San Jose Mayor Says Defunding Police Would Harm People of Color, Deepen Racial Inequities

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo has rejected calls by protesters to “defund police,” saying the city should instead double down on reform.

“We have the most thinly staffed police department in any major city in the United States, and we need to ask ourselves whether defunding is going to help those communities that have been victimized by systemic racism in this city and this country,” he said in an interview Sunday. “And I think the answer is no.”

The mayor’s concerns seem to stem from a misinterpretation about the push to defund, however. Proponents of the movement, by and large, aren’t trying to zero out police budgets but to reallocate some of that spending to other resources.

Here’s how Lynda Garcia, policing campaign director at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, put it to Rolling Stone in a recent interview: “A lot of what we advocate for is investment in community services—education, medical access … You can call it ‘defunding,’ but it’s just about directing or balancing the budget in a different way.”

Liccardo’s stance also diverges from those of his counterparts in a number of major cities, including Minneapolis, where police are accused of murdering George Floyd. On Sunday, news broke of a veto-proof City Council majority wanting to divert funding from traditional law enforcement to community services.

In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti proposed slashing up to $150 million off the police budget and steering it to causes that support black and Latino residents.

Closer to home, San Francisco Mayor London Breed—no bleeding-heart reformer—responded to the civil unrest over excessively forceful, hyper-militarized police by proposing a similar plan. Together with Supervisor Shamann Walton, a fellow African American on the Board of Supervisors, she suggested pulling money from SFPD to spend on programs that uplift black residents.

Garcetti and Breed became the first elected officials in California to release official statements about their plans to defund law enforcement in their cities.

In a statement Sunday, Breed said: “Reforms to any single system, such as the criminal justice system or the police department, must go hand-in-hand with closing the gaps and ending the disparities that we know exist. By bringing the community into the process of making these decisions, we can ensure that those who have been voiceless in the past now have a seat at the table as we make decisions that will impact their community.”

In San Jose, Mayor Liccardo—a former prosecutor—cited U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics showing that communities of color are disproportionately victimized by serious and violent crimes. Thus, he argued, any cuts to SJPD would harm the same people that proponents of defunding want to protect.

“Communities of color are disproportionately victimized by serious crime, and we see that statistically and that is a result of what might be characterized as economic apartheid that has existed in our nation and has made cities highly segregated racially,” he explained in a conversation with San Jose Inside. “Which means that all too often, we see in low income communities too many of our residents disproportionately victimized by violent crime and [who] don’t have the resources, like white wealthy neighborhoods do, to go hire private security. And if you’re a small businesses owner who happens to be an immigrant—which is, by the way, the overall majority of our small businesses owners are immigrants—and if you’re in the inner city, you have to deal with robberies, [but] the ‘iStore’ at the mall can get a private security patrol.”

Last week, the mayor called for a ban on firing rubber bullets into crowds, something that left multiple protesters seriously injured—maiming some and leaving others bloodied and bruised. (Side note: it wasn’t until a week after the protests started that Liccardo says he heard about what happened to Derrick Sanderlin, who was potentially sterilized by a rubber round on May 29. The mayor has yet to publicly acknowledge that anyone else was harmed by SJPD’s crowd-control tactics).

Liccardo also called to expand the powers of the San Jose Independent Police Auditor (IPA), albeit on the SJPOA’s terms. When activists sought to advance their own measure in 2018, the effort was sidelined by the POA turning on then-IPA Aaron Zisser, who resigned under pressure after less than a year on the job when it was clear that the mayor and council were unwilling to stand up to the police union.

In the two years since, the POA and city negotiated a side-letter, finalized last week, that agrees to some marginal expansions of IPA authority. Under the compromise, which still requires a vote by the public, the IPA would gain more access to SJPD’s use-of-force policies and get to audit complaints initiated from within the police department.

