San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo announced a nine-point police reform plan today that includes conducting independent investigations into misconduct, reviewing the SJPD’s use-of-force policies and auditing expenditures.
The news comes just weeks after the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer ignited nationwide protests that stretched to San Jose, where community members called on Liccardo and the rest of the City Council to defund SJPD. But the mayor has remained steadfast in his commitment to reform instead of defund.
“This nine-point plan represents what I regard as the next step,” Liccardo said Wednesday at a virtual news conference. “These are several very substantive changes which are proposed for how we will ensure that San Jose continues to be at the forefront of police accountability and how we can ensure that we are providing equal protection for everyone under the law as promised by our 14th Amendment.”
The first part of Liccardo’s proposal would make the arbitration process more transparent by “improving the arbitrator selection process, lifting the veil of secrecy over the content of arbitration decisions, limiting the scope of the arbitrator’s review of prior factual determinations, and allowing the city a right of appeal to a state court.”
In a press release sent to reporters ahead of the mid-week news conference, Liccardo cited a 2017 Washington Post article which found that since 2006, 451 of 1,881 police officers fired for misconduct at the 37 largest law enforcement agencies in the U.S. got their jobs back on appeal. (Incidentally, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office was among those 37 agencies, however, the analysis found that none of the eight deputies fired by the agency were rehired elsewhere.)
Liccardo also called for expanding authority of the Independent Police Auditor (IPA), which currently only has the power to review—not conduct—SJPD’s internal investigations. The mayor noted that plans are already in the works for a ballot initiative that, if approved by voters, would amend the city’s charter to allow the IPA to review officers’ use-of-force and other records. The San Jose Police Officers’ Association, which represents SJPD’s 1,100-plus cops, has already agreed to the proposed changes.
“A model of internal affairs is the dominant model for handling police misconduct in police departments across the country,” Liccardo said. “I’m calling for us to move beyond internal affairs because if anything the last few weeks have taught us that the public does not regard police misconduct, acts of unlawful use of force by the police as internal. These are very much of grave public concern and for that reason we need to move investigations of these matters outside the police department to an independent body.”
Liccardo’s multi-faceted proposal also includes plans to limit the use of rubber bullets in large crowds (except for people perceived as a direct threat), review SJPD’s use-of-force policies, audit expenditures, publish detention and stop information on a public dashboard and independently audit body camera footage.
In the plan unveiled Wednesday, the mayor touches on a 1990 proposal from former Mayor Tom McEnery and ex-SJPD Chief Joe McNamara that would offer scholarships to young San Jose residents in exchange for serving time as an officer.
However, out of all of the proposals laid out in the reform plan, Liccardo said he’s most interested in taking a look at officer’s use-of-force, especially when used against someone who is having a mental health crisis.
Despite hundreds, if not thousands, of comments made at City Council meetings over the last few weeks to defund the police, the mayor said he still believes that a majority of residents want to continue funding SJPD.
“They want police officers to show up and they vote with their phone calls,” he insisted. “We get 1.2 million a year and 600,000 of them are calls for emergency response. ... What we’re hearing overwhelmingly from the community and by that I mean when I’m at neighborhood meetings, and particularly in communities that are heavily effected by crime, our residents are overwhelmingly telling us we want more police, not less.”