The same night Officer Michael Johnson was fatally shot responding to a call for service, the computer network police use to communicate with each other shut down. Officers resorted to using congested radio channels, personal phones and even pen and paper.
"Any time the computer system goes down, it limits all aspects of what we do," Officer James Gonzales, vice president of the San Jose Police Officers' Association, told the Mercury News a couple days after the shooting. "It puts us back to literally a pencil-and-paper state of doing things. In a city this large, it's not an efficient way to work."
Evidently, it wasn't the first time the network lapsed in the thick of a crisis.
Councilman Raul Peralez, who was an officer in the San Jose Police Department before being elected to the council last fall, wants the city to conduct a thorough review of the glitchy mobile data terminals (called MDTs for short). In a memo submitted to today's Rules and Open Government Committee, he directs staff to find out how often the system malfunctions and what options are available to fix that.
Breakdowns in communication make it harder for police to protect the city, Peralez said.
"I often experienced these failures when I was a police officer," he states in his memo. "I believe the city has a responsibility to equip our police officers with proper equipment to ensure public safety as well as our officers' safety."
MDTs allow patrol officers to talk to each other, to dispatchers and the department. It allows them to look up vital information about suspects, use global-positioning to find other officers and upload criminal reports.
"The MDT's used by our officers have been a long-time problem," Peralez wrote.
Last fall, he said, SJPD Officer Christopher Proft raised the subject to Chief Larry Esquivel. He said the system often freezes up and has a slow, spotty internet connection.
"These issues directly affect response time to calls and the safety of the officer(s) requesting assistance," Peralez said. "Officer Proft's experiences resonate with me. When I served on San Jose's police force, it was not only frustrating but risky when a MDT would freeze on you before you could pull up a suspect's criminal records or find the location of a fellow officer via GPS, Going into a potentially dangerous situation blind endangers the lives of those calling for help as well as our men and women in uniform."
- To bring all the new council members up to speed on San Jose's relatively new marijuana regulatory program, the city will host an informational session on April 20. Yes, you read that right: that's 4/20, which also happens to be a stoner holiday.
- San Jose may join a host of other jurisdictions in protesting Indiana's discriminatory new "religious liberty" law by banning all city-sponsored travel to the Hoosier state. "The city of San Jose should stand for fair treatment and equality for all residents," reads a memo signed by council members Peralez, Ash Kalra, Margie Matthews and Magdalena Carrasco. "When any city or state in our union makes efforts to curtail the equal rights under the law that all people are entitled to, it is incumbent upon us to stand up and speak out.
- The city is so badly understaffed with building inspectors that the city relies on retired employees to work temporary assignments. Of the 17 authorized positions in the Building Division, only six are filled. Mayor Sam Liccardo's office has apparently been bombarded with calls from residents upset about the backlog of service. Liccardo said adjusting the pay grade could at least keep existing inspectors on staff, if not attract more people to apply for the position.
- Councilman Don Rocha asks the city to support a pair of state bills that would require police officers to undergo more training on how to deal with mentally ill people. SB 11 and SB 29, both introduced by state Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose), propose upping the number of hours required for behavioral health training.
WHAT: Rules and Open Government Committee meets
WHEN: 2pm Wednesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260