Policing and Downtown’s Emerging Nighttime Culture

Much of the news in recent days has been dominated by the issues surrounding the San Jose Police Department.  Last week, several colleagues and I sought greater transparency and disclosure of police reports, but by a 5-6 margin,we narrowly failed to persuade our colleagues to adopt the ordinance proposed by the “Sunshine” Task Force. On Sunday, the Mercury News released a video documenting the use of force by SJPD officers in the arrest of San Jose State University student Phoung Ho. Ash Kalra, Madison Nguyen, and I immediately called for a full investigation and—if any criminal charges of the officers are sought—a grand jury process open to public view. 

Amid this rancor, one can understandably overlook many of the recent improvements to our downtown policing.  We shouldn’t.  While headlines compete for attention, for example, on the disproportionate arrests of Latinos on “drunk in public” charges, far less attention is paid to the resulting reforms, such as new arrest policies that have required verification by alcohol-detection devices and supervisor approval.

More subtle have been the gradual changes in downtown nighttime culture.  As I took office in early 2007, the nighttime environment reached a nadir.  Dominated by fly-by-night promoters and pack-the-house DJs, downtown San Jose’s night clubs drew big crowds with inadequate security to manage them.  Tensions escalated between overworked officers and thousands of club-goers in varying states of sobriety, particularly around closing time. 

In March of 2007 and again in February of 2008, I drafted a series of initiatives calling for reforms focused on increasing the accountability of the clubs while softening the interaction of police with club patrons.  These measures emphasized such changes as:

• assessing clubs for police overtime costs;
• creating a licensing scheme to force entertainment promoters to submit to background checks and assume greater responsibility for security;
• reducing the number of police deployed in the downtown core; 
• implementing a deployment model that gets the officers out of their cars and on to the sidewalks, in more interactive manner;
• creating a “soft closing” pilot to enable patrons to leave at a leisurely pace at closing time rather than being “pushed”out;
• improving training for bartenders and bouncers to reduce over-serving and address problem behaviors before the police become involved;  and
• restricting the size of new clubs to improve crowd management.

Since that time, the Council passed almost all of these measures, with only the new club size restrictions pending Council deliberation.  We’ve also employed other important initiatives– easing restrictions on “sidewalk cafes” to encourage more “eyes on the street,” and imposing fees for late-night parking to pay for safety, lighting and cleaning improvements in the garages.  The result: in three of the city’s key downtown garages—Market St., Third St. and Second/San Carlos—monthly incidents reported by SJPD dropped by half between 2008 and 2009.

City Manager Deb Figone has tasked city staff member, Lee Wilcox, the downtown coordinator, to ably coordinate these various initiatives, and to facilitate communication between clubs and the police.  Dozens of bartenders and bouncers have attended SJPD-conducted safety trainings, for example.  Gradually, a new tone has emerged.

In July, City Manager Deb Figone and Police Chief Rob Davis initiated a new police deployment model.  Under the direction of Lt. Larry McGrady and Capt. Phan Ngo, they enabled a more collaborative approach with the clubs, an approach harkening to the days when San José pioneered “community policing” a quarter century ago.  Lt. McGrady encouraged officers to leave their patrol cars and walk the beat, engage proactively with club owners, soften the sidewalk-clearing at closing time, and undergo specialized training for policing clubs.  Along with a more collaborative approach comes added responsibility, however; the SJPD recently pulled the entertainment permit of Club WET because of its failure to police itself. 

Replacing a failing nighttime culture required that we affirmatively push for alternatives that would draw a crowd with a greater diversity of ages and interests.  So, we’ve engaged with arts venues along South First Street to enhance and expand “First Friday” events that bring thousands downtown every month to enjoy the best of our cultural scene.  The San Jose Downtown Association led a successful effort to revive struggling restaurants with a “Dine Downtown” week of prix fixe menus at dozens of eateries.

Through a community engagement process, a consensus emerged that live music would serve as a key tool for broadening the downtown’s appeal.  Several private and non-profit entrepreneurs emerged with great concepts.  Chris Esparza—with the help of the Redevelopment Agency, 1st Act, and co-producers Michael Brilliot and Sheila Bernus Dowd—launched “Left Coast Live,” a successful effort to fill over forty downtown venues—restaurants, hotels, outdoor stages, and even bank lobbies—with live music of all types and tastes.  Andrew Bales and Symphony San Jose returned with a larger and wildly popular summer Pops festival, filling the expansive lawns of San Jose State University with thousands of residents. 

