Cultural Awareness App for Police Agencies

Cultural Awareness App for Law Enforcement

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced today that her office has created an app that provides key cultural knowledge about San Diego County’s various, diverse communities to help law enforcement officers respond respectfully during non-emergency situations. [TWEET THIS]

The Cultural Awareness Project (CAP App) was developed under the guidance of the DA’s Interfaith Advisory Board, which conducted focus groups with various community representatives to inform its content. The app provides information on cultural norms across 11 communities including African-American youth, Mexican/Mexican-American, Asian, Vietnamese, East African/Somali, East African/Somali Youth, Muslim, Samoan, Native American and more. For example, the app provides easy-to-read information on a group’s traditions and beliefs, greetings, what to expect when visiting households, and what the group’s historical experiences with law enforcement are.

“San Diego County is home to a variety of races, ethnicities, religions and cultural backgrounds,” DA Summer Stephan Said. “Building law enforcement’s understanding of our diverse communities helps to improve respectful and culturally competent communication. This new and innovative app has great promise to help advance trust between police and the communities they serve because it is a tool built by the community from the ground up. I want to thank the members of our DA Interfaith Advisory Board for devoting months of time gathering the pertinent information and making this app a reality.”

The San Diego Police Chiefs’ and Sheriff’s Association also embraced the app.

“Developing cultural competencies is an important part of modern policing,” Chief David Nisleit, said. “I want to thank all of the community groups for their collaboration on this project.”

The District Attorney’s Interfaith Advisory Board was formed over a decade ago as a way of maintaining an open dialogue between the DA’s Office and the various communities throughout San Diego County. Each month, leaders from a variety of religious organizations meet at the DA’s CARE Center where they voice community concerns and work on solution-oriented initiatives to address the needs they identify as public safety issues. The Board has and will continue to provide cultural insight to law enforcement officials in non-emergency situations.

“Whenever there’s a job to do, you must have the right tools to accomplish the job,” said Dr. Gerald L. Johnson, Chairman of United African American Ministerial Action Council and member of the DA’s Interfaith Advisory Board. “All jobs are important, especially those of our professionals who are sworn to public safety. We will witness the importance of the CAP App as the testimonies are documented from the community and professionals alike sharing the same tool.”

Members of the Interfaith Advisory Board worked on the CAP App since the idea was conceived.

“It’s very important to have our local law enforcement officers equipped with the accurate information on the communities they serve and protect,” said Imam Taha Hassane, Director of the Islamic Center of San Diego and a member of the DA’s Interfaith Advisory Board.

Each of the 11 communities has four categories of information, and each category provides culturally based knowledge to guide interactions with members of that community:

Traditions and Beliefs

Every community shares different cultural/ethnic/religious traditions or beliefs of which law enforcement needs to be aware of to have effective encounters.

Greetings

This category reflects the appropriate manner of greeting in different cultures, including demeanor, non-verbal, body space, handshake, bow, male-female interaction, etc.

Visiting Households

The information provided under this category helps officers identify who is considered the head of the household in each culture and who should be addressed or acknowledged first.

Experiences with Law Enforcement

This section includes shared views, perceptions and past experiences with law enforcement in different cultures that reflect certain behaviors upon contact with the officers.

The app is intended to help prepare law enforcement before encountering a member of the public from a different culture in a non-emergency situation. It is an easy and quick tool to navigate, before an interaction in the field, especially when conducting home visits. The app will also be helpful as a debriefing resource when an encounter has not gone well.

The CAP app is free and available and ready to download in the Apple and Android app stores under “Cultural Awareness Project.” The app does not have access to a user’s camera or contacts. [TWEET THIS]

Photo of Investigative Specialist Arnel Alamo for AAPI Heritage Month.

Meet Investigative Specialist Arnel Alamo

In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we are highlighting compelling stories from DA employees and what inspired them to pursue a career in public service.

Meet DA Investigative Specialist Arnel Alamo, who has been part of the District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation (BOI) since 2006. He conducts low end investigations and serve criminal subpoenas throughout the County. He also performs a wide variety of investigative functions related to the DA’s Bureau of Investigations.

