Despite an uptick in crime and a top brass changing of the guard, fewer people logged complaints against the San Jose Police Department in 2012 compared to previous years. There was a 7-percent drop in citizen complaints last year, according to an annual report by the Independent Police Auditor’s office, which is on the agenda for Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
IPA LaDoris Cordell, a retired superior court judge, and her team agreed with the department’s handling of 247 cases, or 74 percent, in 2012. Cordell’s office noted concerns in 9 percent of cases last year, and it also found that fewer officers were disciplined after internal audits into alleged misconduct, dropping seven percentage points to 3 percent last year.
Cordell called on acting Police Chief Larry Esquivel to start tracking incidents of “curb sitting” to find out whether minorities are disproportionately subjected to the practice. Mayor Chuck Reed and council members Madison Nguyen, Sam Liccardo, Pete Constant put out a memo asking the city to look into the cost of taking on more bilingual officers to avoid discriminatory situations, like placing kids in protective custody situations.
“The conveyor belt to prison begins early in life for some children who are removed from difficult or unsafe family situations and placed into the child welfare system,” the memo says. “Sometimes there are better alternatives available, such as placement with relatives. Such alternatives can be missed when language barriers prevent officers from being aware of an alternative. These barriers may also be a contributing factor to the disproportionate number of Latino and African-American youth entering the child welfare system.”
Auditors made some other summary recommendations based on some complaints:
• Officers should get parental permission before driving a kid who’s not a suspect in a patrol car. Apparently, an officer at a school safety presentation let a kid hop in the car for a short drive and a parent complained.
• Have officers record their city vehicle use in a log, even if they’re driving to and from home, the report says. Make sure police who ask for Social Security information tell residents that it’s an option to oblige.
• In one case, a complainant’s father was shot and killed by an officer after being Tasered, but since the stun gun hadn’t been recalibrated in years it was tough to figure out if it was actually deployed. Cordell suggests recalibrating Tasers on an annual basis.
• Another time, a transgendered woman was offended when, she said, police called her “muchacho.” The audit calls for some sensitivity training to better deal with LGBT residents.
• In the same vein, Cordell says the department should update its website to make it easier for people to find out how to report hate crimes.
Overall, though, Cordell lauded the department for cooperating more with the independent auditors. After years of public outreach, more residents lodged a complaint with Cordell’s office than the police department, the report notes.
Police compiled their own annual report about the prior year’s department-initiated complaints, which also has dropped in the past few years. In 2012, the department investigated 27 sworn officers compared to 66 in 2010. That report goes before the council this week, too.
In 2012, the department investigated 80 allegations against sworn officers—70 percent of those accusations were sustained. Most officers receive oral counseling in response to an investigation, according to Esquivel.
The most common complaints in the past five years were for “conduct unbecoming an officer,” which is an allegation that a cop’s on- or off-duty behavior reflected adversely on the department.
More from the San Jose City Council agenda for April 30, 2013:
• Through a federal-state agreement, California’s Employment Development Department can collect confidential information, like wage data, from employers. If the city wants to buy an ad hoc report to get a peek at some of that information, it has to enter into a contract with the EDD and pay $5,000 per ad hoc report. The council will consider whether to OK that kind of a contract to obtain quarterly employment data about San Jose-based firms. The information could help in coming up with a new economic development strategy, as the old one is about to expire.
• Lie detector tests will cost SJPD nearly $160,000 this next year if a contract gains council approval.
• Construction of the San Jose Environmental Innovation Center project continues to be pricier than anticipated. Some change-orders will add up to about $1.1 million more than projected.
WHAT: San Jose City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260