The anchor events of the downtown music scene—the Jazz Fest, Music in the Park, Blues Week, and Mariachi Festival—drew strong crowds by featuring acts like Santana, Joan Baez, and Third Eye Blind.  Finally, we’ve invested millions in Redevelopment Agency funding to restore long-dormant luster to the historic Civic Auditorium.  Once a host to such legends as the Rolling Stones and The Who, the Civic has opened its doors once again to crowd pleasers like Crosby Stills Nash & Young and Steely Dan, and helping to restore business for struggling downtown restaurants.

To be sure, a dreadful economy has taken its toll on our pace of progress, and much work remains.  Yet we shouldn’t overlook that progress: the Wall Street Journal, for instance, recently recognized San Jose as America’s 6th best city for attracting young people and top post-college talent, while the Responsible Hospitality Institute nominated San Jose for a national award for its efforts to remake its downtown night scene.  As a slowly recovering economy brings new opportunities—for a downtown ballpark, for instance—we look to continue this momentum to bring positive changes to our nighttime culture.

37 Comments

  1. Sam is running for Mayor and pandering to get votes by patting himself on the back and leading the ” Horay for Sam” chant

    Is downtown better, worst or the same today because of Sam?

    What has Sam done to better San Jose?

    Who are his supporters and do they want best for San Jose or what is best for themselves?

    What projects has Sam lead and are they made San Jose better or worst   Hint” more city spending on affordable housing, more development tax subsidies, BART, more downtown spending but not money to pay for basic city services

    Has Sam and Council fixed budget, improved services made San Jose better or just talked while San Jose got worst?

    You get to vote

  2. I really enjoyed hearing you insights, thank you for your optimism. Hopefully we can continue to grow our eclectic nightlife culture and make visitors feel safe and welcome downtown.

    • Or do you work for the Downtown Association?  “Eclectic nightlife culture”…what planet have you been on lately?  Clearly you thought you were blogging on San Francisco Inside or San Diego or San Antonio Inside…not San Jose Inside, because your repeating of the Downtown Association “eclectic nightlife culture” mantra is laughable.

      • No, I don’t work for the Downtown Association. There’s no point in hiding my name, I’m a proud supporter of San Jose… especially downtown (http://www.thesanjoseblog.com). I also think eclectic is the right word. Have you ever been to a south first friday art walk? We have dozens of bars and nighclubs ranging from seedy to trendy, a hundred restaurants, midnight movies at camera 12, the improv, comedy sports, half a dozen performance venues, etc. There are more options than most people realize and downtown is catering to a wide variety of people with different interests and budgets. You might think I’m nuts, but I would much rather hang out in downtown San Jose than SF… and the friends I bring (sometimes drag) downtown are starting to see more of what I see. Hopefully one day, you won’t be laughing at someone saying something positive about downtown.

        • I agree with one element of your post, your nuts…jk.  Look I’m a fan of downtown, I just think that is the same tired folks are kept in charge then we will get more of the same.

  3. What a bunch of PR bunk!  Downtown is Closed!  Get over it.  the police run this sad city and the Chief says downtown is closed.

    Keep smiling Sammy.  That’s all your good for!

    The Chief is in charge!

    PD

  4. Sam,
    While I don’t agree with you very often, and these stands you are taking on the SS Task Force, the Pham, and Ho cases are just a few of the things I strongly oppose you on, I feel compelled to thank you for every wonderful thing you did to help the Hosseini family.

    For those of you reading this, you should know that Sam organized residents on many occasions to help the Hosseini family get fliers of the suspects out into the community on a regular basis. He got community centers, businesses, and libraries involved in helping us get fliers out. He walked that entire neighborhood on weekends passing out fliers. He called the Hosseini family on a regular basis to see if he could help with anything. He spoke at the Peace March Cassandra Hosseini and I organized, and he did so in Spanish so that everyone felt included. He went out of his way to console and help that family, and I am deeply grateful to him for this.

    He also fought for women who suffered domestic violence, and sexual abuse victims many times on issues before the Council. It is this kind of personal compassion that we must embrace even when we don’t like or agree with someone. From the bottom of my heart Sam, thank you.

  5. Mr. Liccardo wrote:

    “the Mercury News released a video documenting the use of force by SJPD officers in the arrest ofSan Jose State University student Phoung Ho. Ash Kalra, Madison Nguyen, and I immediately called for a full investigation and—if any criminal charges of the officers are sought—a grand jury process open to public view. “

    —“video documenting the use of force”
    You offer this as if the use of force by police officers is in and of itself unlawful or shocking. The use of force by police department members (and their documentation of it) is a near everyday occurrence, one that is, in almost every instance, employed as a lawful, last-resort manner by police officers who, in the face of non-compliance, have no option to retreat. You, of course, know this, not because you’ve ever done anything so brave as physically engage with a dangerous person, but because, as a prosecutor, you’ve no doubt READ about the actions of brave officers in police reports.