Why did you decide to work at the DA’s Office?

“When I was a college student pursuing my Criminal Justice degree, I interned at the Public Defender’s Office and the Chula Vista Police Department Crime Lab. My experience in my internship motivated me to pursue a career in public service. I have always enjoyed interacting with the public and working with our Criminal Justice System. Working for the District Attorney’s Office gave me the opportunity to do both.”

Why is AAPI Heritage Month important to you?

“With the current climate towards Asians, I think it is important to highlight and share – whether it’s through their voices, food, entertainment, or music – the contributions Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have made towards US history. AAPI month celebrates our culture and heritage while reflecting on our families’ sacrifices for an opportunity for a brighter future for the next generation.”

Photo of Human Resources Manager Cynthia Truong for AAPI Heritage Month.

Meet Cynthia Truong

In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we are highlighting compelling stories from DA employees and what inspired them to pursue a career in public service.

Meet Cynthia Truong, who serves as Human Resources Manager for the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.  Cynthia began her career with the County of San Diego in 2001 as a Child Support Officer and came to work at the DA’s Human Resources division in 2004. Cynthia manages the Human Resources Information Systems unit, including hiring, recruitments, performance evaluations, compensation, HRIS, payroll, retention, taxes, policies and procedures, etc.

In the past several years, Cynthia has also represented the DA’s Office at community events, especially in the Asian and Vietnamese American communities. “It is my great pleasure to serve as an ambassador for the DA’s Office to support our office’s community initiatives, as well as law enforcement organizations and events, including those hosted by the San Diego Police Department’s Multi-Cultural Community Relations Office and the San Diego Pan Pacific Law Enforcement Association (PANPAC).”

Why did you decide to work at the DA’s Office?

“I was inspired by many important roles that our DA’s Office offers to the San Diego County community. It was an opportunity for me to join the office to make contributions to a fast pace, productive working environment to serve the public to apply equal justice under the law to protect our community and ensure that victims of crime are treated with compassion and respect.”

Why is AAPI Heritage Month important to you?

“AAPI month is important to me as it is not just to celebrate America’s diversity but also a time to learn about the history of our different culturesrecognizing the great contributions and influence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans to the culture, history, and achievements of the United States. This year, it especially important because of a sharp increase in anti-Asian discrimination since the start of the pandemic.

Welk Resorts Will Pay Up To $ 5.5 Million To Settle Consumer Protection Lawsuit

Convicted Murderer Mark Rogowski Seeking Parole

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced today that a parole hearing will occur tomorrow for Mark “Gator” Rogowski, 54, who was convicted of rape and murder in 1992. Rogowski is serving a sentence of 31 years-to-life for the murder of Jessica Bergsten.

Rogowski was a nationally known skateboard personality from Carlsbad who rose to prominence in the 1980s. On March 21, 1991, he raped and murdered 22-year old Jessica Bergsten and transported her body to a remote desert area, where her skeletal remains were found several weeks later.

The skater had previously been denied parole in 2011 and 2016 but was granted parole on his third try in December 2019, when a panel of parole hearing officers found that he was suitable for release. Governor Newsom disagreed and reversed the decision in April 2020. He is currently incarcerated at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego, where the hearing will be held.

“The family and friends of Jessica Bergsten deserve the continued promise of justice in this case,” DA Summer Stephan said. “Our office has a responsibility to argue strongly against releasing this violent defendant. We handle hundreds of parole hearings each year, doing our best when it’s appropriate to make sure dangerous criminals are not released and crime victims are given a voice.”

At the time of the murder, Rogowski’s girlfriend had broken up with him. In addition, skateboarding was changing from ramps to the street. Rogowski did not think he could do well on street skating and saw his lucrative career coming to an end. He was also upset over his relationship with Bergsten coming to an end. Rogowski hit Bergsten on the head with The Club (a steering wheel locking device), raped her and suffocated her in a surfboard bag. He confessed to the crime several weeks later.

