SJPOA Attacks Merc Use-of-Force Series

A number of posts over the past week on ProtectSanJose.com,  a blog run by the Police Officers Association (SJPOA), have effectively called into question a series of San Jose Mercury News articles about use of force by SJPD.

The Merc series started with the Oct. 24 posting of a cell-phone video that seems to show SJPD officers beating and Tasing a Vietnamese SJSU exchange student while he is pinned to the floor. The series culminated in a Sunday package a few days later, headlined “Mercury News investigation: San Jose police often use force in resisting-arrest cases.”

The front-page article, by reporter Sean Webby, begins with an anecdote about a man whose arm was broken in a confrontation with police, which concludes with this provocative statement: “The cause of the trouble? Wright reached into his van to wash his greasy hands.”

We learn 36 paragraphs into the article that police officers at the scene claim that the man had threatened them, and before reaching into his van said “I’ll kick your ass.” But the anecdote is used to set up the package’s thesis: “Hundreds of times a year interactions between San Jose police and residents where no serious crime has occurred escalate into violence.

“Many times the reason for the encounter is as innocuous as jaywalking, missing bike head lamps, or failing to signal a turn. But often, as the incidents develop, police determine the suspect is uncooperative and potentially violent and strike the first blow.”

The Sunday package included an editorial calling for a “culture change” in the city’s police force.

A week later, the SJPOA’s blog posted an opinion piece by former San Jose Police Chief Joe McNamara, which also ran in the Merc’s Op-Ed section. In the piece, McNamara writes that the “recent coverage of the San Jose Police Department was biased and unfair to what is probably the best large-city police department in the nation.”

McNamara questions the Merc’s numbers, pointing out that the SJPD is responsible for 30,000 arrests per year. “Remarkably, there were only slightly more than a hundred citizen complaints of unnecessary force in 2008 and none was found to be justified. Perversely, the Mercury News cites this as evidence that the department isn’t trusted and discourages complaints.”

McNamara’s piece might have been particularly irksome to the Merc’s editors, because they had lauded the former chief in their Sunday editorial for “revolutionizing the culture” of the department when he was in charge.

The controversy continued with a piece by neighborhood activist Ed Rast, posted on the Protect San Jose blog yesterday, which disputes the numbers at the heart of the Merc series.

“The Mercury News presented a bar graph [that shows]  arrest rates by racial groups but does not account for each city’s population or demographics.

“Of course, these numbers didn’t prevent the Mercury … from stating in the story that ‘San Jose charges far more people with resisting arrest, compared with its population, than any other major California city.’ Let’s hope they didn’t read that in Fresno.

“Because the Mercury News graph included overall arrest percentages for Latinos, I examined those numbers using Latino population percentages to calculate the resisting arrest rate per 1,000 Latino residents in each city. This time, San Jose drops from first to fourth.”

Rast’s piece goes on to show that Latino arrests by population for Fresno and Bakersfield are significantly higher than San Jose’s, and
that “seven of nine Mercury News-selected California cities had higher Latino resisting arrest rates per 1000 than their percentage of Latino residents.”

Sean Webby’s previous investigation into SJPD’s practices, which found that San Jose cops target Latinos for arrest, won him a Public Service award from the Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He was presented the award at a dinner Tuesday night.

28 Comments

  1. The 10/31/09 Mercury News story states:

    “The review was launched following the April disclosure by the newspaper that San Jose charges far more people with resisting arrest, compared with its population, than any other major California city, and that a disproportionate number of those charged are Latino residents.”

    Are people disputing the truth of the statements or just that it is unfair to do so because the police are sacrosanct and infallible in their minds?

    Furthermore, it is not news that the Police union opposes criticism of all kinds against their members… don’t forget when they threatenned Raj Jayadev of Silicon Valley DeBug for consistently criticizing police practices after the disclosure of racially disproportionate arrest rates for 647(f) drunk in public.
    http://www.sanjoseinside.com/sji/blog/entries/raj_jayadev_poa_video/

    The SJPOA seems to think it can intimidate critics, especially now with Sean Webby who is a journalist for the only daily in San Jose. Something tells me that the harder they lash out, the worse they look, even if they have public relations consultants and a new blog.

    • I think Ed Rast deserves an award from the Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Ed uses facts to support his conclusions, he doesn’t get paid to write these articles, and he certainly has no vested interest in the outcome of what he writes. He’s volunteered his services for decades and cares deeply for this city. 

