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Panel discusses how to reduce number of drug users shot by police

By in Press Enterprise on June 15, 2017

By Ryan Hagen

SAN BERNARDINO >> Following an investigation by KPCC and The Sun showing San Bernardino County has double the rate of people showing signs of substance use being shot by police, the reporters behind that story held a panel discussion Wednesday to discuss what can be done in response.

KPCC’s Annie Gilbertson, one of the reporters behind the project, led the discussion about how California’s changing attitudes may change street-level policing.

Also participating in the discussion at Cal State San Bernardino’s Santos Manuel Student Union were the San Bernardino newspaper’s Beatriz Valenzuela, who co-wrote the story; Lolita Harper, who is director of public relations for the Sheriff’s Employees Benefits Association and a former detective for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department; and Eunisses Hernandez, policy coordinator for Drug Policy Alliance.

There was common ground.

“What are some of the solutions when we talk abut policing drug use in our community?” Gilbertson asked at the beginning of the 90-minute discussion attended by about 25 people. “Use of force is such a divisive issue, but in reality, I think community members, police and families of people who have gone through police use of force agree we need safe streets.”

And more treatment options are important, too, said Lolita Harper,

“I agree that there should be social safety nets,’ Harper said. “If California wants to decriminalize this (drugs), then there’s got to be another level between it being legal and the police.”

An investigation by KPCC and The San Bernardino Sun found more than 70 percent of people shot by officers in San Bernardino County in a recent six-year span showed signs of drug or alcohol use. That’s more than double the rate in L.A. County based on the same analysis there.

But public health data show similar rates of drug overdose deaths in the two counties, which experts say is […]    

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