Deputy District Attorney John Cross will appear on behalf of the People at tomorrow’s hearing to argue that Rogowski remains an unreasonable risk of danger to society. One of the victim’s family members will also attend the hearing and is expected to provide a victim impact statement regarding the effects of the crime upon their family and the unsuitability of the inmate for parole.

The hearing will take place tomorrow, May 27 at 10:30 a.m. in a closed session that is not accessible to the public.

Photo of Deputy DA Helen Kim for AAPI Heritage Month.

Meet DDA Helen Kim

In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we are highlighting compelling stories from DA employees and what inspired them to pursue a career in public service.

Meet Deputy District Attorney Helen Kim, who is currently assigned to the felony unit in the North County branch.

Why did you decide to work at the DA’s Office?

“My family had lost our small business during the 1992 riots.  My parents did not know the language or the law, and as a young child, I witnessed my parents stand helplessly on the sidelines as their hopes and dreams were destroyed.  I realized this was a familiar story to many immigrant families.  I vowed to fight for victims who felt invisible and voiceless.  As a deputy district attorney, not only can I directly help those who have been victimized in a specific incident, but also indirectly protect future victims through legislation and case law.”

Why is AAPI Month important to you?

“AAPI month is important to me as it celebrates and honors AAPI who have contributed to the enrichment and progress of this country with sweat, tears, and sacrifice.  Racism against AAPI is not new, but with the recent rise of violence against Asian Americans, AAPI month is especially important to educate against stereotypes, promote diversity, and bring communities together.”

NACo 2021 Achievement Award Winner Logo.

Workplace Justice Unit wins Achievement Award

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced today that her office has been recognized with an Achievement Award for its new Workplace Justice Unit, from the National Association of Counties (NACo). The awards honor innovative, effective county government programs that strengthen services for residents. [TWEET THIS]

In February, the District Attorney’s Office launched its Workplace Justice Unit, which is dedicated to protecting workers’ rights, prosecuting criminal wage theft cases and stopping labor trafficking. In launching the unit, DA Stephan took into consideration community response and hosted a workplace justice panel in partnership with San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, to identify ways to better-protect workers across the county, many of whom come from minority and disadvantaged communities.

“We accept this national award on behalf of all workers and those who advocate on their behalf. We appreciate the advocates who have trusted our DA Workplace Justice team with the labor abuses committed on workers,” DA Summer Stephan said. “Wage theft and labor trafficking are serious problems that we are working to contain in partnership with the community. We’re not going to allow workers in San Diego County to be exploited by greedy employers who break the law to line their own pockets and this award confirms we are on the right track.”

The DA’s new Workplace Justice Unit is comprised of a dedicated prosecutor, DA investigator and paralegal. The Unit prosecutes unfair business practices, wage and hour violations, payroll tax evasion, wage theft and labor trafficking cases. As part of the formation of the Unit, the DA’s Insurance Fraud Division was re-named the Insurance Fraud and Workplace Justice Division.

To more effectively protect workers and seek equitable workplace justice, the DA’s Office is educating the public on worker rights through a wallet or palm card in English and Spanish and has created a public web page where anyone can obtain information about workplace justice and where victims of workplace crimes can report directly to the District Attorney’s Office. In addition, workers can also email or call the workplace justice hotline to make a report or report claims directly on the DA’s website.

Workplace Justice Wallet Card

Workplace Justice Wallet Card

NACo President Gary Moore said, “Over the past year, county officials and frontline employees have demonstrated bold, inspirational leadership. This year’s Achievement Award winning programs illustrate the innovative ways counties build healthy, safe and vibrant communities across America.”

Nationally, awards are given in 18 different categories that reflect the vast, comprehensive services counties provide. The categories include children and youth, criminal justice and public safety, county administration, information technology, health, civic engagement and many more.

Started in 1970, NACo’s annual Achievement Awards program is designed to recognize county government innovations. Each nominee is judged on its own merits and not against other applications received. [TWEET THIS]

Photo of Staff Development Coordinator Kevin Chheng for AAPI Heritage Month.