    You today posture as if you were, like Raj Jayadev, an ignorant activist who reflexively recoils at any use of force by police officers. But you are not an ignorant activist, you are instead merely another in a long line of local politicians eager to gain political advantage at the expense of the good of the community. Amidst the calamity created with this video by the Chicken Littles in the media you see an opportunity to get your name out there in a bandwagon atmosphere all but free from the risk of accountability.

    Go ahead, councilman, shoot your mouth off—you are safe to do so for the sole and simple reason that you are protected by law enforcers who will, at risk to themselves, use whatever force necessary to protect you from those who might challenge your right to do, say, or own anything. Force is the bottom line in the execution of the law—not authority, not position, not arrogance; absent FORCE the law books you once mastered become a disarmed collection of thoughts and ideals, devoid of both consequences and impact.

    —“Ash Kalra, Madison Nguyen, and I immediately called for a full investigation and—if any criminal charges of the officers are sought—a grand jury process open to public view. “

    If a “full investigation” of the incident is required, does our police chief need you to point it out? We pay the man a tidy sum to run the department—if you doubt his ability to do it correctly why not have the courage to declare it publicly? Your grandstanding act is either a cheap political move or an insult to the chief? Which is it?

    Why the coalition? If the officer’s actions in the video moved you so why the need to join hands with colleagues? Do you not trust your own judgment, or is your little coalition, exclusive as it is, designed for purposes that have nothing to do with seeing justice done in this case?

    Why the mention of criminal charges? Since officers are empowered to use force, and all use of force cases are reviewed and/or investigated, where’s the need for mentioning only one potential outcome—the worst one for the officers? Use of force cases sometimes result in officers being decorated; are you willing to publicly acknowledge that possibility in this case? Of course not, because no matter your legal education, when it comes to your political ambitions you have zero commitment to impartiality or justice.

    As for your call for an open grand jury hearing, as an attorney you know damn well the negative impact that a biased, hostile crowd can have on the objectivity of jurors, grand or not. That you want to subject only police officers to so compromised a process is disgraceful. Either you believe in open grand juries for all public servants—including the thieves, scoundrels, and worms who are so often elected—or this call of yours should be seen as just one more reason to put your budding political career out of its misery.

    • Mr. Liccardo seems like a self serving blowhard. It is amazing the credit he is taking in his blog for things that have never happened. He seems to like to pound his chest like Pier.

      Even without Mr. Liccardo grandstanding their would have been a full investigation. He had nothing to do with that process.

      What Mr. Liccardo also is so out of touch with is that ultimately police work involves dealing with violent situations which sometimes require violence to subdue. A rather large guy threatens to kill his roommate with a knife for a minor reason. He sounds pretty nuts and the officers did what they had to do to take him into custody.

      I am happy that Mr. Liccardo did the right thing in the case Katleen mentioned though.

    • Well said FF. I find it amazing that two lawyers would be a part of a lynch mob in prejudging Police Officers when they haven’t been made privy to all the evidence or facts in these cases. Our City Leaders need to reserve judgment until all the facts are in. No wonder we can’t get people to join the Police force!

    • Interesting statement, finfan: “As for your call for an open grand jury hearing, as an attorney you know damn well the negative impact that a biased, hostile crowd can have on the objectivity of jurors, grand or not.”  Actually, in every one of the dozens of jury trials I’ve had as a federal prosecutor and Deputy D.A., the trial as been open to the public.  In each case, the jury was exposed to all kinds of “biased, hostile crowds,” including some crowds so hostile that I required armed escorts to get home from the courthouse.  Those juries still convicted the defendants, no matter how many of their tattoo-wearing friends showed up.  Of course, in each of those jury trials, the U.S. Constitution required that the proceeding be held in public. 
      I’ll be the first to concede that there’s plenty of good reason for nearly every grand jury proceeding to be held behind closed doors.  However, as my former boss, District Attorney George Kennedy, wisely recognized, there is a critical value in opening the grand jury process in those rare cases where a police officer’s use of force creates a substantial and widespread concern in the community, as here, such that we need to ensure public confidence in the fairness of the process.  Without that public confidence, law enforcement can’t do its job: victims won’t call 911, witnesses won’t cooperate, and juries won’t trust the testimony of cops.  A lifelong Republican, Kennedy has never been accused of being “soft on crime,” but he recognized that whether right or wrong, any police officer (and department) will be adversely judged if the public suspects a “cover-up.” 
      As to the assertion that I’ve somehow prematurely judged any officer in the Phuong Ho case, I encourage you to read again what I wrote.  Specifically, I said that “if any criminal charges are sought,” there should be an open grand jury.  That decision, ultimately, is up to the DA, but no matter what the facts may show the grand jury, a decision to decline charges will be treated by a significant share of the public with suspicion if the public has no view of the evidence in the case.

