Two years after derailing attempts to expand law enforcement oversight by way of a ballot measure, the San Jose police union has quietly ceded a compromise.
A letter signed Thursday by city leaders and the head of the San Jose Police Officers’ Association (POA) and quietly uploaded this morning to the city’s website agrees to afford a few additional powers to the Independent Police Auditor.
If the city goes through with a charter amendment to ratify the terms, the IPA would be able to review complaints initiated by the San Jose Police Department instead of just citizen claims. The IPA would also be able to obtain un-redacted records on incidents in which officers fire a service weapon or hurt someone with physical force. Finally, the IPA would get to see redacted police reports, use-of-force statistics and body cam footage.
The letter—which was uploaded and then removed on Thursday—was signed June 4 by SJPD Chief Eddie Garcia, City Manager David Sykes and HR Director Jennifer Schembri on one side. The other side, namely POA President Sgt. Paul Kelly, Vice President Sean Pritchard and the union’s attorney Gregg Adam, signed off on May 27.
That the administration finalized the deal nearly a week into citywide protests against police brutality was a coincidence, according to Jennifer Schembri.
“We’ve been negotiating this since 2018,” she said. “So, it’s been in the works for quite a bit of time. You can see the proposals back and forth on it on our website.”
And it had nothing to do with POA demands for higher pay once the current contract expires on June 30, Schembri added.
The POA approved of the final iteration in early May, she said, and scrawled its signatures two days before the protests kicked off in San Jose.
After George Floyd’s killing on Memorial Day by Minnesota police Officer Derek Chauvin ignited the nation in protests, Mayor Sam Liccardo assured residents that he still planned to advance the ballot measure to expand IPA authority.
It marked the first time the mayor publicly addressed the issue since 2018, when previous IPA Aaron Zisser resigned after a union-led campaign to discredit him. The POA’s battle with Zisser distracted from, and ultimately quashed, an effort to put an IPA-empowering charter revision on the November ballot.
Now, it appears the city’s finally on track to get the compromise measure out to voters.
Schembri said the plan is to take the side letter to the council’s June 30 open session. If approved, the city would then bring ballot language up for review on Aug. 4—just in the nick of time for the Nov. 3 general election.
UPDATE, 1pm June 5: Mayor Liccardo addressed the POA deal in a Facebook Live session, which you can watch below.
To participate in our Facebook Q&A chat, leave your questions in the comments below. I’ll be answering your questions here about COVID-19, and addressing a new proposal for police reform measures in San José.
Posted by Sam Liccardo on Friday, June 5, 2020