Asian community meets with San Jose police

February 4, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
The San Jose Police Department needs to regain the public's trust. That was the message from the minority community on Thursday night. Some are trying to bridge the divide.

The panel discussion, organized by Asian Americans for Community Involvement, got right to the point.

Many minority groups in San Jose admit they do not trust the city's police officers. There are two reasons why.

In September, San Jose police used a baton and Taser on Phuong Ho after his roommate said Ho threatened him with a knife. Ho was unarmed when police arrived. And in May, San Jose police shot and killed Daniel Pham. The mentally ill 27-year-old had already stabbed his brother and police say attacked them as well.

"One thing we're trying to do is bring community members together with police to better understand each other, rebuild that trust, and move forward," says Michele Lew from Asian Americans for Community Involvement.

Event organizers hope the city's independent police auditor, or IPA, will bridge the gap. The auditor reviews civilian complaints about police misconduct. San Jose has an acting IPA who will review both the Ho and Pham cases sometime this year.

When asked if she feels like there is a pattern of excessive force with the police department, the acting IPA, Shivaun Nurre, says "It's hard for me to say only because we get so few force complaints."

There were 117 force complaints filed last year and while many in the audience saw Thursday night as a fresh start, Pham's father, Vinh, did not.

"When police come and shoot my son, how can I trust the police?" he says.

Attendees broke out into smaller groups and wrote down their suggestions that will make their relationship better with the city. All of those ideas will be taken to their district leaders.