Organizations at odds over officers' honors

January 7, 2010 6:27:21 PM PST
The NAACP is angry with the Martin Luther King Association in San Jose for deciding to honor two San Jose police officers. The anger follows recent accusations that a small number of San Jose officers used excessive force.

The controversy involves the well-known freedom train event which takes place every year on Martin Luther King Day.

The train travels from San Jose to San Francisco to honor the civil rights leader and this year, the San Jose Police Officers Association, the POA, helped raise money for the event.

In return, the MLK Association of Santa Clara Valley decided to honor two members of the POA. That has irked the NAACP of San Jose and Silicon Valley because of recent reports involving the use of excessive force by a few San Jose police officers, including the November videotaped beating of a college student.

"They have been involved in attacking minorities, they have been attacking the community and disrespecting the community as well," Pastor Jethroe Moore from the San Jose/Silicone Valley NAACP.

But in a statement the police union said: "We do not believe the opinions of a small group of activists accurately reflect the community as a whole."

The MLK Association defended its decision to honor these two officers saying: "If it were not for the efforts and contributions of the POA, the police union, we would not have the freedom train this year."

"You need to go back and heal them, make it right with the person you abused not by throwing money at the situation," Moore said.

The NAACP chapter has asked the MLK Association to remove their name from sponsorship on the website and members of the community are divided.

"I don't know how the NAACP has interfaced with them and what their issues are, but my experience has been real positive," Alex Niles said.

"I think they have a point. They have every right, especially with the way the police department acts, the profiling," Raul from San Jose said.

Given this dispute, it's not clear how many in this community will boycott the freedom train event this year.