August 24, 2018
Contacts: Frank Richardson 408-307-1118; Pastor Jennifer Goto 408-294-4564; Akemi Flynn 408-504-8030
The resignation of Independent Police Auditor Aaron Zisser after a heavy-handed attack campaign by the Police Union, SJPOA, raises major concerns for community members about the City’s commitment to police transparency and accountability. People of color, immigrants, people with mental health issues, and houseless people, in particular, wonder who they can trust to ensure the safety and justice of our community. Police transparency and accountability are essential for trust, safety and justice, for both community members and police.
We thank Aaron Zisser for his service and commitment to outreach to the community, including those who have experienced challenges with police, and even lost loved ones to officer involved shootings.
The SJPOA has claimed that they are supportive of increased independent oversight, just not with Aaron Zisser in the position. Now it is time for them to show it.
As cities and counties around the nation are creating oversight offices with real independence and the ability to increase trust and safety for communities and police departments, the San Jose model is stuck in the past.
While in other cities, such as Denver, the police oversight office has access to all records of the police department, San Jose is burdened by the limitation of only being able to have access dependent upon complaints filed by community members. While other cities require an independent eye whenever someone dies as a result of an officer involved shooting, San Jose’s IPA is only guaranteed access after a member of the community makes a complaint which often occurs long after the crucial first days an initial investigation is done.
Why doesn’t San Jose’s IPA have this same access? Because of resistance from the SJPOA.
The severe limitations of our current model and the bullying tactics of the SJPOA have called into question both the independence of the IPA office and the ability for the IPA to make recommendations that would improve policing in our community and increase trust and safety for all concerned. In order to overcome this setback and attract qualified candidates to the position, the Mayor and City Council must update the model to show that they do intend to have strong oversight comparable to that of other large cities.
For over 2 years, PACT has worked with the Mayor, City Council, Police Chief, SJPOA, multiple IPAs, other community organizations, and hundreds of community members to expand the role of the IPA Office to follow best practices in the field. These updates must not wait until the position is filled, for they are necessary in order to have the position taken seriously by potential candidates and the community.
Again, transparency and accountability are essential for trust, safety and justice. The IPA Office was created for this purpose. It is currently limited in its ability to provide the level of oversight needed by our community and demonstrated as best practices in other cities across the country.