      Let’s See Downtownster whom should we believe, a so-called reporter who gets paid to write stories for a paper that has admitted it is going under, or a community servant who doesn’t get paid and researches his stats from a factual place? Hum….

      The POA “threatened” Raj? That is an out right lie. As a matter of fact, Raj attended the “Special Meeting” on this topic just a few weeks ago and complimented the Police. I was there and heard him myself.

      Bobby Lopez the President of the POA was at that same meeting and publicly disclosed that he has met with Raj, and Skyler and are working together to make things better. Don’t believe it? Look at Pier Oliverio’s column on that meeting. He quotes them both write in his column. Sad you are trying to destroy any progress being made by posting misinformation.

    • The newspaper is no different than the police.  They are both institutions who have power.  The newspaper is not infallible.  We know from history that reporters make mistakes too.  They’re human, afterall.  If anyone thinks the newspaper is wrong, whether its an individual or a police department, they should make a case to the public.  That’s why blogs and the internet are so important these days.

      • From the suburbs,

        I agree with you about the fallibility of Webby, the Merc, and the police.

        I also agree about the importance of blogs like SJI, the internet, and the participation of all of us in holding the powerful institutions accountable.

        When Webby says in the 10/31/09 article that “…San Jose charges far more people with resisting arrest, compared with its population, than any other major California city…” he is incorrect since that dubious distinction clearly goes to Fresno, with double the rate. However the rest of Webby’s sentence “…a disproportionate number of those charged are Latino residents.” is correct. Mr. Rast’s article “Understanding the Problem” links to a table with information including the following:  64% of the resisting arrest charges were filed against Latinos who make up 30.2% of San Jose’s population. That means that Latinos are overrepresented by more than double.

        That is the definition of racial profiling and racially disproportionate arrest. Is that a problem? Not if you think Latinos are subhuman. But for people who are concerned with human freedom, it is unacceptable. What to do about it is an open debate.

        According to Konda and Moore in their Op-Ed, we should fire Chief Davis:
        http://www.mercurynews.com/opinion/ci_13773188?nclick_check=1#article_comments

        According to McNamara’s piece on protectsanjose.com, as well as Kathleen’s pieces there and her comments here on SJI, the solution is to stop criticizing the SJPD.

        According to me, the public has a right to know what is going on and should have access to police reports for any crime that is being applied disproportionately according to race, the Independent Police Auditor should be given enough power to investigate and prosecute the bad apples in SJPD, as well as civilian oversight of the police.

        No institution is infallible and it is up to us to hold them accountable since they cannot do it themselves. Any happy talk about virtue and valor is simply a screen to allow powerful institutions (like police, bankers, or legislatures) to operate without public scrutiny.

        • Downtownster,

          You said,” According to McNamara’s piece on protectsanjose.com, as well as Kathleen’s pieces there and her comments here on SJI, the solution is to stop criticizing the SJPD.”

          I’ve never said anything of the kind. I have repeatedly called into question the Mercury News bias reporting and their misleading stats, I never said turn a blind eye to Police Officers abusing citizen’s rights.

          I don’t understand how you can read all the facts you claim to have read and still walk a way so fixated on your point of view. Ed Rast is correct! The Mercury News is skewing stats to mislead the public. Doesn’t that matter to you at all?

          You fail to acknowledge that the majority of these arrests are valid. You fail to acknowledge that minorities ARE committing these crimes and “admitting to them,” instead you’d have us believe that all Police are bad and that a bunch of innocent people are being abused by the them.

          Our young people are dying in gangs, and gang members are murdering off innocent children. Doesn’t that bother you? Why do you think that is occurring? Did it ever occur to you that rise in gang violence and crime in general might just be occurring in part because the Mercury News is creating an anti-Police mentality in our community? Well if it hasn’t you might want to give it some very serious consideration.

          It is very easy for these groups to second guess the Police and demand that the Chief step down because they don’t want to do the real hard work involved in stopping all this insanity. It begins and ends with parents teaching children respect for the law, and themselves as well as others. We aren’t holding criminals responsible for their victimization or violation of others.

          You don’t get a free pass for slitting your brother’s throat and then running at Police with a knife, especially after the Police have come to your home multiple times trying to calm you down. READ THE FACTS. Don’t quote the Merc. 

          And just so you know, I would never defend anyone Police Officer who abused their power and who illegally, or purposely harmed an innocent person, so you can stop misrepresenting what my position on this is by simply saying, “Kathleen’s pieces there and her comments here on SJI, the solution is to stop criticizing the SJPD.”