Meet Staff Development Coordinator Kevin Chheng

In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we are highlighting compelling stories from DA employees and what inspired them to pursue a career in public service.
Meet Kevin Chheng, who works in the Human Resources Department of the District Attorney’s Office as a Staff Development Coordinator. In his role, Kevin administers and maintains the DA’s internal personnel database, he assists with personnel and administrative support services, payroll and he also coordinates student worker recruitment.
Why did you decide to work at the DA’s Office?
“The main reasons I wanted to work here is because our commitment to the community and being a part of an organization that not only serves and protects, but also values giving back to others is really important to me. This is a place committed to giving back to the community and where I know I can make an impact. There is a positive culture that always puts people first and creates an environment where I continue to be challenged and I am able to grow personally and professionally.”
Why is AAPI Month important to you?
“AAPI month is important because it celebrates our diversity and immigration rights in America. It also acknowledges the positive impact that Asian Americans have had here in United States. My cultural background plays a major part in my lifestyle, values, and beliefs. Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) month is important to me because it’s an opportunity to celebrate my cultural heritage, as well as a time to educate each other. Taking the time to learn about different cultures can help us all understand and respect each other, especially during this time of fear and confusion. It can really be an eye-opener on how diverse the world is!”
Photo of DA Summer Stephan at news conference to announce Juvenile Diversion Initiative.

DA Rolls Out Innovative Juvenile Diversion Program

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan today announced an ambitious new juvenile justice reform initiative designed to keep juveniles out of the criminal justice system while addressing the underlying cause of harmful behavior. The Juvenile Diversion Initiative (JDI) is a countywide early intervention program that prioritizes diversion options for youth instead of filing criminal charges. The goal is to reduce the number of youth who enter the juvenile justice system, engage the community and stakeholders in the youth’s rehabilitation, and address the causes of the their unsafe behavior while at the same time fostering accountability to crime victims and community. [TWEET THIS]

Once in the diversion program, youth will participate with their family or caregiver and have access to services they may need that will help address contributing factors to their harmful behavior. Youth who successfully complete the program will leave with an understanding of the impact of their choices and will avoid permanent and negative outcomes related to the formal criminal justice system, including stigma, labeling and having a criminal record.

“The DA Juvenile Diversion Initiative is a leap forward in dismantling the school to prison pipeline and providing youth across our county a bridge to leading a healthy life, away from the criminal justice system,” said DA Summer Stephan. “If we can redirect juveniles from the very start, it spares them the negative effects of having a criminal record and gives them a better chance at success in the future. Providing them with culturally competent and restorative resources that address the root causes of the criminal behavior in the communities in which they live support the best outcome for our youth.”

For the first time, this new initiative will offer youth facing a misdemeanor or felony charge the option to participate in diversion before charges are filed as an alternative to prosecution and to avoid future negative outcomes associated with formal proceedings. An additional benefit of the diversion program is the anticipated reduction in formal court proceedings, which will free up limited resources and services for high-risk youth in need of more intensive rehabilitative services.

The DA’s Juvenile Diversion Initiative program is scheduled to begin this summer and will be available for youth between 12 and 18 years of age who commit non-serious offenses not covered under 707(b) of the California Welfare and Institutions Code. The program provides comprehensive therapeutic services, pro-social skill building opportunities, educational support as well as restorative justice community conferencing to ensure participants are supported and the needs of victims are addressed. Participation is a voluntary process, and upon completion the diverted youth will have the opportunity to have their arrest record sealed.

The District Attorney’s Office will work closely with the National Conflict Resolution Center (NCRC) to implement and administer the JDI program including subcontracting for intervention services with community providers and the private sector. The organization will collaborate with the community for ongoing support for youth by embedding restorative justice principles in community engagement and participation. NCRC will also provide restorative support to victims as part of the development of each participant’s case plan.

“We are grateful to the county for giving NCRC the opportunity to collaborate with the DA’s office to change the course of high-risk youth in our community through this innovative program,” said Steven Dinkin, president of the National Conflict Resolution Center. “Our team is uniquely qualified to administer the JDI program as NCRC has been at the forefront of restorative justice practices in the San Diego community for over a decade helping to provide alternative methods to conflict resolution rather than detention or incarceration.”

