Tom Hensen| NBC Bay Area| Link to Article
San Jose police and community members went face to face Monday night in search of a solution to a spike in officer-involved shootings in the city.
San Jose has had eight such incidents so far in 2017, and families of those lost in the shootings aired their concerns to the police Chief Eddie Garcia and the city's new police auditor, Aaron Zisser.
Churches and the group People Acting in Community Together, or PACT, brought hundreds of people together with the hope that they would get some answers from police brass. Victims' families told their personal stories and expressed their frustrations. They sat in circles to face each other and talk about what matters.
The pain of losing her boyfriend and the father of her son Josiah in a 2014 officer-involved shooting is what matters to Laurie Valdez.
"What hurts the most is trying to keep strong for my kids and remain positive," Valdez said.
That pain resurfaced, she said, after the latest San Jose officer-involved shooting that killed a 33-year-old father of three young children.
"What happened recently to Jacob Dominguez on September 15th has triggered my experience," she said. "I feel like I lost Antonio all over again."
For PACT member Yeme Girma, what matters is how she feels the need to educate her two children about how to act around law enforcement because of the color of their skin and her personal memory of being pulled over on a dark highway.
"I kept my hands on the steering wheel and wept," Girma said. "I thought I was going to die."
The open dialogue with police is a start. People like Valdez and Girma hope it will help lead to more officer training and more restraint.
Chief Garcia said his department needs to look very closely at each incident.
"It's not the number of officer-involved shootings that bothers me; it's the manner in which they occur," Garcia said.
Zisser, the city's new independent police auditor, is a former civil rights attorney, police reform advocate and South Bay native. He said he's ready to hit the ground running and improve department transparency.
"Working together with city leaders, working together with the police chief, that kind of dialogue, that kind of openness, that kind of conversation about serious issues that matter to the people," Zisser said. "You don't see that everywhere."