Frank Richardson and Rev. Jennifer Goto| San Jose Mercury News| Link to Article
San Jose residents — including diverse members of our community — need to be able to trust the police. Police transparency and accountability are essential for trust, safety and justice — for both community members and police.
For more than two years, PACT, a multi-faith, multi-racial grassroots organization, has worked with Mayor Sam Liccardo, the San Jose City Council, the police chief, San Jose Police Officers Association (SJPOA), multiple Independent Police Auditors (IPA), other community organizations and hundreds of community members to expand the role of the IPA’s office.
Our current model severely limits our ability to provide meaningful civilian oversight, and we must empower the IPA’s office with the scope and capabilities it needs by implementing the best practices as demonstrated in cities across the country.
While our community needs and deserves much more, police Chief Eddie Garcia and the SJPOA have agreed in principle to at least three important changes; for the IPA to audit Department Initiated Investigations (DIIs), Officer Involved Shooting (OISs) and have access to use of force records.
Though the SJPOA has stated a willingness to move forward since last fall, in recent weeks we’ve seen it launch a dangerous campaign that undermines the independence of our IPA. It is important that our residents and elected officials recognize that this effort distracts and delays, just as we are approaching critical milestones in our efforts to finally realize our collective objectives. This is just the latest act in a litany of steps taken by the SJPOA that inhibit the community’s efforts:
1) The SJPOA has been working to undermine current IPA Aaron Zisser since his hiring was announced and has refused to even meet with him in recent months.
2) As reported by The Mercury News, “The union conducted the equivalent of opposition research on Zisser earlier this year, but found nothing that could immediately disqualify him.”
3) As the City Council prepared to hold a study session on independent oversight, the SJPOA attempted to pressure City Council members and the mayor to limit its scope.
4) The SJPOA put pressure on City Council Rules Committee members in the spring to block any discussion of expanding the role of the IPA office — this after they voiced support for the idea in October of 2017.
5) The SJPOA has accused Zisser of seeking to expand his role, when in fact it has been community organizations such as PACT — along with hundreds of community members — leading those efforts and doing so long before Zisser’s arrival.
6) In an effort to further denigrate Zisser, the POA has shamefully mischaracterized families grieving loved ones lost to police shootings by simply referring to them as “anti-police groups.”
After a solid start in early 2017 with former IPA Walter Katz, the city put the effort to expand the role of the IPA Office on hold until a new IPA was appointed. Now, with that new IPA in office, the SJPOA is saying it will not move on expanded oversight while he remains. It is extremely discomforting that they are unwilling to acknowledge and honor the importance of separating badly needed systemic change from the personalities involved.
We call upon our elected leaders — Liccardo and members of the San Jose City Council — as well as Chief Garcia and the SJPOA to honor their commitments and work together to codify policies to create accountability and transparency. Our community is in critical need of leadership and support for expanding the role of the IPA Office. We must resist the temptation to be distracted from achieving these important goals that promote justice and safety for all members of our diverse community, and for our police officers.
Frank Richardson and Rev. Jennifer Goto of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church are grassroots and faith leaders with PACT (People Acting in Community Together).