  6. Sam-

    I generally read this blog and do not comment, however, I feel that your self-serving and unchecked points of accomplishment must be corrected…and by someone who has had a front row seat.

    Specifically,

    • assessing clubs for police overtime costs; True, you did do this, however, the costs you chose to TRY and pass into enforcement would in essence create a tax that double dips and has been highly disputed by many venues and their attorneys…they already pay special district taxes on top of the numerous fees imposed upon them by the city and the police department.  In short, this has gone no where but has stalled in negotiations and is a bad idea in that it unfairly charges the venues without making sure it is cost effective and gives them no control over how their money is spent.  Try again.

    • creating a licensing scheme to force entertainment promoters to submit to background checks and assume greater responsibility for security; True, but not enforced and the procedures for acquiring such a license have never been solidified nor made accessible to its target audience. Incomplete “scheme.”  Try again.

    • reducing the number of police deployed in the downtown core; NOT TRUE, go check the County Court parking lot on Market Street…my eyes do not deceive me.  Try again.

    • implementing a deployment model that gets the officers out of their cars and on to the sidewalks, in more interactive manner;  Really, do 2 officers walking around count?  Needs more work, let’s shoot for a higher ratio and maybe eliminate the poorly masked under cover vehicles they drive around in, everyone knows its them.  Try again.

    • creating a “soft closing” pilot to enable patrons to leave at a leisurely pace at closing time rather than being “pushed”out;  Oh it was created and a pilot program was done in the historic district and it was a success…then it went to Council for final approval and has been buried in staff research ever since on how best to implement this permanently.  Newsflash, let renewing and new CUP seekers ask for it in their application and decide on a case by case basis through the normal Planning Commission process, not that hard to accomplish but then again everything that the City wishes to avoid implementing gets buried in “staff research.”  Seriously, try again and mean it.

    • improving training for bartenders and bouncers to reduce over-serving and address problem behaviors before the police become involved; Nope, never happened.  If you mean, “encourage” employees to attend ABC training at their own cost, then you might be close.  Again, try…again.

    More importantly, who are you kidding with this blog?  There is no “success” to highlight in the downtown core unless you count the numerous nightlife venues that have been run out of business by new city fees and harassing police officers who employ the “gotcha” method of policing riddled with smart remarks and who treat visitors to the downtown as a nuisance.

    And the few points you mention that have been somewhat of a success are a collaborative effort on behalf of private entities with the assistance of local grass roots organizations and the Redevelopment Agency.  And while I recognize that the City Council is the governing Board of the Agency, the Agency itself has its own ideals and direction independent of you.

    Truth be told Sam, this blog rings of a failed attempt to try deflect from the problem at hand, the problem that everyone has been talking about for years…the San Jose Police Department and its leadership.  They are failing, their “CEO” has reached his expiration date and is no longer able to lead his troops adequately.  And finally, someone has it recorded for all the world to see, how can it be denied or explained away?  We can’t all be liars and the footage proves it.  But more than just that, what have you really accomplished in the almost four years you have served in this District?  What is Sam’s accomplishment and only Sam’s accomplishment?  think about it and get back to your public with real points of accomplishment backed by facts. I am sure the voters in your district will find this of interest.

    And to those of you who read this and disagree and write vile rebuttals, have fun…doesn’t matter to me what you say, I have only quoted the facts as seen from a front row seat.  Dispute that.

    • “Front Row”:
      You’re mistaken on several facts that you claim to have seen “from a front row seat,” but I’ll just point to a few of the more obvious:
      First, contrary to your claims that the we haven’t reduced the number of officers downtown, reports to council on deployment showed the numbers down more than 25% from the 2007 figures.
      Second, the trainings for servers and bouncers have already commenced—over 90 club personnel attended the first training alone, as was recently publicly reported by the City Manager.
      Third, there is no “stall in negotiations” on nightclub fees—the council imposed the fees by a unanimous vote in June of 2009. 
      Fourth, the promoter licensing ordinance has also already been approved by council, and is in full force. Under the ordinance, the licensing requirement is not imposed in those instances where the club owner and promoter have a signed contract clearly delineating responsibilities for patron safety, a circumstance you mistakenly characterize as “not enforced.”
      “Front Row:” you obviously claim to be a person who is highly knowledgeable on this subject, e.g., by claims about the internal machinations of “many venues and their attorneys.”  If you’re a lobbyist or otherwise on the payroll of a club owner, that certainly gives you a “front row seat” as you claim.  Your privileged seat has little benefit, however, if you’re not paying attention to the action on the stage.

