Fire Chief to Report on Response Times; Survey Questions Racial Biases of Police

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

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. I find this lengthy post had several interesting but respected responses.

    First, the city actually had to bribe police officers to even take a survey.  That in this fiscal emergency, according to Chuck is a joke.  Second, with a city of a million people only 155 were included in the resident part of the survey.  Of course no mention of where these people live.  And they better get use to slow or no police response as the department continues to lose officers and a lack or interest by qualified future recruits.

    “However, officers tend to initiate more stops of Latinos than residents, and marginally fewer stops of whites than residents.”  Does this mean latino gang members are not residents?  Because these are the bulk of contacts and are responsible for the majority of crimes including assaults and killings.  No brainer here.

    Gaming establishments should be required to hire more security or start being charged for calls for service.  The public should be pissed off that they are drawing so much police service and you wonder why no police are available for other calls in the city.

    Good luck San Jose, you voted for Measure B and your now paying for it. And you have 3 of the biggest Chuck’ clowns sitting on the Public Safety, Finance and Strategic Support Committee.  Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what their take will be.  More blame on public service.

  2. The results of the bias study mirror those of my own research, published under the title, “Fresh Fruits and Shelled Nuts.” Utilizing a questionnaire aimed at detecting bias and identifying buying patterns, I tested a large group of food shoppers and uncovered a high level of bias against rotten fruit and rancid nuts. My survey revealed that shoppers, even those who self-identified as “open-minded,” believed there was nothing unfair about basing their preferences on their knowledge as experienced consumers, and were found to be alarmingly unaware of the possibility that cultural biases—many absorbed at an early age, might be influencing their perceptions and choices. Importantly, the correlation between the preferences expressed and the experiencing by any test subject or close family member of a consumption consequence more serious than a few days of intestinal distress was quite low. Clearly, the fear-based desire to avoid is higher than what is supported by the test subject’s personal experience, a strong indicator of dangerous stereotyping. Perhaps most disturbingly, it was discovered that the higher the socioeconomic status the test subject the greater the reported intolerance for produce deterioration, with test subject’s of middle and upper status expressing especially negative feelings about certain produce items, citing the mere presence of overripe bananas and unappealing nuts on a store’s shelves as reason enough to shop elsewhere.

    Based on my study results it was concluded that the bias problem could be corrected through a cultural awareness campaign and legislative action to achieve an even distribution of these “undesirable” items in markets throughout the community.

    • Thoughtful post and you’re to be commended for your research on theis important topic.
      The City of San Jose should take the lead and establish a new office whose job it would be to look over the shoulder of shoppers patrolling the grocery aisles, to monitor the checkout counters and to examine receipts. The idea would be to detect the bad apples who don’t buy the bad apples, reprimand them, fine them, and reeducate them to understand that it’s not the apple’s fault that it’s soft and mealy inside. It may have had to grow up on a scrawny tree in a flatheaded apple borer infested orchard. Shoppers will be made to understand that profiling of fruit and nuts will simply not be tolerated. 
      The Independent Produce Shopper Auditor would also help to ensure that we don’t slip back to the old days when peanuts were the dominant majority, mixed nuts were frowned upon, and filberts were considered to be 3/5 of a nut.

  3. I would like to second what Rob Johnson stated and in the same tone. I would also like to expand on what has been stated here and in the Blog Post by Robert Sapien.

    It should come as no surprise that fire response times are not the only form of statistical gathering in which the city is being less than forthcoming or outrightly deceptive. One of the things the PD OUGHT to be doing is tracking the reduction in services such as no longer responding to unverified residential alarm calls and certain types of traffic collisions. It’s important for San Jose’s residents to be able to understand what kind of public safety services they are no getting compared to the service levels of a couple of years ago.

  4. Look at the birdy! Wow, shiny object over there!
    The city is burning but Reed and Figone sure can play a mean fiddle and harmonica.
    I love this city. Everything is great. If you see something distasteful, just ask Vossbrink to polish it up for you. He aspires to make the waste pollution control plant smell like a perfume factory. He even supports the plan to build the giant fans on 237 to blow the stink back to Milpitas. By the way, how’s that airport doing?
    Baa Ram Ewe, sheep be true.

  5. After watching the presentation by the so called “Consortium for Police Leadership in Equity” during today’s Public Safety Commission, it was all I could do to keep from hurling projectile vomit and ruining my laptop computer. It was the biggest load of unmitigated bullsh*t I think I have ever heard. These self anointed experts have their heads so far up their collective academic asses, it is truly mind boggling.

    For anybody that has eaten their dinner at least a few hours ago, and is past the point of possibly throwing up, here is the link. This magnificent waste of time and money starts at about the 48 minute mark. I want to thank David Wall, who at about the 1:11 mark gives a public comment regarding this ridiculous presentation, in which he makes just a fantastic oral retort to the stupidity of CPLE.

