Police Activities League restructuring to ‘get back to the glory days’
The San Jose Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services department on Tuesday called together the first of two public hearings on the future of the city’s Police Activities League. Photo by Kyle Martin.

The San Jose Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services department on Monday launched the first of two public hearings on the city’s Police Activities League, which has long been a bridge between local communities and their police officers but recently struggled with serious mismanagement and financial problems.

Since 1968, San Jose police officers and kids in the community competed together in sports programs in the Police Activities League. In 2007, an agreement between the 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and the city’s PRNS department set guidelines for PAL to adhere by. A June 2018 audit of the organization detailed PAL’s noncompliance and violations of many of the guidelines in the 2007 agreement.

“We know there’s no instant fix here,” San Jose’s deputy director of parks Justin Long said Monday night in a community meeting room at City Hall. “There’s this desire to bring PAL back to the glory days of what it once was.”

A city audit of PAL digs deep into shortcomings of the nonprofit organization, naming four main findings. According to the report, the city does not have a defined relationship with PAL, the organization failed to fulfill compliance agreements,  and PAL does not have formal agreements with its sports leagues and was mysteriously charging its Foothill district more than other districts for its soccer league. PAL also failed to meet its financial responsibilities — the organization fell behind on its taxes, had no annual budget or procedures for tracking donations.

Other notes from the report detail the need for a defined and structured relationship with the city, and a need for an executive director. The organization, previously run by 10-member board and a police sergeant acting as executive director, now has a full-time unpaid volunteer executive director, Joe Gagliardi.

Gagliardi, who has decades of experience as a businessman involved in professional baseball and boxing, attended Monday night’s hearing.

“Putting stuff together, doing it — it’s really up my line,” he told San José Spotlight. “I feel [PAL is] moving in the right direction.”

Solidifying the future of PAL will take time, Gagliardi said, but he also offered assurances as the new executive director that “the money we’re taking in is all going in the right direction,” adding that “I’m a hawk when it comes to money.”

To help city leaders rebuild the struggling nonprofit, residents provided their visions for PAL’s future and its many sports programs, which include taekwondo, boxing, soccer, baseball, cheerleading and football.

“I have seen the deterioration of PAL over the years,” Aurelia Sanchez, a San Jose resident, said. “My vision is that I really feel it would be nice for the facility to be used more.”

Because her son participated in PAL, and now her grandkids participate in PAL, Sanchez hopes to see the program expand to help better serve and incorporate underrepresented communities and be more generally accessible to the public. She said she wants to see more publicly open space for general use, and that opening access to the PAL facilities would be a step in that direction.

“I just feel as though the facility, the way it’s being used today, it’s not being utilized the way it should be,” Sanchez said.

Paul Murphy, who had two sons play sports in the PAL program, hopes the program continues to grow, hopefully by incorporating the community hotspots in close proximity to the PAL stadium, like the Emma Prusch Farm Park and the Veggielution Community Farm.

“I’m trying to look at it like a health promotion campus,” Murphy said.

“It would be too easy” to only critique the shortcomings of the PAL organization, Murphy said, so he’d rather “build on the work we’ve done already.”

He said the volunteers, coaches, team moms and young athletes are still there, ready to compete. In order to properly serve the community, now PAL needs to be “a functional nonprofit with a business plan,” Murphy said.

San Jose police captain Randy Schriefer thought the public input from Tuesday’s meeting was “exactly the type of feedback we were looking for.” Schriefer said the stadium was a “gem” before it fell into disrepair, and that he’s looking forward to PAL’s rebuilding “from the foundation up.”

“This is just the start,” Schriefer said. “We’ll get there.”

City leaders will host one more meeting to mull PAL’s future:

WHEN: 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 30
WHERE: Emma Prusch Farm Park Multicultural Center
647 S. King Rd., San José

Contact Kyle Martin at kylebmartin96@gmail.com or follow him @Kyle_Martin35 on Twitter.

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