  7. Funny, I live in his district and never got this letter he supposedly mailed to his “constituents.” 

    Actually, I’ve never received anything from him except his campaign mailers when he was running for office. 

    And honestly, I don’t need him to spend my valuable tax dollars on a mailer to me full of BS accomplishments, spend it on cleaning up graffiti, housing the homeless who sort through my garbage every week or fixing the crater in the street I drive around every week.  I can read the news about my city and your “so-called” accomplishments in the newspaper online…for free.

      • In whatever format this information went out the bottom line is that it is chock full of misinformation.  How much has the city collected from clubs for police overtime?  Not one red cent.  Soft closing (read: stay open later)is not happening and has not happened for over 18-months.  And unless there was a law passed in the wee hours of a council meeting limiting occupancy at clubs then where in the heck does Mr. Liccardo come up with the whopper BS bullet: • restricting the size of new clubs to improve crowd management.

        I think Mr. Liccardo should refrain from hanging out with Mr. Oliverio and stopping in at medical marijuana joints in Oaktown.  Hey, maybe they don’t inhale but a contact high is possible and might just describe the hallucinating post above. 

        What Liccardo ought to do is submit paperwork to the city for an occupational injury and try for a disability check on top of his council pay—when he gets to the line; Describe On the Job Injury, he should put: Right arm swollen and in pain due to repetitive motion caused by patting myself on the back for things I did not do.

        • Dutch, I can’t dispute your opinions about marijuana, but I need to correct your mistaken assumptions about the size restrictions on clubs.  If you’d read the piece carefully, you would have seen the following sentence: “Since that time, the Council passed almost all of these measures, with only the new club size restrictions pending Council deliberation.” 

          I expect that the club occupancy proposal (which has been subjected to considerable staff and legal analysis since it was introduced) to surface for a final council vote within 5-6 weeks.

          Also, as a result of the measure we passed in June, clubs that want to stay open past 2 a.m. can do so—most clubs simply don’t have the post-last-call business to justify keeping the staff on the clock.

          I’m not interested in my own back-patting here; as the piece suggests, I have repeatedly given public credit to city staff like Lee Wilcox, responsible club owners like Dave Powell and John Conway, and to SJPD officers like Lt. Marozick and Lt. McGrady for vastly increasing the level of cooperation between the clubs and the cops.

          Obviously, the awful economy will continue to take its toll, and clubs will be battered by losses (and some will close) like every other business.  The point is simply that we’re starting to get some traction on this problem.  As a long-awaited economic recovery takes hold, the downtown will be ready for it.

  8. The San Jose Inside content management system automatically adds the words “posted by” to bylines.

    We wish to make it clear that the editors of SJI posted this piece with Mr. Liccardo’s permission, though it was initially a piece he wrote for a mailing to his constituents.

    We felt his comments should enjoy a broader audience and appreciate that he consented to the posting. Open debate and a variety of opinions are the foundations of San Jose Inside, and we hope that other city leaders will find SJI a good forum in which to share their thoughts.

    • There is no need to clarify for Mr. Licarrdo.

      I’m glad you also published this.  I would have been embarrassed for him if I had received this in my mailbox.  I would have also questioned who paid for such a poor mailer piece.

    • I sure hope that the taxpayers were not going to pay for this “mailing to his constituents”, especially in light of comments made on this blog that Mr. Liccardo may be taking credit for things he did not do.  With all the ramblings he makes about the budget I can’t think of a bigger waste of money then to put his self-serving words in the mailboxes of voters in his district at a substantial cost.

      Maybe he can ask Mcenery to skim a little of the $6 million he is pocketing for his Pike’s Market fantasy to pay for some slick piece of mail that would depict Sam patting himself on the back for things that have only happened in his own mind.

    • In response to those posts asserting that “taxpayers are paying” for my communication with downtown residents, rest assured that nothing was “mailed.”  This was sent via email as part of a monthly e-newsletter to my constituents, and SJI asked me if they could reproduce the piece above. I agreed to do so. 
      I haven’t responded to the many comments until now because I don’t have much time to read blogs.
      Nonetheless, I appreciate the many varying views that folks have on a controversial topic like this.  What I find notable is that this single piece on SJI has stirred such dissension—and anger—from both sides of the debate.  Some accuse me of being anti-cop, others assert that I’m anti-club.  Neither is true, but it’s reflective of the broader public debate: some assert that the police are wholly to blame for whatever ails the downtown, while others profess unfailing loyalty to the police even where there is reasonable cause for concern about the use excessive force. (and here, Chief Davis publicly expressed concern about what he saw on the video of the Ho arrest, so it’s hard to say the public’s concern is misplaced.)  From my experience, 95% of the public doesn’t believe that the position of either extreme fairly represents their views.  Those seeking pragmatic solutions can always be readily shouted down by adherents at the extremes, but that comes at the expense of the quality of our public discourse—and our policies.

