Investigations conducted by Southwestern College and the San Diego District Attorney’s Office into the Oct. 1 incident where college police arrested, cited and released a student for misuse of a disabled parking placard have concluded college officers acted within the district’s police procedures.
Part of the arrest was captured on cell phone video and subsequently shared on social media. Questions were raised on whether the officers acted appropriately. The student’s family believed the officers racially profiled the student, failed to inform the student why he was being stopped and used excessive force, among other violations of police procedure.
“It is important that the concerns of members of our community are addressed and further questions are answered to the extent we can do so,” said Superintendent/President Dr. Kindred Murillo. “We need to have an honest conversation about what we all can do differently, or better, to ensure our students experience the best learning environment at Southwestern College.”
With the support of the Governing Board, Murillo hired an independent investigator. The final investigation concluded that evidence did not support the student’s allegations and the officer’s acted in accordance with the college’s police procedures.
“With any police incident that involves one of our students or a member of our community, the college must use every means at its disposal to ensure that proper procedures are used,” said Murillo. “The Governing Board and I take this and all incidents seriously and are committed to taking action based on our learnings.”
College Police continue meeting with and offering support to the student who was involved in the incident. Administration and College Police have increased their efforts to improve relationships with members of the campus in partnership with multiple constituents, including the Black Student Union, leadership of the Black Alliance and the Academic Senate. Meetings are also planned with the college’s union groups.
Guided by a commitment to equity and inclusion, all police personnel will receive community relations training, including techniques for obtaining voluntary compliance and de-escalation tactics, Murillo said. Officers will become more visible on campus with more foot and bicycle patrols and will increase the number of interactions in civilian clothing.
Under the leadership of Police Chief Davis Nighswonger, the department has reactivated the College Police Advisory Board and is currently inviting members from different campus communities, including representation from the Associated Student Organization. The Advisory Board planning committee, which met in November, is currently planning its work. The inaugural public meeting is scheduled for February, and members intend to solicit input via direct feedback and surveys on matters of concern.
Why the Investigators Report Cannot Be Released
The investigator’s report, and the information within it, is a confidential personnel record of the involved officers (Penal Code section 832.5). With limited exceptions, the College is prohibited by law from disclosing an officer’s personnel records without a court order to do so.
Recently, to promote greater transparency for certain officer-involved incidents, the California legislature created four exceptions, making certain police officer personnel records public: (1) records involving the discharge of a firearm at a person; (2) records concerning the use of force involving great bodily injury or death; (3) records of a sustained finding of sexual misconduct; and (4) records of a sustained finding of dishonesty. (Penal Code section 832.7(b).)
The report concerning the October 1 incident does not fall within any of these exceptions. As a result, the College is prohibited by law from disclosing more about it without a court order.
Southwestern College Police and Administration understand the impact that this incident has caused many members of the college community, including Southwestern’s black students. While the investigations concluded the officers followed procedures, Southwestern College is committing itself to use this incident to learn and grow on how to best serve all our communities and provide the best and safest learning experience for our students. As an organization committed to equity, we encourage any member of our community who would like to share their perspective on how the institution should move forward, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.