Two events in San Jose this month aim to build trust between local law enforcement and the communities they police.
The first one—hosted by People Acting in Community Together (PACT)—takes place on Jan. 12 and will focus on how to improve transparency and accountability in law enforcement. The second, which we wrote about last week, is set for Jan. 21 and part of an 18-month project launched by the city’s official police watchdog.
Both events feature some of the same speakers, including Mayor Sam Liccardo, police Chief Eddie Garcia and Independent Police Auditor Walter Katz. Next week’s panel also includes three San Jose council members, Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian and the head of the local jail guard union.
“We want to give police a chance to hear our concerns and we want to hear theirs,” PACT community organizer Jesus Ruiz told San Jose Inside. “By the end of it, we want a commitment from our officials that they will follow through with some action.”
PACT has hosted similar forums, but recent advances in technology and public policy have made the discussion about accountability all the more pertinent, Ruiz said.
“This issue has always been important,” he said, “but now we have the technology to back it up. Once we recognize there’s a problem, we can start talking about how to fix it.”
Mounting public pressure in response to numerous police killings of unarmed civilians throughout the country prompted local law enforcement to equip officers with body cameras. After years of stalling, San Jose finally rolled out its body camera program last fall. Since 2015, the city and county have been training officers about how to detect and minimize their own implicit bias.
In San Jose, Katz’s predecessor—LaDoris Cordell—persuaded the city to start collecting demographic data on traffic stops to address concerns that police disproportionately target minorities. When the San Jose Police Department finally disclosed that information, it confirmed that widespread suspicion: Latinos and blacks were far more likely to get pulled over even though they were less likely to carry contraband.
A state law going into effect next year will require law enforcement agencies to collect that same data about police stops and publish it online. The new rules aim to expose biases in policing and help local agencies correct it. The Attorney General’s Office is collecting public comment on the data collection plan through Jan. 27.
“We pushed very hard for that to pass,” Ruiz said. “And San Jose has already started looking at that data, so we’re making progress.”
WHAT: Accountability in policing forum
WHEN: 7pm Jan. 12
WHERE: Bible Way Christian Center, 2090 Oakland Road, San Jose
Below is video of a previous of a previous PACT forum on police and community.