SJ mayor's proposal to reform police officer misconduct investigations met with backlash

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Wednesday, December 14, 2022
Proposal to reform SJPD misconduct investigations met with backlash
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San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo is proposing that the city's Independent Police Auditor have more oversight in officer misconduct investigations.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- With just a few weeks left in office, the mayor of the Bay Area's largest city is looking to reform police misconduct investigations.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo is proposing that the city's Independent Police Auditor have more oversight in those misconduct investigations.

The proposal is being called illegal by the San Jose Police Officers' Association.

It's been more than two years since the death of George Floyd, which spurred protests across the country and in the Bay Area.

MORE: SJPD's legal, public credibility in question after recent reports of officer misconduct

Liccardo says since then, he's been pushing for reform into how police officer misconduct has been investigated.

"San Jose PD has the finest police officers in the country. I do believe that," Liccardo said, "But it doesn't matter how good our police department is. We're past the point, which we can continue to believe Americans will simply assume the police should police themselves."

Right now, only San Jose PD's internal affairs investigates officer misconduct.

Now, Liccardo says he wants the city's Independent Police Auditor and her team to take on a bigger role than they have now.

MORE: Mayor Liccardo cracks down on misconduct of SJPD officers, calls for random drug, alcohol testing

"The independent police, auditor, Shivaun (Nurre), and her team are empowered to review investigations that are performed by internal affairs at San Jose Police Department," Liccardo said, "They are not empowered to actually investigate, not empowered to subpoena witnesses, they're not empowered to lead investigations, they're not empowered to issue findings to the police chief or the city manager about what they have investigated. They simply review an investigation that the police department's performed, and then offer their critique."

Liccardo's proposal is to create a hybrid model that has the Independent Police Auditor handle some investigations, and SJPD internal affairs handling others.

But the San Jose Police Officer's Association says what Liccardo has proposed is illegal and that what the independent police auditor can investigate is up to voters.

The association says that the officers that are assigned to the department's Internal Affairs Division have experience and that there is accountability.

"If you look at the history of the outcomes of investigations, at the end of the year, it is very clear that our officers are held accountable" said Sean Pritchard, the association's president, "If they've done wrong, it has shown that they've done wrong. If they've done wrong, they're going to be disciplined in a number of different ways up to and including termination."

MORE: CA enacts law requiring police to intervene if they witness excessive force by fellow officers

San Jose Police chief Anthony Mata issued this statement:

"We are committed to ensuring that our employees are held accountable for misconduct. To that end, we have worked for years with the Independent Police Auditor to conduct comprehensive, transparent investigations that are in line with modern policing principles.In fact, the last IPA report agreed 72% of the time with the initial results of an Internal Affairs investigation. In instances where the IPA had concerns or requests for additional investigation, the agreement rate rose to 82%. This rate of agreement has been consistent over the last three years. We are in continuous discussions with the IPA on how to foster continued evolution toward improved investigative and oversight processes. We do not believe that a dramatic departure from a system that is working is needed without further discussion. This is a complex situation, one with many legal and policy issues to resolve.That is best accomplished through collaboration and careful consideration of the issues with the various stakeholders. That is the path I thought we were on, and one I continue to support."

Following the Tuesday press conference, the San Jose City Council voted that afternoon to have the city attorney look into Liccardo's proposal.

If they move forward with exploring the proposal after that, it will be decided after Liccardo's term by an almost all-new city council.

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