San Diego SPJ is proud to announce the winners in the first distinguished installment of our new annual awards program, the Windows and Walls of San Diego Journalism.
The Window Award for the public official or agency that most prioritized transparency and the public’s right to know last year went to the city of Del Mar. In response to a California Public Records Act request, Del Mar released a 10-minute video last year that showed a reserve sheriff’s deputy reacting angrily after a traffic stop by a city park ranger. The deputy lost his job. The video was released in September and the city revised its body-camera policy in December, acting in the public’s best interest at a time when other police agencies have refused to release body-camera videos. One nomination said: “One request submitted and footage was released.”
The Wall Award for the public official or agency that most ignored media requests or otherwise compromised the public’s right to know went to The San Diego Police Department. The SDPD repeatedly told the public that getting police body cameras would increase public trust and add transparency. But instead, Chief Shelley Zimmerman has publicly said she won’t release most of the footage to the public and that if she did, it would be at her discretion. That doesn’t seem to jibe with the public records law and runs counter to what the public believes body cameras do: Provide a record of what happened. And law enforcement agencies elsewhere are releasing the footage upon request.
At the ceremony on Thursday, SPJ also recognized our 2015 Sunshine Award winners for supporting transparency in government, the cornerstone of democracy. The winners are J.W. August, David Gotfredson and Paul Krueger, three TV journalists from (until recently) competing networks who frequently collaborate and lead the local charge to pressure officials to open public records.