on Mr. Vega — according to your story — by saying, “What did you expect?” and “What do you want me to do about it?” and “Here’s what I’m going to do: I am going to take you to jail, take him to jail, or you can forget about it, go to the hospital, and get it stitched up.”
That officer lacks the morality, compassion, sensitivity, and humanity to wear the police uniform. It is hard to believe that he was not impartial, that he took the incident so lightly, especially when Vegas was in pain and bleeding. And not even to offer to call an ambulance?
What is as appalling is that the officer that showed up at the hospital hours later to take the criminal report comes with a bias toward Critical Mass already by saying, “ ‘Yeah, I know Critical Mass, I know what Critical Mass is all about.… Why did you participate in Critical Mass?’ And I said, ‘For the exercise. I have friends that ride, and they invited me.’ So he says, ‘Well, the next time you might want to do a little more research before you go out and just join up with a group of people. Critical Mass is an anarchist organization.’ ”
The police officer’s job is not to judge or to ask why Vegas participated in the Critical Mass ride. In fact, that is none of his business. I might be wrong, but my understanding is that the police officer is there to write a report, to take the account of the victim, not to judge or to make any comments about it.
I am disgusted by those two officers’ behavior and biases but not surprised. I am afraid that the police department here in San Diego has not changed at all and definitely not since the publication of Breaking Rank: A Top Cop’s Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing by former assistant chief Norm Stamper and Kevin M. LaChapelle’s Please God, Don’t Let My Badge Tarnish.
The following assertion about policing made by Norm Stamper might help illustrate why such police misconduct still exists. In his book, Stamper writes, “Even today, policing serves the interests of politicians over ‘the people,’ landlords over tenants, merchants over consumers, whites over blacks, husbands over wives, management over labor, except when ‘labor’ is the police union.”
Lastly, I just would like to remind the SDPD that they work for us. They get paid by the City of San Diego with taxpayers’ money. I know that most police officers behave ethically and responsibly, but to those who don’t, please don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
Light Shed By Don
After reading “What We Would Have Asked Andrea” (“City Lights,” December 4), I’d like to tip my hat to Don Bauder and his dogged pursuit of answers from San Diego’s government officials, including independent budget analyst Andrea Tevlin. It’s often tough for laypeople like me to figure out who to believe regarding the trouble at city hall — but when officials like Ms. Tevlin simply refuse to answer fair questions like Mr. Bauder’s, well, that sheds a lot of light.
Re Don Bauder’s December 4 Reader article (“What We Would Have Asked Andrea”).
Look, most government programs are gold-plated shovels with rope handles. San Diego is not alone in its incompetence, lack of transparency, and greed. For example, American taxpayers just shoveled out about half of the $700 billion requested by Treasury and approved by Congress, but nobody knows where the money went. The dole required but got no accounting.
Bell Rings True
Thanks for your article by Commander Bell (RET) (“Saved by Commander Bell,” Feature Story, December 4). I read every word. It brought back memories of my time on the Bainbridge (CGN25) in the South China Seas. And to think there are people today who think we should withdraw from Iraq. Thanks for your service, sir.