San Jose Voted to Expand Police Oversight. What Happens Next?

1 min
San Jose's Measure G increases police oversight for the SJPD. But the city will have to negotiate with the SJPD and the Police Union before those changes can be made. (Thomas Hawk/Flickr)

San Jose voters this November overwhelming passed Measure G to expand the role of the Office of the Independent Police Auditor, which oversees the San Jose Police Department. The measure allows police auditor staff to access internal investigation records and un-redacted records on uses of force and shootings.

On Nov. 18, the Rules Committee unanimously voted to revisit the police contract with the SJPD. During that meeting, Mayor Sam Liccardo said that the public no longer feel they can trust the police to police themselves.

"The public has moved beyond that moment and certainly, they have expressed their views on the streets and in the ballot box," Liccardo said on Wednesday. "I think we owe it to them to move forward."

The measure also changes how officers are disciplined. Before Measure G was passed, the police contract enabled arbitrators to reverse disciplinary decisions made by the chief of police and city manager.

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In 2016, an SJPD officer was fired after making offensive remarks toward Black Lives Matter advocates on Twitter, but was reinstated after an arbitrator reversed the police chief's decision.

"[Measure G] could dramatically improve that arbitration process and give us all more confidence that simply, police chiefs can get rid of bad cops," Liccardo said. "That's what we need to ensure that the public knows and that we can actually do."

But the city will have to negotiate with the Police Department and officers' union to make the changes that the measure allows. And that could prove an uphill battle.

For instance, the measure now allows the city to modify the arbitration process so that there is more transparency in what disciplinary actions are taken against officers. But how they modify it is up for debate.

In a statement, the San Jose Police Officers' Association, the police union, said it strongly opposed the changes Measure G makes possible.

"Almost every idea from politicians about improving policing in San Jose is focused on what happens after a controversial incident has occurred, and this back-end approach will do nothing to prevent or diminish the number of these incidents from happening," said Paul Kelly, president of the SJPOA.

"We are open to discussing other reasonable ideas that can accomplish some tangible improvements to policing," Kelly said.

The city manager, city attorney and police auditor are scheduled to present a proposed plan and negotiation schedule by March 1, 2021.

By then, a new police chief will likely head the department, as Chief Eddie Garcia announced he plans to retire at the end of this year.