San Jose will launch an 18-month project next month that aims to improve the relationship between local police and communities of color.
The campaign, spearheaded by Independent Police Auditor Walter Katz, begins with a Jan. 21 forum where people can share their thoughts about how to build trust between the public and the officers sworn to protect them.
Data shows that the San Jose Police Department disproportionately detains black and Latino people. The statistics released last year found that white people were less likely to be detained despite being more likely to carry drugs (16 percent) compared to African-Americans (14 percent) and Latinos (12 percent).
Those inequities persist in Santa Clara County’s prosecution rates, too. The District Attorney’s Office released a report in October that highlights the disparities.
“Our goal for the forum is to help our residents learn about issues and challenges, share their ideas, and help propose collaborative solutions that can lead to long-term relationships between police officers and our community that are more trusting and productive for everyone,” Katz said in a press release.
Mayor Sam Liccardo and District 5 Councilwoman Magdalena Carrasco will co-host the event. The Silicon Valley Community Foundation and the San Francisco 49ers donated money to organize it. Featured speakers include Katz, San Jose police Chief Eddie Garcia and UC Berkeley sociologist and professor emeritus Harry Edwards.
The half-day forum will include a panel about policing vulnerable communities and the public’s expectations for police transparency and accountability. Breakout sessions will follow, so members of the audience can jump into the conversation and pitch solutions that could mend the strained relationship between minorities and the police.
The hope, according to organizers, is that event conversations will translate to policy solutions. Refreshments will be provided and there is no cost to attend.
“We need to hear the community’s concerns,” Carrasco said. “These are real concerns real issues that we'll be dealing with in the concrete and not in the abstract underscoring the importance of today's hearing with stakeholders and residents.”
In addition to participating in community forums like the one taking place next month, Garcia has been reaching out to the public directly on social media. In recent weeks, he has taken to Twitter to post videos that build confidence in the department and recruit new officers.
“We have a story to tell,” he told CBS News in a report about his recent social media blitz. “Social media really allows us to do that in a way that we can really put out this great information about what the officers are doing that wouldn't necessarily get out.”
Department Spotlight - Man Threatening Officers with Knife Arrested pic.twitter.com/86cgVUZQlw
— Eddie Garcia (@sjpdchief) December 16, 2016
WHAT: Community Trust in Police forum
WHEN: 9am to 2:30pm Jan. 21
WHERE: Mexican Heritage Plaza, 1700 Alum Rock Ave., San Jose
INFO: Click here to RSVP for the event