In 84% of all incidents reported, white men were responsible for the threat or harassment, says alarming SD County study

SDOC News

Results from a recent study into threatening and harassing behavior toward San Diego County elected representatives reveal that 82% of female elected officials and 66% of male elected officials reported receiving threats and harassment. Furthermore, 61% of women and 32% of men who responded admitted to having considered leaving public service due to the threats and harassment.

In the study, researchers conducted both a traditional and social media review of media citations of a threat or incident of harassment toward an elected official for the five-year timeframe from 2017-2022. No matter the official's political affiliation, threats, and harassment were "shockingly common" for officials in San Diego. The traditional media review revealed that,

In 84% of all incidents reported--where information regarding a perpetrator was included--white men were responsible for the threatening and/or harassing behavior.

Researchers clarify,

This is obviously not a conclusive finding," but they note that "it is an area in need of further research to better understand the demographic of those perpetrating threats and harassment.

According to researchers,

Across California, parent protests of student masking guidelines during the pandemic regularly shut down school board meetings with incendiary threats, yelling, and other forms of disruptive activity.

Additionally,

Respondents remarked on small groups of individuals attending public meetings around San Diego County, including in cities where they are not residents, to provide public comment.

Understandably, 23% of elected officials revealed that they are less likely to speak their minds regarding policy due to threats and harassment. On the other hand, 14% admitted to becoming more likely to speak their minds and push back against intimidation.

Watch the video below illustrating San Diego County Sheriff's forcibly removing Audra Morgan from the Chamber.

All data considered, researchers suggest the following eight recommendations to address threats and harassment toward local elected officials:

  1. Increased Accountability for Perpetrators,
  2. Document and Report All Incidents,
  3. Increased Protection for Local Officials,
  4. Potential Revisions to the Brown Act,
  5. Increased Training for Elected Officials,
  6. Prepare for Threats and Harassment,
  7. Partner with Community Organizations, and
  8. Do More Research.

The "How Scared Are You: Mapping the Threat Environment of San Diego's Elected Officials" study reveals that threats and harassment are becoming more numerous and intense. Political actors who disrupt the political process make it almost impossible to have civil dialogue. These disruptions may cause good-willed individuals to reconsider or withdraw from office, undermining the integrity of local government. Researchers say this creates "a major, if not existential, threat to all levels of U.S. government."

The study also highlights the need to maintain a safe environment for political engagement. Threats and harassment deter individuals from participating in the political process, hindering democratic principles and silencing diverse voices, ultimately eroding the foundations of democracy.

Researchers warn that this trend can result in losing capable leaders, weakening local government and public trust in the democratic system. To address the issue of threats and harassment, San Diego County must take proactive measures to protect individuals from intimidation and ensure they feel safe expressing their opinions and participating in political processes.

Most importantly, researchers say that addressing the issue of threats and harassment against elected officials requires a collective effort from governmental and non-governmental organizations to create an environment that fosters open dialogue, respect for diverse perspectives, and protection against intimidation.

Read the entire publishing below.

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