Khamis: San Jose can build on police reforms, accountability
A police officer keeps watch on protesters in San Jose. File photo by Luke Johnson.

This is a difficult time for our country. I remain outraged by the scene of brutality and reckless disregard for human life we witnessed at the hands of the since-fired Minneapolis police officer, now charged with second-degree murder. We must acknowledge this is not the first incident of injustice affecting our black community, and I hear the calls to reform policing and hold officers accountable.

I am proud to live in San Jose, where, long before the current protests and outpouring of anger, our city made significant strides to place accountability at the forefront of policing. We have a police chief committed to improving screening, training and tactics throughout his department. And our city is committed to seeing further reforms.

In 1993, the San Jose City Council established an Independent Police Auditor (IPA). The IPA is a police oversight body, separate and independent from the San Jose Police Department (SJPD), reporting directly to the City Council. The IPA investigates allegations of police misconduct, audits use of force, and recommends policy changes to improve policing. During my time as a councilmember, the IPA has made many recommendations and the SJPD has implemented policies including:

• Providing Fair and Impartial Policing (FIP) training to civilian and sworn staff to counteract unconscious biases.

• Analyzing limited detention data on traffic and pedestrian stops to identify racial and/or ethnic disparities to ensure policing is fair and impartial.

• Increasing transparency and accountability by requiring the use of body-worn cameras.

• Updating the department’s Duty Manual on Tactical Conduct to mitigate the need for force.

Chief Eddie Garcia is a strong proponent of reforms and was the first police chief in the nation to speak out against the police tactics used against George Floyd. The chief leads the most lightly-staffed police department, per capita, of any big city in America, and yet we have one of the safest cities in the country. This is, in great part, due to the hard-won trust and cooperation that has developed between our diverse community and our police department.

Even with the reforms our city has implemented, there is more we can do to improve accountability. One reform would be to expand the powers of the IPA. The IPA already analyzes each use-of-force incident and conduct unbecoming of a police officer (CUBO) complaint.  An additional reform would allow the IPA to review internal investigations initiated by the police administration. The San Jose Police Officers Association has agreed to a ballot measure that would provide this additional, independent oversight.

Aside from continual analysis and reforms led by our IPA, additional recommendations regarding the certification process can be implemented to further strengthen accountability. In other professions, such as law and medicine, lawyers and doctors can lose their licenses as a result of a serious violation of their Code of Ethics.

By implementing certification reforms, when an officer is fired for conduct worthy of termination, the officer would also lose his or her peace officer certification from the state, similar to how a lawyer is disbarred. For the officer to be recertified, the person would have to make an appeal to a professional board to be reinstated as a peace officer. This reform would eliminate the current practice where a terminated police officer is hired by another law enforcement agency.

The SJPD was an early adopter of many of the reforms protesters are now demanding. Our diverse police force is committed to being a positive example to other departments across the state and nation. Accountability remains the key to our continually improving system. I encourage all those engaged in peaceful protest to join me in seeking further reforms in a city long committed to excellence in policing.

Johnny Khamis is a San Jose councilmember first elected in 2012 to represent District 10, which spans Almaden and Blossom valleys.

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