On Friday (August 24) I had lunch at Del Taco on C and 11th downtown. I used the restroom and came out to see a tall middle-aged homeless man yelling at the restaurant’s security guard.
As I walked by, the homeless man turned to me and spit in my face. Thank God I’ve been vaccinated against Hepatitis A, I thought. I would’ve rather get punched in the face.
I called 911, but the man got away. The dispatcher told me a police officer would come out to meet me. After waiting an hour I went down the street to police headquarters on Broadway between 14th and 15th to file a report there. I was told they couldn’t do it. The central division station was responsible. I went back to the meeting point on 11th.
I continued to wait. I called to see if I could go to the central division station at 25th and Imperial to file the report. They refused. So I kept waiting. It was 12:44 pm when I called 911. An officer arrived at 4:20 pm.
The officer who came refused to file a report. There was an incident report (because I called 911), but there would be no crime report and no investigation, he told me.
He explained to me that the crime was a misdemeanor and that police officers cannot arrest people for misdemeanors unless it happens in their presence. He said the only way a prosecution can happen is through a “citizen’s arrest,” but the perpetrator had to be present for that to happen.
The officer added that since more than three hours had passed it was a “cold case,” even though the only time that passed was the time it took for police to respond.
Not long after I told the officer Del Taco has video surveillance and the security guard was a witness, he said he had to leave for another radio call and drove away.
One Del Taco employee told me people have come into the restaurant and spit in his face many times. “One guy came in spitting so much he was trying to make it shower on me. I called the cops and they never came. Spitting in someone's face has to be a felony. It’s chemical warfare.”
He continued, “If the cops come at all they always come after it’s too late. It's almost to the point where you have to take justice into your own hands.”
When I lived in Barrio Logan last summer a former resident who stayed in the apartment before I moved in returned when he was released from prison. He came to the apartment demanding to be let in. When I declined to unlock the front door he threatened to assault me and destroy my property. He left when I got my phone out.
The San Diego police officers at the central division station refused to file either a crime report or an incident report about the threats made against me. They said they only file reports after crimes are committed.
In El Cajon last month a man waiting at a bus stop next to me randomly elbowed me in the chest. It was a four-hour wait to speak to a police officer. I was told the same thing in that case, no arrest would be made because the act wasn’t done in the presence of police officers.
A San Diego Sheriff’s spokesperson pointed me to “Arrests,” published by Alameda District Attorney’s Office, which explains California state law prohibits (with certain exceptions) police officers from making arrests for misdemeanors not done in their presence.
It would be considered “in the presence” if a police officer views an incident through live video surveillance, but is not considered “in the presence” if a police officer views a video recording of something that already happened, no matter how recent.