Civil rights defenders said this week that San Diego police officers and county jail lawmakers refused to return seized cell phones to people who were arrested during an August protest, including those who may have been released without charge or that their charges were quickly dismissed.
A sheriff’s spokesman denied the allegation.
In a letter sent Thursday to the San Diego Police Chief and the City Attorney, and the County Sheriff and District Attorney, civil rights lawyers said the alleged seizure of cellphones and refusal to return them does not appear to be. ” the result of isolated decisions by individual officials “, but rather part of a” written or de facto policy “.
The claims were presented in a letter sent by attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties, Community Advocates for Just and Moral Governance, and Singleton Law Firm.
“The Sheriff’s Department did not seize any phones from those arrested during a protest in downtown San Diego on Aug. 28,” Sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Ricardo Lopez wrote in a statement Friday, citing the prison’s policy on handling items. personal property. “It’s not true that the sheriff’s department is holding the phones of released inmates.”
Lopez said the sheriff’s department asked civil rights lawyers “for a list of the names of those who claim they have not received their phones but have not received such information.”
San Diego Police Department officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday. A spokesperson for the county district attorney’s office said the sheriff’s department is looking into the matter.
The protest in question took place last Friday in August, when about 150 protesters marched through downtown San Diego and protested outside the police headquarters on Broadway in solidarity with the protests that broke out in Wisconsin following the police shooting of the 29-year-old. Jacob Blake.
San Diego police arrested at least nine people in San Diego during the demonstration, including four in an incident involving a pepper spraying man. The police later arrested him, as well as two people accused of shining lasers at officers and a police helicopter.
Three others were arrested later that night outside police headquarters: one for allegedly punching an agent, one for allegedly kicking an agent, and one for allegedly interfering with an arrest.
One of the protesters arrested that night told the Union-Tribune Friday that he did not get his phone back. Although he refused to give his name, a reporter witnessed his arrest. The protester said police told him that his and other phones were being kept for investigative reasons.
In their letter, civil rights lawyers said that if there is a policy or practice of seizing protesters ‘cell phones without returning them, it “violates the protesters’ Fourth Amendment and due process rights, and should be immediately repealed and repudiated.” .