Officer Involved Shootings

Hilbert Morales EL OBSERVADOR San Jose’s residents need to understand that “Officer-involved shooting” will not include the SJ Independent Police Auditor when no complaint is filed. As a result,...
Officer Shootings

Hilbert Morales

San Jose’s residents need to understand that “Officer-involved shooting” will not include the SJ Independent Police Auditor when no complaint is filed. As a result, during 2015 when 12 shooting incidents occurred, and only three residents filed a complaint, only those three OIS incidents included the SJ-IPA. SJ Residents must understand that no complaint filed with IPA results in IPA not being included as an objective reviewer. To file a complaint, simply phone San Jose Independent Police Auditor, 408-794-6226 (leave a message which includes your contact information).

Given the current national “Officer-involved Shootings (OIS)” focus’, it seemed prudent to inform the City of San Jose community about those OIS incidents which involve only the San Jose Police Department and occurred within the jurisdiction of the City of San Jose, CA.

Information used in this brief summary is fully presented in Chapter 4 entitled “Officer-Involved Shootings, 2015 IPA Year End Report, pp 44-48, Office of the Independent Police Auditor, City of San Jose, issued April 2016 by Walter Katz, Independent Police Auditor and Staff <>; <>; <>. Interested parties are encouraged to read this information (copies are available at the MLK Library).

If improvements and updates in the current local civic ordinances, policies, and procedures are needed, it behooves an informed, interested public to become knowledgeable advocates who communicate their concerns directly to the SJ-IPA, Phone 408-794-6226.

Simply stated, law-enforcement officials need to be subject to the same ‘checks/balances’ which are embedded in the U.S. Constitution. And as agencies supported by the public via tax revenues, all law enforcement agencies need to become more transparent about their operations, policies, and procedures. Some ‘checks and balance’ processes do exist, however, these are not administered openly and full disclosure to the public is a goal yet to be achieved.

The average citizen needs to learn to become more specific. For example, several years ago, ‘a cop shot an innocent Mexican-American man in the back in downtown San Jose’. That statement is false because it was a CA Drug Enforcement Agency who mis-identified an innocent man of color as the suspect he was seeking; asked the ‘mis-identified suspect’ to stop; the challenged individual did not stop for questioning, but rather ‘took off’; was chased; jumped an 8 foot link chain fence; which the DEA agent did not ‘jump’, but in his frustration, pulled his weapon and fired several deadly rounds. The facts are that it was not a SJPD ‘cop’ who was responsible for this OIS incident; it was a DEA agent. Citizens need to be specific because if ‘the law and its applications’ are to be improved, then specific, factual and truthful communication is required to make improvements in existing law and its enforcement. Especially when the community wants to hold a law enforcement official accountable and responsible.

As a member of the SJ-IPA Citizen’s Advisory Council, I have learned first-hand about the current operations and practices of the SJPD. All of this information is documented each year in the Annual Reports of the SJ-IPA, the latest edition of which is cited above. Again, interested parties are encouraged to become directly informed by reading these reports. Direct information is superior to ‘hearsay’ which often contains mis-information and engenders confusion resulting in ‘no-action’.

What is of great interest is the following summarized data presented in Chapter 4, 2015 IPA Annual Report:: During Calendar Year 2011, there were 11 Officer-involved Shootings; in year 2012, only 2 OIS; in year 2013 six (6) OIS; in year 2014 four (4) OIS; and in year 2015 twelve (12) OIS’s occurred. All this during a period when the SJPD sworn-officer staff had fallen from 1,500+ down to about 750+. So OIS incidents do not seem to be related to police department staffing levels. At the national levels, 920 OIS incidents result in the death of the alleged suspect.

In the City of San Jose during 2015, of the 12 OIS incidents, six (6) were fatal shootings. In accord with existing policy and procedure, each OIS incident was subjected to reviews (using the SJPD’s “deadly force policy, the shooting review process, and the IPA’s mandated responsibilities”). The legal authority for the police use of force is found in California’s Penal Code, Section 835a: “Any peace officer who has reasonable doubt that the person to be arrested has committed a public offense may use reasonable force to effect the arrest, to prevent escape or to overcome resistance.” This is the statutory basis for the SJPD’s Duty Manual, Section L-2602: “Objectively reasonable force is that level of force which is appropriate when analyzed from the perspective of reasonable officer possessing the same information and faced with the same circumstances as the officer who has actually used force.”

Finally, (SJPD) policy prescribes the circumstances when an officer may use lethal force, namely a firearm. Each incident is unique and is reviewed from several perspectives. REMEMBER THAT THE IPA IS NOT INVOLVED WHEN NO COMPLAINT IS FILED…SO PHONE 408-794-6226.