The San Diego Union-Tribune
A San Diego police internal investigation found two department leaders overstepped their authority and displayed improper conduct when they confronted a café employee who told an officer, “Black lives matter,” according to records recently obtained by the Union-Tribune and video of the encounter.
A police spokesman said because of state law he could not say whether the pair were disciplined or otherwise comment on the personnel matter.
The incident at Urbane Café in the Morena neighborhood occurred June 2 as the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum across the nation in the days after George Floyd’s death at the hands of police in Minneapolis.
Video recorded by the café employee went viral on TikTok and other social media platforms. In a string of comments, a TikTok user who identified herself as the employee said the ordeal began when she handed an officer food he ordered and said, “Thank you. Black lives matter.”
The employee, who didn’t share her name, said the officer laughed and walked out.
About an hour later, a police captain and acting lieutenant showed up and confronted the employee.
“All because I told an officer, ‘Black lives matter,'” the employee said on TikTok.
The Police Department declined to identify the department members, but records reveal they were a police captain and an acting lieutenant.
The Police Department has said they approached the employee over concerns that an officer’s food had been tampered with.
“Those department members could have communicated with restaurant management in other ways to express their concerns,” the department said in a statement that confirmed an internal investigation.
The video shows the department members repeatedly pressing the employee for her manager’s phone number. The employee says she doesn’t know it off the top of her head or have it saved in her cellphone.
“So if something happened to the store right now and you have to get a hold of him, how would you do that?” the lieutenant says.
The employee says she would look for his number.
“OK, let’s go look for his number,” the lieutenant says.
When the employee asks why they want her manager’s number, the captain responds: “Because we don’t feel safe coming here any longer… .”
“Oh you don’t feel safe coming here any longer?” the employee asks.
“To eat, correct,” the captain says.
When the employee refuses to help them get her manager’s number, the police captain and lieutenant say they’ll track it down “some other way then.”
Letters from the Police Department and the city’s Community Review Board on Police Practices sent in October to people who filed complaints about the incident outline the findings of the internal investigation. The documents show the investigation found the “Captain and Acting Lieutenant engaged in conduct that was unbecoming and their actions have brought the Department into disrepute, impairing the operations of the Department.”
The investigation also determined they “abused their position obtaining privileges not otherwise available to them while in uniform and on duty,” and that the acting lieutenant “was not in complete uniform,” according to the records.
The records indicate claims they “engaged in discriminatory policing” were not sustained.
It was unclear if they were disciplined. Police spokesman Lt. Shawn Takeuchi said “all sustained findings can result in discipline” but said he could not divulge information about the investigation into the café incident under state law.
“We understand the community must have confidence in the integrity of the police department,” he said in a statement.
This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune.
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