San Diego, CA – An internal affairs investigation determined that a San Diego police captain and acting lieutenant overstepped their authority when they confronted a coffee shop employee whom they believed had tampered with an officer’s food.
The incident occurred on June 2, 2020 at the Urbane Café in the Morena neighborhood, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
An employee of the restaurant posted a TikTok video of the incident during which she explained that when she handed a police officer his order, she told him “Thank you. Black Lives Matter.”
The incident occurred during the same period as the initial riots after the death of George Floyd in the custody of the Minneapolis police, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
The employee claimed the officer laughed at her and walked out of the coffee shop.
But it turned out the officer interpreted the remarks from the employee as meaning she may have tampered with his food, and he reported the exchange to his superiors.
About an hour later, a San Diego Police Department (SDPD) captain and an acting lieutenant walked into the Urbane Café, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
The employee claimed in her complaint to the police department that the officials confronted her at the counter and asked for contact information for the manager of the coffee shop.
She filmed a video of her encounter with the police officials that showed they pressured her for her manager’s phone number.
However, the employee refused to provide the information and claimed she didn’t have a phone number for her boss, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
“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 asked in the video.
The employee told the officer in the video that if something happened, she would go look for her manager’s phone number, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
“Okay, let’s go look for his number,” the lieutenant said in the video.
Then the employee asked why they wanted her manager’s number.
“Because we don’t feel safe coming here any longer…” he replied.
“Oh you don’t feel safe coming here any longer?” the employee asked in an antagonizing manner.
“To eat, correct,” the captain said, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
She refused to get the manager’s number and the police officials informed her they’d track it down “some other way then.”
Multiple people filed complaints against the officials after the video the employee posted to TikTok went viral, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
In October of 2020, those who had complained received a letter from SDPD and the San Diego Community Review Board on Police Practices that outlined the findings of the internal investigation into the incident at the Urbane Café.
The letters said 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 San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
Records showed that the investigation found the two police officials “abused their position obtaining privileges not otherwise available to them while in uniform and on duty.”
Records also indicated that the lieutenant wasn’t in complete uniform when he approached the coffee shop employee, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
However, the investigation did not find that the police officials had “engaged in discriminatory policing,” according to documents.
The police department has not said if either of the officials were disciplined for the incident, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
SDPD Spokesman Lieutenant Shawn Takeuchi said “all sustained findings can result in discipline” but said state law prevented him from discussing any disciplinary outcome of the investigation
“We understand the community must have confidence in the integrity of the police department,” he said in a statement.