        • Your hero worship/groupie attachment to all that is SJPD is bordering on the creepy.  Seems that you have way too much time on your hands and you are beginning to sound like Dan Quayle in 1988 when all he did was repeat the same line over and over with regard to him having the same amount of experience as JFK when JFK ran for president.  Repetition may have been helpful when you were learning your times tables in elementary school, but it gets a tad old when you blog the same thing over and over and over.  It’s like Groundhog Day, the internet version.

          Look, your see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil approach to the daunting statistical and video evidence that there are systemic force and attitude issues with SJPD is silly.  It reinforces my belief that on most days you stand in front of 201 West Mission with an autograph book chasing down men and women in blue and begging for signatures…weirdo alert.

          There are a few officers that need to get right, not all, but a few and Chief Davis knows its time to go, heck, he even applied for a job in LA.  You need to realize that the Chief is right on this one, its time for him to go.

          Now hurry off to 201 West Mission, there is a shift change going on soon and you need more signatures in that autograph book of yours…

        • Hero Worship,
          I’m not the least bit offended by your comments nor do I apologize for supporting a Police Department that caught and arrested the murders of my friend, the gang members who shot those two little boys, or the thousands of other cases they have handled so excellently.

          Having said that, please provide me with credible facts to back up your belief that all SJPD Officers are in violation of the law, or that our entire Police force is corrupt. Instead of attacking me personally, why don’t you support your position in an intelligent exchange of debate based on facts, not spoon fed media articles? I look forward to reading and communicating with you on what you provide! wink

        • “Did it ever occur to you that rise in gang violence and crime in general might just be occurring in part because the Mercury News is creating an anti-Police mentality in our community?”

          That is hilarious! The Mercury News is responsible for gang violence!

          If these minority groups read the Merc so much, why did the Viet Merc and their Spanish-language paper go under?

          I would like to believe the police and their sympathizers are ignorant and not racist, I really would. But …

        • Hero Worship:
          There are a few officers that need to get right

          Kathleen:
          please provide me with credible facts to back up your belief that all SJPD Officers are in violation of the law

          I think there is a difference between “a few” and “all.”

        • The fact that you can’t comprehend the possibility of this being a possibility speaks volumes about your perspective on this whole issue.

          Police and their supporters are racist? Please support that statement with proof.

    • Downtownster -

      I guess you are not aware that the ACLU wrote a letter to the Mayor and Council supporting the SJPOA’s right to make that video and express their opinions.  First amendment rights are not confined to Raj and others…

  2. Downtownster,

    I think your confusing intimidation with expressing their side of the story. It’s obvious that the Mercury is not objective, so a response by the SJPOA expressing their freedom of speech rights are correct. You may not like their arguement but if you believe in the Constitution and Union Worker rights,then you must respect their obligation to do so for their members.

    The Mercury News and it writers have demonstrated their inability to be fair and objective. Their news articles are filled skewed statistics, outdated information and one side stories. Their only goal is to sell papers by sensationalizing half-truths and lies. Times are tough for the police, must be tougher for the Merc!

    • The Mercury hates the SJPD and is probably especially pissed now that former Chief and Hoover Scholar Joseph MacNamara wrote an article in complete support the the SJPD and blasting the Mercury for its poor, sensationalist yellow journalism. The damage the Mercury has done and the increased danger they have place SJPD officers in is disgraceful.

      • Steve they’ve done far more than harmed the SJPD. They are using community leaders as chess pieces to win a war they are waging to make more profits. They have successfully divided our community in ways that we may never be able to repair. It is really frightening to see how irresponsible and bias against the SJPD they really are in their reporting of these stories.

        If you think the uprising they caused with their bias reporting of the Little Saigon issue was bad, you just wait and see the ending to this situation!

        • The Merc caused the uprising over Little Saigon? Gee, all this time I thought it was the irresponsible “leaders” in the Vietnamese community and a City Council with no backbone. Silly me.

        • Do you really think the whole Little Saigon fiasco, including the recall, could have happened without the Merc’s support?

          If so I have a bridge I’d like to sell you!

    • So you say they are desperate, one-sided. So they should let the pro-police side speak (MacNamara)but not the other side?

      Phuong Ho didn’t hurt anyone, get your facts straight, before accusing others of misleading others.

      The groups will be part of the solution when the police allow it and start to change.

      • These groups are part of the problem not the solution. Finger pointing, demanding the Chief’s resignation, and threats of lawsuits, that is all they have done.

        Onesided? Where have you been?

      • “Phuong Ho didn’t hurt anyone, get your facts straight, before accusing others of misleading others.”