Finally, Liccardo said he wants greater accountability for officer misconduct, “so bad cops can be fired faster.” That said, the mayor commended SJPD’s progress under Chief Eddie Garcia in virtually eliminating disparity between use-of-force rates and arrest rates involving people of color. That progress needs to go farther, Liccardo added, saying San Jose still needs to revise union contracts and laws that “create obstacles to ensuring officer accountability—particularly the firing of bad cops.”

Liccardo credited the following reforms for SJPD’s progress so far:

  • Collecting and publishing data on every pat-down, stop, arrest or force incident by race
  • Hiring external experts to analyze data and issue recommendations
  • Spending millions of dollars on body cameras and video data storage
  • Imposing mandatory training on de-escalation and implicit bias
  • Using data analysis to detect misconduct-prone officers earlier
  • Enhanced psychological testing and screening for police academies
  • Increased investment in recruiting that reflect the diversity of the city

All of those initiatives require funding, Liccardo noted, particularly to backfill thousands of hours in which officers are in training instead of out on patrol. “Defunding police undermines progress on these and other tools to improve accountability, training and recruiting,” the mayor said.

Proponents of defunding police should “be realistic” about how cuts will impact public safety, the mayor went on to say. “Any police chief or city council will be loath to cut the lifeline 9-1-1 emergency response that patrol officers provide to communities in moments of distress,” Liccardo said. “Instead, they’ll wring savings from programs that work proactively to build stronger communities in troubled neighborhoods, such as crime prevention, Police Activities League and community outreach.”

The San Jose Police Department has a roughly $450 million budget, the vast majority of which (about $442 million) covers personnel costs. SJPD’s budget allocation comprises about a third of the city’s general fund.

Councilman Lan Diep—who’s proved to be one of the most outspoken of his colleagues on local policing this past week—prompted a lively conversation on Twitter over the weekend about what defunding law enforcement would look like in San Jose.

Some people responded to the D4 rep by questioning whether PD really needs to spend as much on overtime. Others pointed out that audits in past years have recommended additional investment in civilianized personnel. Nikita Sinha, head of pedestrian advocacy group Walk San Jose, suggested cutting traffic enforcement.

One activist suggested cutting the $1.4 million a year spent on cannabis enforcement and redirecting some $5 million allocated on truancy and school safety to “improving schools.” And $10.8 million on special operations? “No,” @EcoSocYogi wrote in a Twitter post Sunday. “Do teachers have a $100k fund for teacher gifts? Cops do. Pay teachers, fire cops. Start with officer [Jared] Yuen.”

Kyle Martin contributed to this report. 

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. The way things are run now theres’s no accountability.
    Us “rich, privileged” white people have been just as poorly served as anybody else.
    Deunionizing ALL government employees, not just police, would be a good first step toward making the City, including the police department accountable to the people.
    Also, curtail the groveling for federal funds and the concomitant giving away control of how we do things and making us beholden to the bozos in Washington.

  2. > and we need to ask ourselves whether defunding is going to help those communities that have been victimized by systemic racism in this city

    Well, if there’s “systemic racism in this city” and everyone thinks it’s awful, who doesn’t Liccardo just end it?

    If there ISN’T any systemic racism, or he doesn’t know what to do about it, he should just say so.

    Mayor issues statement: “There’s no systemic racism in San Jose. Get over it. It’s only a problem in cities run by weak, wimpy progressive snowflakes and soyboys like Minneapolis.”

    • You assume Liccardo is capable of identifying his participation in institutional racism. It is difficult to understand a culture objectively from within that culture.

      Liccardo sees himself as pro-institutions. He is the closest thing to a living embodiment of the acting institutions of the city. Two terms on the council, in his second term as mayor, either a prominent member of or a leader of the governing majority on the city council for almost that entire period. He has built long relationships with bureaucratic leaders, including the police chief, and despite San Jose’s weak mayor system Mayor Liccardo has used a combination of his mayoral authority and coalitional power to exercise an extraordinary amount of control. Liccardo is an institutionalist to his bones, it’s in the nature of a Harvard-educated former prosecutor, but when it comes to San Jose, Liccardo is the establishment, and he 100% understands this fact.

