San Jose’s official police watchdog has been accused of misconduct for omitting raw data from an annual report in a way that misled the public about racial disparities and physical force. The police union is now calling for an outside investigation to determine if independent police auditor Aaron Zisser should be removed from office.
Zisser, however, said the concern cited by the San Jose Police Officers’ Association (POA) has already been addressed in a revised report he’s presenting to the City Council Tuesday during the final meeting of the fiscal year.
“They keep repeating the same thing, that I wasn’t willing to make the changes requested by the council,” Zisser said. “That’s absolutely not true.”
In a letter to the council, however, the POA called the omission from the May report evidence of bias and a violation of city charter.
“The decision to file this formal complaint was not taken lightly,” the POA wrote in a letter authorized by 500 union members. “The police officers that serve our city must adhere to the highest standards of ethics and conduct in the performance of their official duties and when they do not meet these standards, then they are held accountable. We, as well as yourself, the city council, and the residents of San Jose, should expect no less from the individual appointed to oversee the members of the police department.”
More than 500 officers signed off on the missive, which takes issue with a passage from an earlier draft of Zisser’s year-end report in which he noted that white suspects are more than two-and-a-half times more likely that minorities to come away from use-of-force incidents with no charges. What he neglected to include were the raw numbers, which, according to the POA, would have shown that he based that statement on a small enough sample size to render the findings statistically insignificant.
When Zisser presented his report on May 22, the council had the same issue and voted to send it back to his office for revision.
“I guess the problem is you're presenting statistics as if somehow or another we should draw an inference from the conclusion, when I know that if there was just any change in any variability of one person in one incident in any of those categories [it] would lead to a completely different conclusion,” Mayor Sam Liccardo said during the May meeting.
Zisser acknowledged the criticism as a fair point.
“I think the use of statistics or percentages rather than numbers—I can see now that that was misleading,” he replied at the meeting.
Though it was apparently lost in translation, Zisser said, one of the points he was trying to make in the passage in question was about the limitations of SJPD’s public online use-of-force database.
Regardless, the police auditor has since corrected that part of the annual review, among a few other changes. Zisser said he met with City Manager Dave Sykes and SJPD Chief Eddie Garcia the morning after that council meeting to address those concerns. The latest version of the report has been online since last week.
“Everyone else has moved on, and the POA has not,” Zisser said. “It’s time to move forward and actually do the work.”
More from the San Jose City Council agenda for June 26, 2018:
- The city plans to pay $59,900 to settle a lawsuit by 56-year-old Cosme Grijalva, who claims San Jose police arrested him for drug possession after conducting a warrantless search of his can. Santa Clara County’s DA dropped the charge after the court determined that the search was unlawful.
- The council will talk about placing a few city charter amendments on the ballot this fall. One would prevent the mayor and council from being able to set their own salaries. Another would up the city’s cardroom tax from 15 to 16 percent, which would generate an additional $1.25 million in annual revenue. Finally, the city is trying to poll potential voters to see if they’re willing to foot the bill for hundreds of millions of dollars in general obligation bonds to fund emergency infrastructure and road maintenance or improved 9-1-1 communications and public safety facilities.
WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260