        No thank God he didn’t, but he did pull a knife on his roommate and threatened his life. The roommate was so fearful for his life he called the Police.

        Ho admitted refusing to follow Police directives stating he was looking for his glasses even though he was told to stand still. Now let me ask you this, if you were called to a scene knowing a weapon was involved what would you do, trust him that he had gotten rid of the knife?

        And the only one-sided conversation that has taken place on this issue is yours and the Mercury News.

        Here are some facts:
        The essential first step in solving any problem — especially a complex, emotional controversy — is to “understand the problem” and its many interrelated topics so that everyone’s efforts will be focused on solving the problem, not continuing to argue over the question: “What is the problem?”

        http://protectsanjose.com/blogs/1-default/128-understanding-the-problem

        AND:

        “There were several verbal attempts to coax Pham to drop his knife — he had just cut his brother Brian’s neck shortly before, which is why police were called to the home on Branbury Way. Then, officers discussed trying to get Pham to drop the knife by using a stun bag, and then a Taser. But nothing worked, police reports show.”

        “Pham approached officer Brian Jeffrey, right arm raised in the air with the knife, and that’s when both Jeffrey and officer Matthew Blackerby shot Pham to death.”

        http://www.mercurynews.com/top-stories/ci_13781481

  3. Downtownster writes:

    “64% of the resisting arrest charges were filed against Latinos who make up 30.2% of San Jose’s population. That means that Latinos are overrepresented by more than double.

    That is the definition of racial profiling and racially disproportionate arrest. Is that a problem? Not if you think Latinos are subhuman. But for people who are concerned with human freedom, it is unacceptable. What to do about it is an open debate.”
    ____

    A very good example of very bad analytical thinking. Though disproportion is the norm in all measures of human behavior, I will confine myself to the topic at hand, arrest rates. The police arrest:

    —disproportionately more men

    —disproportionately fewer Japanese

    —disproportionately fewer chess players

    —disproportionately more young people

    —disproportionately more high school dropouts

    —disproportionately fewer avid readers

    —disproportionately more Catholics than Jews

    —disproportionately fewer members of Habitat for Humanity

    And the list goes on. But is each unique disproportion the result of discriminatory conduct by the police? Hardly, except maybe to those whose beliefs require they suspend reality on demand. The truth is that Latinos do not fit into this society as do others because all identifiable groups fit differently. Trying to make every group fit in proportionately is the mission of fools and liars, with the fools having been created by the liars.

    Downtownster, which are you?

    • I think he falls into the group of those that hate the police no matter what they and whose asses the city leaders have spent way too much time kissing trying to pacify them.

    • I guess the chess players have better lawyers?

      Good points. I think anyone with a basic understanding of statistics will agree that the Merc has cherry picked and skewed selected arrest stats to support otherwise unsupportable conclusions.

      As somebody once said” There are lies, there are damn lies and then there are statistics! Or, for to be more concise: There’s the Mercury News.

  4. Finfan, you say:
    “The truth is that Latinos do not fit into this society as do others because all identifiable groups fit differently.”

    Wow.

    Latinos have every bit as much right to be here as anyone else, and Mexican people especially since this was Mexico up until the war of 1845 when the U.S. stole it. In a country founded on notions of liberty and justice for all, as well as genocide, slavery, and wars of conquest, the people of this country need to be judicious about who they proclaim has less right to be here or who needs to fit in better.

    Lou Dobbs and the minutement would agree with you, but fortunately they are slithering further and further out of favor in the U.S.

  5. downtownster,

    Wow, back to you, for your incredibly poor reading comprehension. Did you even make it to the subordinate clause of the sentence or did your indoctrinated neural network so overwhelm your system with politically-correct indignation that you jumped up and had a la raza seizure?

    Let me simplify my sentence for you and any other victims of our educational system:

    Main clause: “The truth is that Latinos do not fit into this society as do others”
    (If you believe that Latinos do in fact fit into this society as do others I can only conclude that you need to come up more often from the basement digs at your parent’s house. Latinos have, as do people of all types, distinct interests, habits, talents, and problems.) 

    Subordinate clause: “because all identifiable groups fit differently.”
    (Referring to Latinos as an identifiable group is not racist, it is a simple fact, just as it is to point out that “all identifiable groups fit differently”—including whites, blacks, Christians, etc.)

    There was not a hint of racism in the words I wrote, yet you somehow saw it there. What have they done to you? You go one level higher on the race-sensitivity scale and they’ll be harvesting your organs for transplant.