      I get it to a degree. When you’re in power, most people who ask things of you don’t consider what you’re actually capable of doing. The more time you spend in office, the more and more you will receive unfair criticism, often from people who have no idea what they are talking about. How does one psychologically deal with that sort of abuse? If you were a boy who was given ample opportunity to develop his mind thanks to the support of his parents and years attending private schools, a boy whose powerful mind would take him to Georgetown and later give him the focus to earn his JD and MPP concurrently from Harvard, a pretty damn smart boy because he had the chance to be one, you might start to get a little jaded about all of these people who can’t grasp the things you can grasp. It’s not easy to deal with being misunderstood. How does it feel when you enact a policy that you sincerely believe will lead to positive change for your city only to have people who don’t seem to understand your policy attack your personal character? How does one deal with that day in and day out for years? You commiserate with the city bureaucrats who are going through similar experiences. You dismiss the critics as naive. You do this to keep your sanity.

      Over time, however, a pattern of thinking emerges. If you’re a boy from an elite family with an elite education in an elite job who spends his time around other elites dealing with unreasonable complaints from regular people, how does that make you see yourself? Do you get a little bit classist? I know I can’t look into Sam’s heart, and this is speculative, but humans are bred through millions of years to size each other up socially, and when I look at Sam I don’t really see someone who laughs at themselves, I don’t see someone I could have a beer with. I see a Roman patrician who seems to need me to respect him.

      So how does an insider react when outsiders are at the gates? Liccardo defended the police immediately, saying they displayed “commendable restraint.” Days later he would defend himself for not acknowledging the maiming of an innocent man at what should be known as the Skirmish of San Jose by saying that he had not known about the man’s injury. So he knew enough about the police response to say the officers were restrained but not enough to know who the officers injured and now, which is preposterous.

      When someone pre-judges a situation based on generalities rather than specifics, we call that prejudice. I believe Liccardo’s defense of the police in light of a complete understanding of what had taken place was a display of prejudice in favor of police and against protestors.

      I wouldn’t say that Sam has prejudices against people of color, but the problem of institutionalized racism is that racists are enabled by institutions that are enabled by non-racists, and Liccardo’s the top dog in charge of that chain right now. A month ago I would never have imagined calling the SJPD racist, but I can’t deny it after seeing how they chose to respond to a protest against police violence. Seeing individual officers on the ground tell protestors that they wanted to laugh at them, other officers firing indiscriminately into the crowd. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it.

      Anyway, I hope that answers your question about why Liccardo won’t do anything about institutional racism.

      • > Anyway, I hope that answers your question about why Liccardo won’t do anything about institutional racism.

        You really didn’t have to spend so much mental and emotional energy to deconstruct and explain what is mostly a diversionary sideshow.

        This is not really about George Floyd or how upset virtuous virtue signaling people are about “systemic racism”. This is about Trump hatred, inflaming the Democrat voter base, and getting them to vote on 2020.

        The context of the Kibuki theature is “Critical Race Theory”. It’s what the hard left has been noodling on for the past couple of years. See: “White Fragility”.

        The tenets of “Critical Race Theory” makes it pretty clear that “ending racism” is never going to happen:

        > In critical race Theory, it is simply impossible for racism to be absent from any situation.

        Liccardo is NEVER going to end “systemic racism”; the “race constituency” is NEVER going to agree that “systemic racism” has been ended. Stalemate.

        “Racism” is the hamster wheel of hard left politics.

        • You almost never respond to what people actually say, but create a nihilist strawman, and then use the existence of that nihilist strawman as justification to offer your own nihilism.

          When asked about what role the media should have in observing protests, you responded that there exists in our society “nihilists” who didn’t believe in “truth.” Your nihilistic opponents had destroyed the concept of a media to the point where it was impossible to tell who the media was and anti-police combatants could potentially disguise themselves as media. You used this claim to dismiss the question of what role media should have in observing police protests.

