The City Council last night agreed to soften San Jose’s police tactics when it comes to arresting people for public intoxication, a move they hope will result in fewer arrests. After a few hours of discussion, the council voted 8-1 to sign off on recommendations put forward by the city-appointed Public Intoxication Task Force.
Among other things, the Task Force, which included Police Chief Rob Davis and members of various community groups, recommended the council look into opening a sobering station and requiring officers to have specific training when it comes to public intoxication arrests.
The Council also accepted the Task Force recommendation that SJPD not charge* people with being drunk in public until the sixth offense in a 12-month span.
Councilman Ash Kalra was the lone dissenter, saying he didn’t feel the recommendations got to the root of some of the problems with San Jose’s police practices. “A lot of it has to do with building the trust with the community and the police department,” Kalra said. “ I for one am eager to get to a place where we can start dealing with some of the issues the community members have, even if they are perceptions.”
Kalra was referring to the community members on the Task Force who a month ago walked out of a meeting and resigned because the city refused to release 4,000-plus public intoxication arrest records for the group to review. The city formed the Task Force after statistics suggested police were targeting Latinos for drunk-in-public arrests.
In San Jose today, more people have been charged with public drunkenness than anywhere else in the state. Community activists who protested the arrests claim that the policy discriminated against Latinos and allowed the police to charge people for what they considered bad attitudes, rather than for drunkenness. The city is currently facing two lawsuits for unlawful arrest.
Some of the community leaders who resigned form the Task Force showed up at the council meeting to express their disappointment with the process. “Seventy percent of stakeholders who you asked to sit at the table decided it wasn’t a valid process, it was a farce,” Skyler Porras, director of the ACLU told the council. “Please reconsider the approach you have taken with the community members and these organizations who represent thousands of your constituents.”
*NOTE: An edit was made at 5pm Wednesday. The incorrect word “prosecute” was replaced with “charge.”