San Jose Police Agree to Slight Expansion of Civilian Oversight

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

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. Or, click here to sign up for text updates about what she’s working on.

8 Comments

  1. “would get to see redacted police reports, use-of-force statistics and body cam footage”: Can you please clarify what this means? Would the IPA get to see full police reports and statistics that were otherwise only publicly available after redaction? Or would they get to see a version of those sources that have been redacted, which were previously not available in any form?

    Thank you for your reporting.

  2. I was surprised and impressed by most of the mayor’s address and responses to questions. However, although he ended the session with “thank you all”, it appeared that all the questions were asked by one person, McKenzie. Who is she and why was she the only questioner? The questions seemed scripted.

  3. While this is a start, I want to see budget cuts in the SJPD funding!! The amount that gets approved by officials is frankly quite ridiculous!! I want San José to do this for community! Do better Mayor Liccardo!

  4. My previous comment was deleted, what are you afraid of being called out!? I’ll say it again, you talk of nothing! Cut the police budget, SJPD doesn’t not need the funding! Invest in our communities! Do better Mayor Liccardo!!

    • > My previous comment was deleted,
      . . .
      > Cut the police budget, SJPD doesn’t not need the funding! Invest in our communities!

      KENIA:

      Hypothetical question:

      Someone is interfering with your First Amendment right to freely express youself.

      You go to court and get an order to make them stop. The speech suppressors refuse to stop.

      Do you want the authorities to send in the cops to convince the suppressors to stop through use of force?

      Or, is your “community” going to handle this? How?

  5. We have tried independent oversight. It has not been effective. Slight changes without serious restructuring will have no effect. Bias training for the department resulted in SJPD shooting a rubber bullet directly into the groin of Derrick Sanderling, the activist who did bias training for the SJPD. Both Garcia and Liccardo defend their actions against the community, and continue to peddle a false narrative about community harm in defunding the police – namely that chaos will run supreme without the police’s stronghold on the community. The mayor should explain his evidence on why it won’t work. He should explain why an entire disband and restructure from the ground up will cause more harm. Our police department has a F rating from campaign zero. The same actors are not capable of reform. Liccardo has no incentive for reform. He will end his term in 3 years. He is likely to be replaced by Peralaz who is still a reserve officer. We should recall Liccardo and elect some one prepared to make real changes in our community. We are a community. We are not a war zone full of enemies that must be stopped. If you keep treating people as such, don’t be surprised when people are angry. If you do nothing about inequality, don’t be surprised when people rage and loot.

  6. 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 San Jose Police Department employees city employees 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? To hear Liccardo in this video clip, you’d think the Department runs the show around here and you might be right.

    But 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) (https://www.sanjoseca.gov/home/showdocument?id=32017).

    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 https://maplight.org/story/campaign-funding-in-silicon-valley-spotlight-on-san-jose/.)

    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 (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/07/us/minneapolis-police-abolish.html). 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.

  7. Wait, what? The POA and the Chief get to dictate the level of oversight they are subject to? How is that even a consideration?

    The IPA is supposed to be representing the people of San Jose. The people of San Jose pay for the police. Yet he police get to dictate terms for how the IPA gets to oversee their activities and investigate complaints. The IPA should have 100% unfettered access to all police records, including all body cam footage. Letting the POA create the rules for the IPA is like me telling my boss how and when they can supervise me and check my work.

    The City’s position should be that anyone in the police department, including the Chief, who restricts the IPA will be immediately fired.

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