    • What I really find sad and greatly disturbing about Raj is the way he twists the facts and leaves vital information out of his articles. He really is doing a disservice to people who believe in him. He talks about the IPA but doesn’t disclose that he practically lived in that office when Attard was there, he talks about Police violence, but he doesn’t disclose meeting with the President of the POA, or that these people were in the process of physically harming someone innocent, he talks about arrests of drunks in DT, and minorities in San Jose but never acknowledges there are a of them breaking the law and admitting to it, he talks about three cases were these people were in the commission of a crime and violating innocent people, but makes them look like victims, he talks about the DA not disclosing tapes and records but never acknowledges victim’s right to privacy, due process, or the costs of getting him and his fellow alarmists those records.

      He never once explores what the “public” release of these tapes would do not only to the victims in these cases, but the offenders and their families as well, nor does he admit that when he and those groups who waged their own private agenda war and lost walked out of the Task Force, (a Task Force by the way that DID NOT have victim’s rights groups, MADD representatives, or other vital stakeholders on it), that due to the hard work and efforts of these remaining community leaders, changes to Police practices that he continues to bitch about were actually accomplished.

      I honestly think the way Raj goes about communicating the facts about all these issues is not only dangerous but also irresponsible. If he is not careful he is going to incite a riot and get someone hurt. Then I want to see him justify his actions to the person who gets hurt because he isn’t mindful when presenting the “truth”.  I challenge Raj to write just one completely factual, balanced article on this issue. Just ONE.

      • Raj isn’t trying to publish an unbiased version of the truth, K.  Raj is advocating a position.  Tus, he leaves out any “inconvenient truths” that do not support his position.

        Raj could report for The Murky News, where the line between reporting and editorializing disappeared at least a decade ago.

  9. OK Sam. Let’s look at this another way.  We know it was the Mayor and Council who focused the Police downtown. Why don’t you be part of the solution, instead of being part of the problem? Why don’t you, as an elected representative of the San Jose City Council, host a training for community members on what to do if a San Jose Police Officer stops you, or pulls you over. Let the community know that the City Council has directed the Police to achieve certain goals both Downtown and in the City of San Jose, and help foster a partnership between the community and the SJPD, rather than vilifying the police. Conduct a training on how the community can best work with our Police Department to achieve those goals set forth by the CITY COUNCIL.

    Question: have you ever been in a situation where someone has run at you with a knife, a vegetable peeler the size of an axe, or been called out to assist a young man who’s mentally ill brother with a history of violence slit his throat?  If so, tell us what you did to protect yourself and those around you. If not, what makes you such an expert on how the police should have handled those three situations?  And finally Sam, aren’t people presumed innocent until proven guilty in the judicial system you worked in?

    • “Why don’t you, as an elected representative of the San Jose City Council, host a training for community members on what to do if a San Jose Police Officer stops you, or pulls you over.”

      Chris Rock has already aired such a training program.  It’s been all over YouTube.

  10. Sam, Stay the course, you’re doing a great job.
    The Citizen of San Jose have seen you in action at City Hall Meetings and know that your are the man for the job. Hundreds of citizen couldn’t be fabricating those complaints. Remember you can please some of the people some of the time but you cant please all the people all of the time. I think some of your critics are working with Hennessey as he stated he was going to be running a dirty campaign. Actions speak louder than words. Who wants a Civil Servant that can’t act civil.
    Kathleen, I’m just going to give you a sample of how our youths are (correction) used to be treated. My son was the designated driver waiting for a couple of friends an officer told him to leave the premises, he didn’t move fast enough and ended up arrested for DUI and later in the hospital. I don’t read your post any longer because you don’t know what your talking about. There are thousand more stories.I saw on Fox News this morning that cameras may be be installed on our San Jose Police Officers. I know I will sleep better at night knowing my children and grandchildren will be watched. Frank

    • Frank,
      Actually I do know what I’m talking about, it just simply that you and others chose not to listen to things you don’t want to hear. I have first hand experience with youth offenders and care very deeply about these kids. To deny that they come from some of the most hardened criminals, or abused, or poor families would be grossly ignorant and unfair. Having said that, regardless of their up bringing, they do not have the right to harm innocent people. Rarely do they realize that the greatest harm they are doing is to themselves and to the rest of their lives because they are making ignorant choices.

