SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — San Jose residents believe the city should allocate more funding towards community safety resources while others say the police department should receive less money.
A new report by San Jose State University’s Human Rights Institute reveals that a majority of residents want the city to increase funding for the following: community safety resources (73%), helping residents meet basic needs (67%), and public resources like parks, libraries, and transportation (63%).
One area with the most support for a decrease in funding: the police (46%).
On Monday, a press conference was held at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library on SJSU’s campus to discuss the findings.
“What we found actually really surprised us in this widely-representative survey,” said Dr. Miranda Worthen. “We heard very clearly that this community is interested in investing in things that make us safe.”
Opinions about policing and law enforcement policy
The San Jose Community Survey shows that a vast majority of respondents (77%) think policing in San Jose has problems, with a majority agreeing there are “serious problems” within the department needing major reforms.
Another 25% of respondents said that policing in San Jose has some problems, but that they are caused by individual bad actors, so major reforms are not necessary. Only seven percent reported that they thought-policing in San Jose is working well.
“We also found that there were widely different experiences of whether people actually are made safe by the police,” Dr. Worthen said. “So depending on your gender identity or your sexual orientation, depending on your race, many people in this community don’t feel safe when police are present.”
Most survey participants did not want police to have access to military-grade weapons, did not agree that people should be jailed for non-violent crimes, and did not want cities to pay for lawsuits for police misconduct.
“We can’t keep throwing good money after bad police,” said Brandon Soul, Sacred Heart Community Services, Race, Equity, and Community Safety Committee (RECS) member. “San Jose spends more of its general fund on police than anything else, more than 400 million dollars per year and the community is not safer for it.”
Experiences with policing
Several questions in the survey assessed people’s experiences with police. Experiences with police varied widely based on their demographic groups.
Across a range of questions — sexual and gender minorities, younger people, African American, Native American, Latino respondents, and people with lower household incomes had generally more negative experiences with police.
“We used voter registration roles to send tens of thousands of text messages to people of this community to hear their opinions,” Dr. Worthen said. “We’re very confident that these results represent the perspectives of this community.”
Just over half (51%) of the survey respondents had some level of encounter with the police in the previous five years — 37% of those respondents said they had generally positive experiences with the police with about the same amount of people had mixed experiences, and 27% say they’ve had generally negative experiences.
Alternatives to policing
Across all demographics, respondents overwhelmingly support San Jose adopting alternatives to policing (between 72-82%). The survey assessed participants’ support of four initiatives to shift certain responsibilities away from the police and toward civilian agencies:
- Develop a mental health crisis team that responds to emergency (911) calls for
some types of mental health or addiction problems instead of the police (for
example, where the caller does not think there is a risk of violence).
- Invest in better bike lanes, lighting, and crosswalks, and automated tools for
enforcement of traffic laws (like broken tail lights or expired registration) rather
than police stops.
- Invest in meeting the shelter, medical, and basic needs of homeless populations
instead of evicting people from encampments or charging homeless people with
- Increase the number of trained counselors and coaches in San José schools to
replace police School Resource Officers.
To learn more about the survey, click here.