UPDATE: The council has deferred the police auditor oversight item to next week.
San Jose’s police watchdog can only investigate police misconduct if a member of the public files a formal grievance. But a ballot measure in 2018 could extend that oversight to include complaints initiated from within the ranks of the San Jose Police Department.
Giving such authority to the city’s independent police auditor (IPA), Walter Katz, would require a ballot initiative to amend the city charter.
On Tuesday, the City Council will decide whether to go down that path by bringing a measure to voters in the 2018 general election, which would cost anywhere from $450,000 to $950,000, according to a city estimate.
At a public forum earlier this month, Mayor Sam Liccardo said he would support such a ballot measure. As did Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco and downtown Councilman Raul Peralez, a former San Jose police officer.
When the city created the IPA office in 1996, it became a model for other communities. But several major cities have since allowed their civilian police watchdogs to review cases in which officers report suspected misconduct by their own colleagues.
SJPD publishes summarized numbers and general categories of violations for what they call Department Initiated Investigations. Katz can’t audit those cases or even see what the officer did to draw scrutiny. For complaints made by the public, on the other hand, both Katz and SJPD’s Internal Affairs unit conduct their own investigations, though police have the final say on adjudication.
Beginning this year, SJPD will publish annual reports summarizing the results of internal investigations, which average about 30 a year. That’s in addition to the police auditor’s year-end review, due out in May.
Giving the police auditor access to internal investigations was one of several reforms pushed by Katz’s predecessor, LaDoris Cordell. Many of her other recommendations have already been set in motion.
Before Cordell retired in 2015, the city began to implement a number of changes she pushed for years. Police started collecting detailed data about traffic stops and requiring officers to attach body-worn cameras to their uniforms.
Beginning later this year, SJPD will start publishing reports of all incidents in which officers resorted to physical force.
More from the San Jose City Council agenda for January 24, 2017:
- SJPD bought its license plate scanning technology in 2006 without any public input. But public demands for more transparency in policing have inspired legislation that requires law enforcement agencies to have policies in place for using surveillance tools. Now, more than a decade after acquiring license plate readers, San Jose police have penned a policy governing their use. That policy is now up for council approval.
- San Jose will consider whether to submit a friend of the court brief in a U.S. Supreme Court case on the constitutionality of detaining immigrants indefinitely and without bond hearings. The case relates to a former dental assistant named Alejandro Rodriguez, who was brought to the U.S. as an infant. After getting convicted for drug possession and “joyriding,” federal agents detained him for three years without a bond hearing. An immigration court eventually canceled the deportation order, and Rodriguez sued. The amicus brief will argue that immigrants facing criminal proceedings are still entitled to constitutional protections.
WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260