      I worked in Victim Offender Mediation for six years, served on the Juvenile Justice Reform Committee for a year and a half, was on the Neighborhood Accountability Board and Council, as well as, being on the Criminal Justice Committee, and a member of the Network For A Hate Free Community for years.  I have heard and seen a lot and parents are the biggest problem those of us who work with troubled youth encounter.

      I have more respect for these integrity ridden youth because they admit committing their crime, their parents either refuse to believe their sweet innocent child would do such a thing, or they pull the race card, or they blame some other kid. It is a dam shame that youth has a better head on their shoulders than their parents, but I’m grateful that these kids have enough honesty in them to stand up and be accountable regardless of the idiots who raise them.  So you keep on believing what you will about me, but former youth offender clients still call or write me from time to time to let me know how they are doing. I feel very good about my work with youth, and no amount of criticism from a guy like you will ever change that fact.

      We do agree about one thing though, once these Officers have these cameras recording the types of behaviors displayed by these arrestees, boy will the public be surprised about how unfairly the press has respresented them in the media. Have a great weekend Frank.

  11. Sam,

    Given your vast experience you certainly should be able to do something I can’t: come up with a list of examples where a fundamental courtroom procedure was changed because of the defendant’s occupation. This county has prosecuted cases against plenty of elected and appointed officials, many of whom have occupied positions of great power, influence, and trust, yet for their hearings Grand Jury doors remained closed, council coalitions remained silent, and the public was expected to maintain its faith in the judicial system.

    I ask you again, are you ready to demand open grand juries in all cases involving public officials, or do you intend to continue to espouse judicial discrimination against cops?

    About those many juries from whom you’ve secured convictions, need I remind you that the identities of those jurors were kept secret from any “tattoo-wearing” friends of the defendants, while the identities of the Grand Jury are considered public information (and can be found on the internet). The primary function of the volunteers who serve on the Grand Jury is that as government watchdogs, yet in you and your little coalition we have government officials joining in with a mob (mini-mob, in reality) that has made clear its distrust of the Grand Jury.

    Tell me, Sam, is it the Grand Jury you distrust or the intelligence and civility of the citizens you serve?

    This alleged beating case is hardly worth the attention it’s getting. The idiot who used a knife in so alarming a manner as to have the police summoned needed to be controlled while the matter was investigated; he refused to comply, and force was utilized to effect control. The questions are few. Did the cops need to be there? Yes. Did they have a duty to control the suspect? Yes. Did the suspect fail to cooperate? Yes (very clearly, at the start of the tape, as officers are issuing him orders, you hear what sounds to be a friend shout, “Phuong, shut up and listen to them”). The only real question is whether the force used to affect control was excessive, and even at that, the issue comes down to counting police baton strikes and tallying up the suspect’s muscle bruises. What will be impossible to gauge is the raw power the suspect used in resisting, his reaction, if any, to pain, and whether these elements influenced the officers actions. This is a case about reasonableness, one in which reasonableness cannot be established conclusively.

    And for this you felt the need to usurp the police chief’s responsibilities, question the integrity of the Grand Jury, and add an extra zero to the city’s potential civil liability?

    Just think, you could’ve shut up, waited for those two dozen protesters from the Vietnamese rest home to nod off or die, allowed Chief Davis to ride out the discomfort and lance his own Raj, and gone about your business of single-handedly saving the downtown club scene. But no, you and the other two stooges formed your little coalition, pumped your fists in solidarity, and pissed-off every street cop—and every citizen who appreciates the tough job they do, by joining up with a race-obsessed collection of loudmouths seeking not justice, but political power.

  12. Very well stated, Finfan. That Mr. Liccardo wants to make police officers the scapegoats and violate their due process to pacify a tiny minority who hate the police no matter what is truly disgraceful. It would be so refreshing to have someone from either the city council or police department actually stick up for the officers and tell the morons to shove it up their collective asses rather than try to blame and second guess the officers for the suspects actions which created the circumstances in which force was necessary. San Jose is rapidly turning into another Berkeley.

    • Steve,
      In my opinion, Liccardo is both hypocritical and duplicitous in his treatment of people. He is also an opportunist. A year or so ago, he went after the Vietnamese community bending, twisting, and using the law to beat them down over something as silly as signage. He says the “public’s trust” must be preserved, and the “people’s right to know,” is vital yet he certainly wasn’t practicing what he preaches towards the Vietnamese community in that situation now was he? He has to run for Office again so I’m not surprised that he is using this situation to ingratiate himself into this community’s good grace. 

      Secondly, he neglects to properly inform the public that it was and is the Council that is mandating heavy Police presence in downtown. Decent business owners like McEnery and others have suffered a lot because “some,” not all, club owners have attracted some very unfriendly characters to downtown that has cost them business, property damage, and have created a very unfriendly environment downtown. So again back to pre-election horn blowing, Liccardo uses recent efforts by the City Manager, the few remaining Drunken Task Force members, and the Chief of Police to make it look like he has created some type of huge change in downtown.

