Racial justice organizations call for reforms after contentious arrest in Carlsbad

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CARLSBAD, Calif. – Racial justice organizations throughout San Diego County gathered Friday in front of the Carlsbad Police Department to call for law enforcement reforms following the contentious arrest of a 27-year-old Black man earlier this month.

San Diego resident Marcel Cox-Harshaw was arrested after being Tased by officers in a June 11 incident where arrest footage shows him shouting, “I’m not doin’ nothing!” The arrest comes in the midst of a national conversation as well as worldwide protests on policing following the Memorial Day police killing of Minneapolis man George Floyd.

Yusef Miller, founding member of the North County Civil Liberties Coalition, was critical of Carlsbad officers, arguing there was “zero” attempt made to de-escalate the situation with Cox-Harshaw. He said police involvement made the interaction with Cox-Harshaw go from “volatile to violent in under a minute.”

“We see what’s going on around the nation,” Miller said. “Places are in uproar from coast to coast and around the world from overpolicing, brutal policing, disregard for people’s lives — and we see changes happening, from city to city. But then we have this outbreak of violence against a civilian in Carlsbad.”

He added, “It makes us think the changes and initiatives are superficial. They don’t really matter; they’re just placation.”

The North County Civil Liberties Coalition was joined by officials representing the North San Diego County NAACP, Encinitas for Equality, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Showing Up for Racial Justice. They collectively called for a number of reforms, including creation of a community review board to review police practices, reallocation of police funding, improvements to body-worn camera technology, a public forum for transparency on police interactions with citizens and additional training on de-escalation and implicit bias.

Miller also called for the involved officers in the Cox-Harshaw arrest to be reprimanded.

“If you can not reprimand the officers for violating your own policy, then how safe are we on the 8 Can’t Wait program?” he said.

Robert Jenkins of the North San Diego County NAACP noted his remarks were being delivered on Juneteenth, a holiday which annually commemorates the end of slavery. But Jenkins said Americans need to understand that “even though the shackles are off, Black Americans are still in bondage.”

“We are not free,” Jenkins said. “We are not free from racial injustice; we’re not free from racism; we’re not free from police brutality.”

Earlier this month, the department announced it had enacted all eight policies under the 8 Can’t Wait program such as banning chokeholds and shooting at vehicles, putting into place de-escalation tactics and requiring comprehensive reporting on use-of-force incidents.

In response to the news conference, a spokeswoman said the department “understands that ongoing officer training is crucial for effective community policing.” Carlsbad police also released a list of de-escalation training sessions dating back to 2015, including a 2020 course created with the district attorney’s office that will be attended by “all officers.”

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