San Jose mayor rejects call to defund police department

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said Sunday that he rejects the call to defund the police department, but instead to reform it.

The mayor said efforts to defund police budgets will undermine substantive efforts at police reform, hurting the communities most in need of help.

“We have much work to do to confront our long and terrible history of police brutality against black and brown Americans,” Mayor Liccardo said. “Defunding urban police departments won’t help us do it.  It is the wrong idea at the worst possible time and the budget released tomorrow will reflect that.”

Liccardo said data shows that communities of color are disproportionate victims of serious and violent crimes, citing the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. He says any cuts in police staffing would disproportionately harm the same communities that need to see progress.

“Defunding police will hurt the very people who have suffered the most from systemic racism in this nation,” Mayor Liccardo said. “Rich, white communities and businesses in suburban malls will just accelerate the hiring of private security guards.”  

Last week, Liccardo called for a ban on the use of rubber bullets in crowds at protests, expanding the authority of San Jose’s civilian independent police auditor, and a full review of San Jose’s use of force policies, among other measures. 

The mayor has also called for greater accountability for officer misconduct so “bad cops” can be fired faster, he said.

Derrick Sanderlin, a community organizer who has trained San Jose police officers on implicit bias, suffered potentially permanent injuries caused by a rubber bullet at a recent demonstration in the city. 

As the mayor of America’s 10th largest city, Liccardo noted the San Jose Police Department’s recent progress in eliminating the longstanding disparity between officers’ use of force rates and arrest rates against persons of color but said that the police reforms started in San Jose in previous years need to go farther, including changes to union contracts and laws that create obstacles to ensuring officer accountability—particularly the firing of bad cops. The San Jose reforms that have led to this progress include:

Mayor Liccardo noted the San Jose Police Department’s recent progress as far as officers’ use of force rates and arrest rates against people of color. But the mayor said police reforms in San Jose need to go farther.

Some of the reforms in San Jose include:

  • Collecting data to track every patdown, stop, arrest or use of force by race, and publishing that data
  • Hiring external experts to analyze data and make recommendations;
  • Investing millions of dollars in body-worn cameras and video data storage;
  • Imposing mandatory training for officers in violence de-escalation and implicit racial bias;
  • Utilizing data tools to detect misconduct-prone officers earlier; 
  • Enhancing psychological testing and screening in the City’s police academies; and,
  • Intentional investment in recruiting officers to better reflect the community’s diversity.

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