          Responding to the question of how to respond to racism in society, you assert those who want to combat racism have destroyed the concept of “racism” through their assertion that all interactions are racist. You use this claim to dismiss the question of how to respond to racism in society.

          In both of these situations, you project your own ideas about what people believe onto them (no one said anything about critical race theory, in this example), almost always in a way that allows you to claim their beliefs exist outside the bounds of rational debate (while not actually contending with what they have said), and respond by saying, “in the absence of any way to figure out what is correct, my beliefs are just as good.”

          Oh, your opponents will never be satisfied with the amount of racism in the world? Well, I guess that means any amount of racism is just as good as any other amount!

          Oh, your opponents don’t believe in truth? Well, I guess that means there’s no point in protecting a free press!

          The truth is that you are the nihilist.

          • > You almost never respond to what people actually say, , , ,

            Where did you get the idea that you could DEMAND answers and that people have to responed?

            Did you issue a subpoena?

            This is SJI’s forum. I don’t pick the topics. I respond to whatever topics SJI puts on the table. Many of the topics simply don’t merit a response because they’re obvious, or pointless, or ridiculous, or nobody cares or — who knows — maybe even right.

            > The truth is that you are the nihilist.

            That’s not what my nihilist friends say. They say I’m a pretty lousy nihilist.

            And, by the way, are you a certified nihilist examiner? How do I know you’re not just making making this up?

          • No one is demanding anything.

            You can present your ideas as you wish, and I have the right to point out the dangers in those ideas as I see them. If you wish to let my critiques of your ideas stand with no response, you may do so. If you wish to respond to my critiques with a response that I feel ignores the critique itself, I can point that out, and you can let that stand or you can respond again.

            If you say something about a topic presented on this forum from SJI, I respond, and you respond, we are having a discussion – given the nature of SJI, probably a discussion about ideas related to our society. Personally, I think it’s easier to have a discussion of ideas when you actually respond to what the other person says instead of ignoring it and repeating something that reconfirms to ourselves that the people who disagree with us are irrational. I suspect that the reason why you mind immediately jumps to these “they can’t be rational” mythologies as an ideological defense mechanism to protect your sense of intelligence and superiority when you are confronted with opposing viewpoints.

            I’m not going to demand that you consider or respond to my point of view, but so long as you ignore it and give me a response acting like you haven’t, I’m going to point that out. If your ideas were strong or worth defending, I would think you would welcome a back and forth on them. How else would you find out if they were true or not?

  3. “”Don’t Treat Africans Like Kids” – Black Twitter Erupts At Democrats’ Anti-Police Bill Stunt”

    Lots of people are having fun at Nancy Pelosi’s expense:
    – – – – – –

    “I had to say something about the American politicians shameless and ignorantly using the Kente fabric as a prop in their virtue signaling.

    *I’m usually more mild mannered than this so please forgive me, I’m upset.

    – – – – – –
    There is more Kente fabric in this picture than at a Ghanaian traditional wedding.

    The DC African-fabric shop is probably now sold out in order to meet the demand of this ridiculous tokenism by Democrat politicians.
    Dear Africans step aside!
    – – – – – –
    How is it not “cultural appropriation” for Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, & Jerrold Nadler to show up to the Capitol wearing West African “Kente Cloth”

    Can you imagine if a Republican showed up in this for a publicity stunt?
    – – – – –

    hey everyone, ghana never weaved the kente cloth. we don’t even know what that is. speaker pelosi got that from china.
    – – – – – –

    I am not sure what’s funnier, those ridiculous politicians wearing kente cloth or Cory Booker smartly opting out of that absurd performance.
    – – – – – –

    If anyone can’t understand why Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and them dressed up like they’re trying to sneak into Wakanda is disrespectful and appropriative you have a great deal to learn.

