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San Diego

February 21, 1987

City Councilwoman Celia Ballesteros has called for an independent investigation into allegations of police brutality toward Latinos in light of two recent incidents in which officers have been accused of abusing Latino families.

Ballesteros asked City Manager John Lockwood on Thursday to appoint a citizens' group to look into the matter. Lockwood declined Friday to comment on the request until he responds personally to Ballesteros.

Ballesteros' request rose in part out of a Jan. 16 melee involving a Linda Vista family and 11 San Diego police officers. Ballesteros said the internal Police Department review of the incident involving Antonio Pena, 64, and his two sons was not thorough.

She said the report "didn't jibe with what I saw and what the public saw." She was referring to newspaper photographs and television footage of the family, showing bruises that the Penas said came from the brawl with the police.

The police investigation concluded that one officer had used excessive force.

This week, additional allegations of police brutality against a Latino family in San Ysidro emerged. A 38-year-old mother said officers kicked and beat her family Feb. 8 after barging into her apartment in response to a complaint of a noisy party at another apartment.

A police report has accused one of the woman's sons of starting the fight.

The police say the Pena incident began after an officer followed Francisco and Manuel Pena home and attempted to arrest Manuel Pena for drunk driving. The two men resisted arrest, a fight ensued and additional officers were called in, the police said.

But Ballesteros said Friday the police should have stopped Pena immediately, if indeed he was driving erratically. She also questioned the report's claim that Antonio Pena was kicked accidentally in the darkness.

"How can the police say it was too dark when other witnesses say they could see him being kicked?" Ballesteros asked. "I think people need to feel faith (in the police). The minority community needs to work with the Police Department."

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