Community submits over 1000 police misconduct complaints against SJPD during protests, report shows

Bay Area

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — A new report reveals more than a thousand police misconduct complaints against the San Jose Police Department were submitted during the period of protests at the end of May. 

On May 29, demonstrations against police brutality and in the wake of the death of George Floyd broke out in downtown San Jose prompting the city to declare a local emergency — leading to a city-wide nightly curfew. 

Last month, at a joint meeting for the Rules and Open Government Committee, the city’s Independent Police Auditor (IPA) was directed to conduct a special report on the quantity and type of complaints received by the IPA during the period of civil unrest and police response beginning on May 29 up until June 30. 

“We got a tremendous amount of contact from the public, phones ringing off the hook, tons of email, tons of online complaint forms,” said Independent Police Auditor Shivaun Nurre. 

“As you can see people complained about a wide variety of things.”

According to the report, between May 29 and June 30, approximately 1,024 persons contacted the IPA office regarding interactions between police and demonstrators or police policy focused on demonstrators. 

Data for the report was collected through contacts that were received via the IPA general e-mailbox, the IPA on-line complaint form and phone calls.

The concerns raised were categorized into allegations and classified as complaints. 

Disclaimer: The data reflects only community contacts to the IPA office and does not include the number of community members who expressed concerns directly to the Internal Affairs Unit (IA), Police Chief’s Office, City Manager or to the Mayor and Council members. 

Breakdown 

928 concerts — One officers conduct on May 29 at the demonstrations in San Jose;

42 concerns — Use of force and/or crowd control tactics used by SJPD officers during demonstrations in San Jose;

22 concerns — Force used against one community member by SJPD officers during the demonstration on May 30;

21 concerns — Complaints about the conduct of specific SJPD officers during demonstrations

8 concerns — Rubber bullets used by SJPD officers during the demonstrations in San Jose; and 

3 concerns  — Comments made by Chief Garcia about one officer at a press conference on May 31. 

Courtesy: City of San Jose, Independent Police Auditor

Complaint Classifications

According to the IPA, staff reviewed every contact to ensure each concern about police misconduct was captured and classified. 

The IPA and IA staff together moved the concerns into enumerated complaints in an effort to eliminate duplications of incidents — resulting in 20 complaints entered in the database for classification. 

12 — Conduct complaints 

3 — Policy complaints 

3 — Pre-classification 

2 — Other

“You have people complaining about the same thing, for example the actions of at the scene by one particular officer got a lot of comment to our office about this person,” said Nurre. 

“But in fact there will be three complaints against this person because so many of them were just duplicates.”

Of the 15 conduct and pre-classification complaints — which are complaints against individual SJPD officers contained the following: 

16 — Use of force 

11 – Procedure 

5 — Courtesy

3 — Biased-based policing 

2 — Conduct unbecoming an officer 

1 — Neglect of duty 

Courtesy: City of San Jose, Independent Police Auditor

The three policy complaints received which are not directed against any individual officer but are complaints about SJPD policies and are typically sent to SJPD’s Research and Development Unit for review to determine if changes to the SJPD Duty Manual need to be made. 

According to the report, two policy complaints revealed several elements objecting to SJPD policies regarding demonstrators and onlookers — including the use of force through rubber bullets, flash bangs or teargas, failure to de-escalate, enforcement of curfew and concerns about violations of civil rights. 

One complaint raised concerns on the use of the SJPD helicopter. 

The report comes at a time where the city says they want to be transparent with the public to ensure each complaint is thoroughly investigated. 

“This will give the public and the council the opportunity to see a summary of all the complaints to ensure we captured everything,” said David Sykes, San Jose City Manager. 

“Each of those complaints are investigated thoroughly and ultimately recommendations are made about what to do about the complaints.”

In the case of conduct complaints, they are generally investigated by SJPD’s IA Unit and the complaint filed against the Chief of Police will be investigated by the City of San Jose’s Office of Employee Relations.

The IPA and the Assistant IPA may attend interviews for subject officers for IA investigations and once the investigation is completed “a finding is made for each allegation based on a preponderance of evidence standard,” said Nurre in a memo to City Council on Jul. 30.

“The IP audits each case to ensure it is fair, through, complete and objective. “

The IPA may request additional investigation or use the appeal process to the Police Chief and City Manager.

Under Government Code Section 3304 — investiations regarind police misconduct generally must be completed within 365 days of filing the complaint with a few exceptions:

  • Investigations which involve more than one employee and require a reasonable extension; or
  • The investigation involves a matter in criminal prosecution or civil litigation.

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