San Jose’s next steps to improve police misconduct cases

Bay Area

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — After San Jose voters overwhelmingly approved a local measure to expand the authority of the Independent Police Auditor (IPA), city leadership has now outlined the next proposed steps. 

Mayor Sam Liccardo and Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco wrote up a work plan that would change how police misconduct cases are investigated and continued arbitration reform. 

Last week, the city council approved a new policy requiring to expedite the public release of body camera footage of high profile cases.

“We’re in the midsts of several important steps to improve transparency and accountability with regard of policing here in San Jose that we expect would be a model for other cities,” said Mayor Liccardo.

“This week we are pushing forward with efforts both to move the investigations of police misconduct out of the police department and to reform the arbitration process that governs what happens after a police chief fires or disciplines a police officer,” he added.

“We think both of these steps are going to be very important to continue to build public confidence that this is a San Jose Police Department that is fully accountable and transparent,” Mayor Liccardo said.

Under the current contract, the city has a police contract that enables arbitrators to issue binding decisions that can reverse the decisions of the Chief of Police and City Manager to fire or discipline officers. 

On Wednesday, the Rules and Open Government Committee went over the proposed next steps and unanimously voted to review the city’s current contract with the San Jose Police Officers Association (POA). 

The proposed next steps are part of the mayor’s 9-Point Police Reform Plan — which includes making investigations of police misconduct completely independent of the San Jose Police Department.

Mayor Liccardo points to the incident with a San Jose police officer in 2016 — who was fired for controversial tweets on Black Lives Matter — only to be reinstated as one example of the challenges that arise with the arbitration process within the city’s current contract with its police. 

“Obviously that’s demoralizing for the entire department, nobody hates a bad cop more than a good cop and there a lot of folks that go to work every day to try and do their very best to serve and protect the public,” said Mayor Liccardo. 

“It’s a problem not just here but in cities across the country, we’d like to reform that arbitration process to make it more transparent to be able to have review from a judge, to be able to ensure that the selection process for that arbitrator is much more fair and objective,” he added.

“We want to reform this process without depriving anybody of their due process rights that we know the police officers have under state law, we think we can do this better.”  

 Under Measure G — the city will be allowed to discuss modifying the arbitration processes during the next contract negotiations with the POA. 

In addition, there will be a public session by Mar. 1 to discuss a proposed work plan that will expand the powers of the IPA and City Manager to be able to investigate police misconduct cases.

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