San Jose City Council Weighs Ballot Measure to Expand Powers of Independent Police Auditor

UPDATE: The council has deferred the police auditor oversight item to next week. 

San Jose’s police watchdog can only investigate police misconduct if a member of the public files a formal grievance. But a ballot measure in 2018 could extend that oversight to include complaints initiated from within the ranks of the San Jose Police Department.

Giving such authority to the city’s independent police auditor (IPA), Walter Katz, would require a ballot initiative to amend the city charter.

On Tuesday, the City Council will decide whether to go down that path by bringing a measure to voters in the 2018 general election, which would cost anywhere from $450,000 to $950,000, according to a city estimate.

At a public forum earlier this month, Mayor Sam Liccardo said he would support such a ballot measure. As did Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco and downtown Councilman Raul Peralez, a former San Jose police officer.

When the city created the IPA office in 1996, it became a model for other communities. But several major cities have since allowed their civilian police watchdogs to review cases in which officers report suspected misconduct by their own colleagues.

SJPD publishes summarized numbers and general categories of violations for what they call Department Initiated Investigations. Katz can’t audit those cases or even see what the officer did to draw scrutiny. For complaints made by the public, on the other hand, both Katz and SJPD’s Internal Affairs unit conduct their own investigations, though police have the final say on adjudication.

Beginning this year, SJPD will publish annual reports summarizing the results of internal investigations, which average about 30 a year. That’s in addition to the police auditor’s year-end review, due out in May.

Giving the police auditor access to internal investigations was one of several reforms pushed by Katz’s predecessor, LaDoris Cordell. Many of her other recommendations have already been set in motion.

Before Cordell retired in 2015, the city began to implement a number of changes she pushed for years. Police started collecting detailed data about traffic stops and requiring officers to attach body-worn cameras to their uniforms.

Beginning later this year, SJPD will start publishing reports of all incidents in which officers resorted to physical force.

More from the San Jose City Council agenda for January 24, 2017:

  • SJPD bought its license plate scanning technology in 2006 without any public input. But public demands for more transparency in policing have inspired legislation that requires law enforcement agencies to have policies in place for using surveillance tools. Now, more than a decade after acquiring license plate readers, San Jose police have penned a policy governing their use. That policy is now up for council approval.
  • San Jose will consider whether to submit a friend of the court brief in a U.S. Supreme Court case on the constitutionality of detaining immigrants indefinitely and without bond hearings. The case relates to a former dental assistant named Alejandro Rodriguez, who was brought to the U.S. as an infant. After getting convicted for drug possession and “joyriding,” federal agents detained him for three years without a bond hearing. An immigration court eventually canceled the deportation order, and Rodriguez sued. The amicus brief will argue that immigrants facing criminal proceedings are still entitled to constitutional protections.

WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260

Jennifer Wadsworth is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. He’s a flunky to help the Mayor and PD avoid what is desperately needed. A Civilian Review Board with people from all walks of life including legal guidance personnel. The power to order suspensions and firings and access to all body and patrol cam footage as well as digital recordings. A third party up load site for all WiFi recordings with CRB access 24/7. GSP tracking on all officers and vehicles including Detectives. The power to tie DA political empowerment to performance in prosecuting criminal officers.

    We can’t have a Police Department that we have do the aforementioned in order to protect all of us. The City has paid out tens of millions of our dollars for the criminal behavior of people who should be long gone.

    Last but not least, get the cops out of the DA’s Investigative units and hire qualified Investigators from the civilian work force.

    Just like Trump it’s coming to make change.

  2. I think we should give less oversight to the IPA. Officers have body worn cameras now and they will tell the story. There will be less complaints. The complaints that do come in most likely can be addressed with training for particular officers. I don’t want my police force to be hamstrung by more red tape. I want them to make my community safe again.

    In my opinion, this is just more voter pandering by the mayor.

    2014-2015 SJPD received 564,528 911 calls and made 100,579 field events (i.e. traffic stops). With all those citizen contacts the IPA and SJPD received 303 complaints. In percentage, that is .00045%. Of those 303 complaints citizens (and criminals) didn’t like the way they were talked to and didn’t think they should have been arrested at all.

    In 2015 the IPA budget for six people was $1,249,223.

    The IPA makes at least $178,000 a year.

    The IPA went to 172 IPA presentation, community events, meet and greets

    Once Cordell left the IPA position, IPA complaints dropped from 51% to 39%

    SJPD made 55,000 less field events (i.e. car stops) then 2010-2011 year.

  3. Collection of vehicle stop data started long before LaDorkus… under her reign of IPA terror, however, it expanded to include pedestrian stops as well.

    SJPD has long been progressive in addressing such criticisms and concerns- it’s always the media that mischaracterizes (or lies) about the data.

  4. $178,000 a year to sit on my ass and revue 303 complaints where do get an application for this Government Job?
    The mayor and police chief are going to jail !

  5. Ok, I mean this with about 90% seriousness. Note to cops: DON”T STOP ANYMORE MINORITIES! Unless a person is white, preferably male, let them go. Let’s let all minority crimes go unenforced. Anarchy is preferable to racism, isn’t it?

    Wait, let me save the taxpayer some money: Here’s the results of yet another “new” study from the auditor and the race baiters: – Findings-

    1. There is a racial disparity in (enforcement; use of force; convictions; stops; searches; complaints that are exonerated or ignored; harsher sentencing etc., ad nauseum;) Take your pick

    2. There has been some (or none) progress but we need more; Oversight; Access to legally protected personnel records; (undefined) “transparency”;

    3. Stop closed grand jury hearings; replace with public hearing “show trials’ for any controversial police event (real or imagined)

    4. More sensitivity training (though it will never be enough) to eliminate (undefinable) ‘implicit bias’

    5. More (publicly funded) “Studies” to provide “Statistics” (numbers served up by flaccid police chiefs to corroborate preconceived (non-white) racially biased political agendas

    6. More (undefined) “community policing” (i.e., politicians and police chiefs kissing the tokuses of race activists and making promises to stop non-existent police abuse (supported solely by anecdotal evidence).

    7. More (undefinable) “Outreach” (only toward non-whites, never the reverse, that would be racism)

    *Things we will never see: A white male police auditor or “watchdog” who doesn’t have a beard or a ponytail!!!