    – – – – – –

    • You won’t see or hear the liberal media show the criticisms shown here of queen Nancy for her shameless and ignorant pandering for votes.

  4. ‪The City of San Jose is NOT a Strong Mayor city like some in the Bay Area. The City Council and City Manager run the City. The Mayor is a figure head or a spokesperson, but has only one vote on the council. Police reform will not be subject to one man’s decision. Majority Rules!‬

    • > The City of San Jose is NOT a Strong Mayor city like some in the Bay Area.

      Are you trying to say that Sam Liccardo is a weak mayor?

      I think I already said that. I think we all agreed.

  5. yes because those kids who keep breaking into cars in my neighborhood will definitely stop doing that if they only had a community center where they could hang out instead! As if!

  6. I’ll start from the top. Sam, in thrall to Czarina Cody, has removed the most freedoms from his vassals of any place in the country, by way of edict. We still can’t get haircuts, manies or pedies, are limited to how many can attend funerals, weddings, bar mitzvas, etc., and have to mask up everywhere…except Sam, who stands face to face with a protester, and neither one is masked up. It also doesn’t look like Sam has been without a haircut for two months as have I and the rest of his vassals. Do as I say, not as I do, quoth Sam Bends the Knee, his Lakota name. Do Sam, Colin (who never could master the play clock) Kaepernick, or any of the white guilt gulliberals understand the significance of bending the knee? Historically, for millennia of human history, as well as on Game of Thrones, bending the knee signifies and declares obeisance, subservience, and subjugation. That attitude and behavior was coined and fostered is this country by Obama, who spent a lot of time bowing, scraping, and groveling to foreign leaders. Bending the knee is symbolic of far more than understanding and addressing the legitimate complaints of law abiding non-white people in America. Standing in solidarity with people of color ( at the core a truly silly way to describe anyone) is far different than bending the knee.
    I have to agree with Sam Bends the Knee that defunding police departments will not reduce racism, and will cause more harm than good. At least Sam lives in a regular neighborhood. Politicians like Pelosi and Feinstein live in gated enclaves and have security, so they won’t be affected by police defunding. The same is true of the moronic so-called celebrities and athletes who can just hire more security. For the average person living in a ghetto or a barrio, defunding police will put them at greater risk.
    Cops are not sociologists, drug or domestic violence counselors, or mental health professionals; nor should they be asked to be any of those things. So, if defunding means diverting some of the law enforcement budget to the appropriate professionals, I can get behind that; and if the POA is smart, they will, too. I say this realizing that none of that Kumbaya sh*t has proven to actually work. I just want to take the pressure of the cops who bear the brunt of the failure of tactics they are not, nor can ever be, properly trained to do. A big step would be to repeal, or at least sharply curtail, the LPS Act.
    Jennifer, there is a huge difference between writing “the police” are accused of killing George Floyd and that “four police officers” are accused of killing or aiding and abetting the killing of George Floyd. Or, did you mean to say or imply that the entire department is complicit in Floyd’s death? If so, your evidence would be…what?
    London Breed is “no bleeding heart reformer”? You and I have a far different definition of that sobriquet. Emptying the jail is not bleeding heart to you?
    Malcolm X told anyone who would listen more than 60 years ago that the greatest danger to black Americans is the liberals. Liberal policies, mostly Democrat-driven, have turned much of black America into dependent slaves on the new plantation, aka The Projects, with the added bonus that they don’t have to work.
    Sam Bend the Knee states correctly that “communities of color are disproportionately victimized by serious crime”. Well, since Jennifer didn’t ask the follow up question, I will. Whose fault is that? The police? Nope. They are mostly victimized by other “people of color”. There are no bands of marauding white people invading the ‘hoods and the barrios victimizing people “of color”. The police aren’t robbing them, burglarizing their homes, etc.; it’s pretty much black against black crime and Hispanic against Hispanic crime. But none of the so-called or self-appointed leaders of those communities will step up to address the fact that the few bad cops who do illegally harass people “of color” are vastly outnumbered by the same-community criminals who prey on them. Police need cooperation of the neighborhood people to help stop crime. They are all MIA. The cops are NOT the major problem. The people “of color” are the problems; both the victims and the victimizers of each other.
    Well, enough for today. I’ll return later to finish up commenting on this latest effort by Jenn. I guess everyone can figure out why I’m not on Twitter.