[Click here if you’re a community-based organization with services you believe might fit with the Juvenile Diversion Initiative.]

The DA’s Juvenile Division files an average of 1,900 criminal cases each year. It’s estimated that about 500 juveniles will be offered the opportunity to participate in the Juvenile Diversion Initiative annually.

Research shows a majority of youth who are arrested and charged with delinquent behavior do not become repeat offenders. Given this data, the DA’s Juvenile Diversion Initiative is designed to reduce the risk of criminal socialization by providing positive social interactions, instilling discipline, improving school engagement, and addressing the underlying causes of such behavior.

Over the past five years, the number of people in juvenile detention has been reduced without increasing crime thanks to a partnership with the Probation Department, Public Defender, law enforcement and the San Diego Superior Court. In 2015, there were 450 minors in juvenile detention and today there are less than 160, most of whom have committed a violent or serious offense. [TWEET THIS]

The District Attorney’s work in juvenile justice reform includes improved options for reporting student abuse or trauma in the home or at school, an increased focus on preventing school shootings and a human trafficking curriculum provided to schools.

Read more about juvenile justice-related reforms here.

Photo of Deputy DA Hung Bach and District Attorney Summer Stephan.

Meet Deputy DA Hung Bach

In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we are highlighting compelling stories from DA employees and what inspired them to pursue a career in public service.

Meet Deputy District Attorney Hung Bach who is currently working at the Juvenile Branch and is also a board member and secretary of the National Asian Pacific Islanders Prosecutors Association.

Why did you decide to work at the DA’s Office?

“I have always wanted to ‘do the right thing’ in life, both inside and outside of the office, and both in my professional life and personal life.  Our office personifies ‘doing the right thing’ day in and day out – attaining justice by protecting our community, advocating for our victims, holding defendants accountable for their crimes, rehabilitating defendants, and preventing future crimes. I’m truly honored and humbled to be part of this office as we all strive to ‘do the right thing’ every day.

Why is AAPI Month important to you?

“AAPI Month is important to me because it reminds me of where I came from: My parents and relatives immigrated here during the midst of the Vietnam War. My family risked life and limb in order to live here in the United States, and I am forever grateful and in debt to my family. And because of that, I want to do right by them by working in this office and making them proud.  I never forget where I came from. In light of all of the hate crimes/incidents against the AAPI community, this month serves as a beacon of pride and unity for the AAPI community so that we can be proud of who we are and where we came from.”

Read more stories for AAPI Heritage Month:

Photo of DA Investigator Bao Luu in honor of AAPI Heritage Month.

Meet DA Investigator Bao Luu

In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we are highlighting compelling stories from DA employees and what inspired them to pursue a career in public service.

Meet DA Investigator Bao Luu, who has been part of the District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation (BOI) since 1993. He is a Commander who currently oversees BOI personnel assigned to the Family Protection Division and the Sex Crimes and Human Trafficking Division. Before joining the DA’s Office, he worked as a Deputy Sheriff and Police Detective with the goal of one day being a DA Investigator.

Why did you decide to work at the DA’s Office?

“When I was in the police academy in 1984, I had an instructor who was a DA Investigator taught a class.  During breaks, I spoke to him about his position and what DA Investigators do.  I was fascinated that there are law enforcement officers who work directly with prosecutors and, as a team, bring justice to those who are victimized.

I was a Theater major at UCSD, so I have always enjoyed interacting with people; law enforcement allowed me to interact with people in a way that could have a profound impact on their lives.  My favorite part of the job is that it allows me to use my creativity to solve a crime or prove a case.  Investigation and prosecution of a case take a collaboration of creativity to identify the suspect, gather evidence, identify victims and witnesses, and gain their cooperation.  I find the process exciting and challenging.”

Why is AAPI Month important to you?

“The AAPI community contributes to our society in so many different fields. I also want to celebrate and honor the struggle and sacrifices that families have made to leave their homeland due to wars or repressive governments to bring us here for a brighter future.”

Read more stories for AAPI Heritage Month: