El Cajon has a high rate of officer-involved shootings

Nearly two weeks after the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by an El Cajon police officer, street protests and demonstrations have faded but scrutiny of the city’s police force and its relations with the city, in diverse east San Diego County, remain.

An analysis of officer-involved shootings by local agencies shows that El Cajon police have shot 12 people over the last decade —  the highest per capita rate of any agency in San Diego County.

Those 12 shootings — five of which were fatal — give El Cajon the highest rate of shooting per 100,000 people of any law enforcement agency in the county, according to an analysis of police shootings by the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The dozen shootings are the third highest of any agency in the county, trailing only the larger San Diego Police Department and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

Although the rate is high, 11.83 shootings per 100,000 population over the decade, the raw numbers are low — 12 since 2006 for a police force in a city with a population a bit larger than 100,000.

City officials have said that relations between the department and its diverse population are good. In fact, the City Council formally rejected in August a recommendation from the county civil grand jury to establish a citizens review board that would review police conduct and complaints.

In its response to the grand jury, the city cited a remarkable statistic: In 2015, there were 93,000 “citizen contacts” by El Cajon police officers and only a single formal complaint was filed with the department.

It was not an unusual year for the department. In 2014, two complaints were filed out of 89,000 contacts, and the year before eight complaints were made out of 95,000 contacts.

Estela De Los Rios, a longtime civil-rights advocate in El Cajon who has lived there for more than 40 years, said she thinks the number of formal complaints is misleading. 

“That’s not a credible number,” she said. “There’s no logical connection or correlation to what I hear. There are people in the community who are fearful of the police. Something is definitely wrong.”

The shooting analysis comes as the city continues to deal with the fallout from the Sept. 27 shooting of Alfred Olango, 38. Officer Richard Gonsalves fired the fatal shot, while Officer Josh McDaniel shot a Taser. Both officers are 21-year veterans of the force.

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