  6. Well, where do I start? I watched this debacle on the Internet this evening and made the following observations regarding our fire department:

    1. Fire Chief McDonald was not present to “Report on Response Times”.
    Conclusion: this was nothing more than a “dog and pony show”, to appease the citizens and make them think that all is ok.

    2.  No pointed questions were posed to fire department officials. “Softballs” only.
    Conclusion: this was nothing more than a “dog and pony show”, to appease the citizens and make them think that all is ok.

    3.  While FD officials admitted that there were ” data collection issues” that would be fixed, nobody asked ( except Madison, who made a really weak attempt), what the true data shows and what impact this has on fire department response times.
    Conclusion: this was nothing more than a “dog and pony show”, to appease the citizens and make them think that all is ok.

    4. Pete Constant made a point to deny that there was any attempt by the city or fire department to manipulate statistics so as to “screw people”.
    Conclusion: this was nothing more than a “dog and pony show”, to appease the citizens and make them think that all is ok.

    5. Pete, Madison and PLO lavishly praised the fire department officials for their good work on the report and for being responsive to the city council’s request for information.
    Conclusion: despite what Pete says, “we’re all screwed”.

  7. I watched the very ridiculous presentation by the CPLE (Community for Policing Leadership in Equity) at the Public Safety Committee meeting yesterday. In my opinion, this was a total waste of time, by academics who want to sound very important, and have absolutely no idea of what they speak.

    Here is the link the the CPLE presentation, which starts at the 48 minute mark

    Thanks to Mr. David Wall, who gives a great public comment regarding this presentation at the 1:11 mark.

  8. The CPLE report is just more evidence that the social sciences remain stuck in the 1960’s… professional bias chasers who see bias everywhere except in themselves and their pseudo science. Listening to the young woman’s heartfelt report reminded me of how much money is being wasted trying to educate bubbleheads who wouldn’t recognize a critical thought if it was tattooed under their boyfriend’s nipple rings. Here’s this young woman trying to change human nature while demonstrating no more cognitive horsepower than required to change a diaper.

    Imagine how clueless one must be (offense intended, LaDoris) to believe that in a city plagued by the overwhelming racial disparity of its criminal population, the place to look to solve it is in the hearts and minds of police officers. This is the kind of Sesame Street logic that, when applied elsewhere, blames teachers for the existence of dull-witted kids, restaurants for the existence of fat people, and winners for the existence of losers.

    Forty years of trying to pin the blame for the chronic lawlessness and stupidity of certain groups on public servants and the business community; that’s what defines sociology as an academic discipline and identifies it as an elaborate con game. Nonsense ruminators duping journalists and elected numbskulls with their droppings. How else could you account for an allegedly trained professional proposing to alter San Jose’s crime profile, and then offering up nothing more concrete than outlawing “curb sitting”—and not even being embarrassed about it. Peddlers of this kind of humbug were once treated to tar and feathers… now this stuff gets you a graduate degree or, in the case of Ms. Cordell, a part time gig for about two-hundred grand a year.

    • “Imagine how clueless one must be to believe that in a city plagued by the overwhelming racial disparity of its criminal population, the place to look to solve it is in the hearts and minds of police officers.”

      This quote is hilarious and perfectly sums up the current state of affairs with regard to these surveys and utility bill mailers.

      In a more ideal setting, the criminal population wouldn’t be comprised of the same concentration level of “low hanging fruit” as we see in today’s San Jose. However when a police department is decimated by staffing shortages there is no other alternative.

      A lack of resources forces prioritization. Criminals are keen on where resources are expended. This results in car jackings in Almaden Valley while god knows what else is going on behind the scenes without ever being noticed. Had your debit card information stolen recently? How about your identity? Your mail? Surely you know someone who’s car went missing from the driveway. No? What about the grow house around the corner? Those quiet asians are never home huh? Or those new neighbors with the nice SUV’s that hardly speak English and run “landscaping” businesses? Surely someone has told you that if you go hiking and the trail leads to a neat patch of plants you better gtfo before you run into the “gardener”? No? Well then you must enjoy all of the new art along the walls, bridges, signs, and overpasses of whatever highway you travel on your commute to work!

      Its only getting worse.

  9. First off the , “The Wall Street Journal” should try and stick to the world of finance , that is their field of expertise . This POS Mayor ran on “sunshine reform” ,“Open Government” if that is truely the case then why not not hold all meetings and/or Negotiations out in the Open for anybody to witness first hand. Maybe because then people would realize what a lie , a cheat and Thief the Mayor has been. Also what a bunch of hanger ons the rest of Council (except D Rocha) have been . all of this has helped speed San Jose to the bottom of the barrel

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *