SJ Police accused of profiling drunks

November 19, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
The San Jose City Council heard from residents and people who are accusing the police department of racial profiling by targeting certain groups for public drunkenness.

The public comment period wrapped up late Tuesday night. All but a few of the 60 plus speakers spoke out against the police department.

Accusations filled the San Jose City Council chambers as members of the Hispanic community lashed out for being accused too often, they say, of public intoxication.

"If they look Latino or look like they're drunk they're going to get picked up," said Karla Reyes, a San Jose resident.

It was a San Jose Mercury News investigation that revealed in 2007, 4,661 people were charged with being drunk in public. Fifty-seven percent, were Hispanic, but they are a group that makes up just 30 percent of the city's population.

"We need to look at how people are being arrested and what are their rights and what are the options. Should they be cited or taken to a holding tank?" said Nora Campos, a San Jose city council member.

Council Member Nora Campos wants action. She wants to create a task force, made up of community members, police, the D.A., and non profits, to review the city's current public intoxication policy. The policy allows police to arrest those who are "so drunk, they can't take care of themselves or could harm others." Right now, the city has no sobriety holding stations.

"We would probably not be arresting as many people if we had community resources where we could take some of these individuals so we didn't have to take them to jail," said Chief Rob Davis, with the San Jose Police Department.

"We need to find other tools in our tool box other than simply arresting people when they are inebriated, knowing we don't want to encourage that kind of behavior. At the same time, we should always be concerned about issues of race," said Sam Liccardo, a council member.

Councilman Liccardo wants to review last year's arrest reports in question. So does the ACLU.

"This is all part of a larger issue which is a lack of accountability and transparency with the police department," said Skylar Porras, from the ACLU.

The police department has not responded to the ACLU's request. The council is expected to vote in favor of creating a task force. That group would then return to the city council chambers in 90 days to give them a full list of recommendations.


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