    • > Do Sam, Colin (who never could master the play clock) Kaepernick, or any of the white guilt gulliberals understand the significance of bending the knee?

      Ummmm. Could it be praying to the almighty?

      I could understand why a mediocre quarterback might want to do that durning an NFL game.

      Or, why a mediocre mayor might want to do that during an out of control race riot.

  7. > San Jose Mayor Says Defunding Police Would Harm People of Color, Deepen Racial Inequities

    Ya think?

    240 million calls to 911 every year.

    25% of calls are from blacks.

    What if calls from blacks didn’t get answered?

    R-A-Y-C-I-S-M !

    Having a 911 call answered would become a privilege of whiteness.

    The progressive white snowflakes and trust fund children holding up “Black Lives Matter” signs on street corners might want to think this through.

  8. > I suspect that the reason why you mind immediately jumps to these “they can’t be rational” mythologies as an ideological defense mechanism to protect your sense of intelligence and superiority when you are confronted with opposing viewpoints.

    Yes! That’s exactly right! You’ve nailed it!

    It’s an ideological defense mechanism to protect my sense of intelligence and superiority when I’m confronted with opposing viewpoints.

    I SHOULD have recognized that.

    < If your ideas were strong or worth defending, I would think you would welcome a back and forth on them.

    I also think that my ideas weren't really that strong, and probably were not worth defending.

    I'll come up with some stronger ideas. But, what if they're too strong and end up crushing you? Do you think you would be able to handle it?

  9. Who determines the official policies of the City of San Jose? Is it the elected City Council or the un-elected Police Officers Association (POA)? Are members of the San Jose Police Department employees of the city enabled by public financing (our tax money) and subject to public direction and oversight (our elected leaders) or does that Department set public policy on its own? In recent days, Mayor Liccardo has stated that he has no power to remove any police officers or other City employees due to the City Charter.

    The labor agreement that is currently in force between the City and the Police Officers’ Association, the so-called Memorandum of Agreement (January 1, 2017–June 30, 2020), states: “…[T]he City retains all rights, powers and authority granted to it or which it has pursuant to law or other provisions of the City Charter including, but not limited to: the right to direct the work force; increase, decrease or reassign the work force; hire, promote, demote; discharge or discipline for cause; or reclassify employees; provide merit increases; assign employees overtime and special work requirements, and to determine the necessity, merits, mission and organization of any service or activity of the City or any City Department Agency or Unit” (p. 26) (

    This sounds to me like the elected leaders and City administration call the shots or, at least can call the shots. But when politicians abdicate their power, demure and defer to the vested and special interests–including the POA–who fund them, we get an out of control, and potentially, dangerous police force. (People can dig through data on POA donations, and donations by other major vested local elite interest using the data sources used in

    If chain of command over the police in the City is ambiguous, then we residents have to start asking some basic questions: 1) what is required to ensure public safety and the enforcement of law in our city of some 1,000,000 people?; 2) what are ways of achieving public safety and law enforcement that is consistent with basic human rights regardless of race, gender, class, faith tradition, sexual preference, etc.?; 3) do the answers to 1) and 2) require a “police force” and, if so, how would such a force be structured and, if not, what are alternative ways for the City to achieve those goals?

    It looks like years of community organizing and struggles and the murder of George Lloyd have prompted Minneapolis city leaders to disband its current police force ( Residents of San Jose would be well served to pay attention to what is unfolding there for the important lessons we can glean about better City governance for ourselves. San Jose elected leaders must definitively and decisively assert unambiguous elected civilian command and control of police and policing.

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