San Jose’s Fire Department has some explaining to do. The 33-station agency serves 1 million people in the third-largest city in the state, but it has no accurate idea of its average emergency response times.
For years the department has only calculated a fire company’s response times within its assigned priority zone, leaving out any calls when firefighters had to cross into another zone to help out.
The standard set by the National Fire Protection Association calls for a six-minute response time 90 percent of the time. San Jose’s benchmark: eight minutes, 80 percent of the time. SJFD Fire Chief William McDonald has said even that’s a tough mark to meet given furloughs, layoffs and budget cuts, while Robert Sapien, the firefighters union president, took a sharper tone.
San Jose’s fire agency will present a verbal report along with a 46-page written report about its response times—and failure to accurately report them—at Thursday’s Public Safety, Finance and Strategic Support Committee meeting. The committee is made up of City Councilmembers Pete Constant, Madison Nguyen, Pierluigi Oliverio and Kansen Chu.
San Jose isn’t alone in its problems reporting accurate response times, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
“Agencies are using sloppy measures and partial statistics,” a Citygate Associates firefighting consultant and former Livermore-Pleasanton fire chief told the newspaper last year.
Other items worth noting on the Public Safety, Finance and Strategic Support Committee agenda for January 24, 2013:
• The city lured 99 of its police officers with a $50 check to take a survey to measure their explicit and subconscious racial biases. The results were then packaged in a report going before the committee.
Titled “Protecting Equity,” the 23-page survey summary concludes “that officers demonstrate levels of racial bias … similar to those found [in] the general population. However, because law enforcement wield[s] tremendous powers over residents’ lives and liberties and normal levels of bias can have significant and troubling consequences, it is not unfair to suggest we hold officers to a higher standard.”
Some of the public’s gripes about city cops were about response times, a perception that they need to focus on “more serious” crimes and some about racially profiling mostly black and Latino people, according to a survey of 155 residents.
The survey also asked the police officers questions aimed to gauge their implicit biases, the importance of their masculine self-image and the stress of being unfairly perceived as racist. Black, Latino and Asian officers reported being accused of racism by their same-race community—an added stressor.
Using interview tools such as “feeling thermometers,” which measure how warmly an officer feels toward a certain people group, the survey found that most officers responded favorably, for the most part, toward every ethnicity. Latino officers reported more positive attitudes than their peers toward undocumented immigrants.
Unsurprisingly, the study found that the more negative an officer’s feelings about a certain race, the more often they stopped people from that group while on patrol.
“In general, the rate at which officers stop blacks is roughly equivalent to that initiated by residents,” the report says. “However, officers tend to initiate more stops of Latinos than residents, and marginally fewer stops of whites than residents.”
Some demographic factors may be to blame, the report adds. Latinos tend to live in more concentrated communities than whites, for one thing. Conversely, it could be that arrests of Latinos happen more often in heavily policed areas.
• San Jose’s two gaming establishments—Bay 101 and Garden City—both saw an increase in the number of 911 calls for the 2011-12 fiscal year, according to a report from recently retired police chief Chris Moore.
Bay 101 clocked in with 328 calls for service and 252 reported incidents, San Jose police say. Nineteen people were arrested during that reporting period. Garden City wrapped up that same fiscal year with 276 calls for service, 145 reported incidents and eight arrests. (Casino M8trix was not included in the list, because the card club did not open until after the fiscal year ended.)
Crime was generally higher at Bay 101 than at Garden City year over year, and the list of offenses at both casinos ranged from assault with a deadly weapon, forgery and public drunkenness to child neglect, trespassing and theft.
• The city auditor is investigating the way San Jose handles its employees’ deferred compensation plans and will present her findings next month. Also due in February is a report detailing the city’s economic development performance measures.
• Team San Jose, the company contracted by the city to run its San Jose McEnery Convention Center and other facilities, received an audit as well. It met most performance targets, drawing 1 million people to events and 240,000 hotel room bookings. It surpassed its goal of $12.1 million by actually raking in $19.4 million in gross revenue, but it still failed to break even, ending the 2011-12 fiscal year with a $3.5 million operating loss.
WHAT: Public Safety, Finance and Strategic Support Committee meeting
WHEN: 1:30pm Thursday
WHERE: City Council Chambers, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: Alex Gurza, City Manager’s Office, 408.535.8155