SAN JOSE (KPIX) — After the tragic death of a former police officer providing security to a television news crew in Oakland and dozens more attacks on journalists, a San Mateo County lawmaker says “enough is enough.”
Criminals who target and victimize journalists should face harsher penalties, according to a letter San Mateo County Board President David Canepa has sent to Governor Gavin Newsom.READ MORE: Thieves Target License Plates in San Francisco; Rack Up Parking Tickets
The communication from Canepa comes nearly two weeks after the fatal shooting of Kevin Nishita, a private security guard contracted to protect a KRON news crew on November 24.
In the letter made public Monday, Canepa wrote to Newsom urging him to “convene a statewide taskforce to come up with a legislative solution to protect journalists and punish their attackers with enhanced penalties before these crimes escalate to the point where press freedoms are seriously eroded.”
Canepa personally knew Nishita, who retired from Colma Police Department as a sergeant. Previously, Nishita served as a San Jose police officer from 2001 to 2012.
“People have been assaulted. Now, we have someone that I knew who served our community, was a great father and was a great community police officer. Enough is enough. That was the tipping point. This has been going on for years,” said Canepa.
In the past decade, there have been nearly 130 reported incidents of vehicle break-ins, robberies, assaults and shootings targeting Bay Area journalists, leading up to the Nishita’s death.READ MORE: Fans Remember Betty White With Challenge To Fund Animal Shelters
A KPIX crew was involved in a robbery in February 2019, where a contracted security guard was shot and injured.
“It’s hunting season on reporters and videographers, it’s got to stop. And it’s only getting worse. Enough, we’re done. We’re done with those days. We’re done with it. If we do nothing today, the cycle of violence and now death, now death will happen,” said Canepa.
Collin Wong, the owner of Star Protection Agency, Nishita’s employer, expressed doubt that the enhanced penalties would deter violence against media crews.
“Yes, we’ve got to do something,” said Wong. “But I think in the current climate, enhancements really aren’t very relevant relative to the criminals,” said Wong.
Will Matthews, spokesperson for Californians for Safety and Justice, an advocacy group based in Oakland, opposes enhanced penalties.
“The most important deterrent to crime is the knowledge that if someone commits a criminal act, that they are going to be caught, they’re going to be arrested and that they’re going to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. That is the most important deterrent that exists. And that really is why we need to be focused on making sure that in incidents like this, arrests happen, and successful prosecutions occur. That really is the key to ensuring that we all get the kind of justice that we want, and frankly deserve,” said Matthews.MORE NEWS: Stockton Woman Fatally Shot Over The Weekend
The Governor’s Office released a statement Monday evening in response to Canepa’s letter:
“The death of former police officer Kevin Nishita is a tragedy, and the fact that the journalists he was protecting needed a security guard in order to do their jobs safely is a matter of great concern. Every person should be able to go to work without fear of being attacked, especially journalists. Media access to public gatherings is essential for a functioning democracy.”