      He never once really addresses the violence, stabbings, or shootings downtown that Jack VanZandt, or Tom McEnery have written about here on SJI for years. Rather he wants everyone to believe that the Murk, Raj, and his cronies are right and it is the Police, not the independent actions of these criminals that are to blame.

      Liccardo focuses on an incomplete video shot showing the Police trying to subdue a self admitted knife wielding guy who threatened his roommate with murder, the deeply sad case of a mentally ill young man who was killed by Police after he slit his brother’s throat and was out of control, and another sad case of a mentally ill Vietnamese woman who lost her life when she ran at a Police Officer wielding an 8-10 inch vegetable peeler that looked like an axe. I will never understand how he or anyone else can truly rationalize defending such violent actions against the Police, or their victims. It is rather disturbing to me to hear him say that those of us who have faith in the Police when using discretion on force are blind to the other side of the issue when he himself does not practice what he preaches.

      Sadly, D3 residents with the assistance of the Murk, Raj and his fellow Police haters will probably put him right back into that Council seat for yet another four more years of this type of behavior. I’m so glad I don’t live anywhere near there.

    • Steve said-
      “It would be so refreshing to have someone from either the city council or police department actually stick up for the officers and tell the morons to shove it up their collective asses rather than try to blame and second guess the officers for the suspects actions which created the circumstances in which force was necessary.”

      Agreed. The reason why that will never happen is because they don’t see the police as voters they need to get or keep them in office. Sam went against the Little Saigon folks and got his butt kicked so he is using the Pham, and Ho situations to try and reconcile with the Vietnamese community to keep his seat on the Council.

    • “It would be so refreshing to have someone from either the city council or police department actually stick up for the officers and tell the morons to shove it up their collective asses rather than try to blame and second guess the officers for the suspects actions which created the circumstances in which force was necessary. “

      There was such a video of an SFPD Captain sticking up for his guys against the press.  He gave them all hell, and vowed to find out what judge had let a violent felon out on OR. It circulated on YouTube a couple of months back.  Sadly, I deleted it, and can’t find it again.

      However, that sort of thing is rare.  More often you get the pandering PR types like Chief Davis spouting a PC line to mollify the tiny mob of loudmouths headed by the likes of Raj.

  13. Steve,

    As if Mr. Liccardo’s reaction to this Ho-hum incident wasn’t insulting enough, he now aggravates the situation by assuming he can use his lawyerly skills to explain it all away. What does that say about his respect for the intelligence of this community? Is this what happens when courtroom lawyers get used to presenting their arguments before jurors hand-picked for gullibility?

    In his original emailer, he wrote that “Ash Kalra, Madison Nguyen, and I immediately called for a full investigation and—if any criminal charges of the officers are sought—a grand jury process open to public view.” When I criticized him for focusing only on one potential outcome of the just undertaken investigation, he responded back encouraging me to read again his words. But rather than reread what I understood in the first place, I instead looked closely at the words he wrote in his response. I found them much more interesting, as I believe they reveal what he really thinks. I quote:

    “Specifically, I said that “if any criminal charges are sought,” there should be an open grand jury.  That decision, ultimately, is up to the DA…”

    Dissecting this statement into three parts, we first encounter, again, Mr. Liccardo focusing on only one of the many possible outcomes of the investigation (and perhaps, as a former prosecutor, this might be expected).

    Next we find the councilman tripping over his own excuse, as he makes a direct connection between the (as yet unmade) decision to seek criminal charges and an open Grand Jury hearing. The problem is that historically in cases where charges were sought for “assault under the color of authority” (a felony), the matter did not go before a Grand Jury, open or closed. The decision (whether to charge or not) in such cases is typically reached via the complaint process, thus, Mr. Liccardo’s call for “an open Grand Jury” constitutes a discriminatory attitude toward the police officers on two fronts, the first, that the prosecutorial process itself be altered to include the Grand Jury, and second, that the normally closed jury room doors be open. Sheesh! One wonders why he doesn’t just cut the pretense and call for the swift construction of a guillotine?

    Lastly, he admits the the decision is the DA’s. Really? Is that an admission that the decision is not his? Will Mr. Liccardo admit that anything else is not his—such as the manner in which the case is investigated (the police chief’s) or how it is reported (the Mercury-Barb’s)? Question: how many self-serving, stupid statements does it take before our bigmouth politicians have so prejudiced the public that, should Mr. Liccardo’s dreams come true, a fair and impartial jury for this case becomes impossible?