SAN JOSE – A touted advisory committee on policing and public safety reform in San Jose is set up after the mass exodus of South Bay civil rights leaders who resigned in protest after claiming it was too top-heavy and marginalizing the voices of their voices were now interrupted outcry fueled his initial formation.
A coalition of groups led by the Black Leadership Kitchen Cabinet and the NAACP in San Jose-Silicon Valley posted a letter Tuesday to city officials who headed the San Jose City Public Safety Advisory Board announcing that they would leave after individual executives began leaving last week.
The letter set out their frustration with a lack of consensus that issues such as systemic racism, excessive violence and inequalities in police attention need to be addressed, and that the introduction of reform proposals from the committee is ultimately driven by the police department and the town.
SAN JOSE, CA – APRIL 29: Walter Wilson, CEO of the Minority Business Consortium, speaks during a press conference outside San Jose City Hall in San Jose, Calif. On Thursday, April 29, 2021. Community leaders shared their reasons for leaving City with. Community Safety Advisory Committee reorganization (Anda Chu / Bay Area News Group)
By Thursday, around a quarter of the 46 group members had resigned. At a rally in town hall on the same day, activist Walter Wilson, who was the first to resign, said he was open to deputy city administrator Angel Rios that the ad hoc committee should be substantive at the start of the meeting on March 18.
“If that’s real, I’ll go along, but don’t waste my time,” recalled Wilson. “This is a delusion. That’s a joke. “
William Armaline, chairman of criminal justice for the local NAACP and director of the Institute of Human Rights at San Jose State University, echoed the position of several leaders that, contrary to the existing framework, the advisory group must be community-focused to be useful.
“We were expecting a community-led process,” said Armaline. “We don’t need the San Jose police, city officials, or anyone else to filter our words. We can speak for ourselves. “
SAN JOSE, CA – APRIL 29: Professor William Armaline of San Jose State University speaks during a press conference outside San Jose City Hall in San Jose, Calif. On Thursday, April 29, 2021. Community leaders shared their reasons for leaving City with “Reimagining Community Safety Advisory” committee (Anda Chu / Bay Area News Group)
Rios said Thursday that the city is pausing the committee’s work for two to three weeks to “summarize the feedback” and decide whether and how to restructure the group’s goals, and that he hopes the members who have gone are to be included again.
“We want to be driven by high-quality conversations that translate into action rather than timeline, even if it means extending the deadline in the back end,” said Rios. “The easy way is to move away from it, but here in San Jose we choose to face it … It comes with a cost, but it is a cost worth paying.”
But the gathering of social justice leaders at the town hall rally on Thursday said the advisory group needed to be rebuilt from scratch. Peter Ortiz, a member of the Santa Clara County Board of Education representing East San Jose, said the city needs to rethink who to involve to ensure that community concerns about police and city safety are properly addressed.
“For the advisory group to be effective and inclusive, the families of those who have lost loved ones to police violence must be centered,” Ortiz said. “The voices of those most affected by government-sponsored violence must be prioritized.”
SAN JOSE, CA – APRIL 29: Peter Ortiz, a member of the Santa Clara County Board of Education representing East San Jose, speaks during a press conference outside of the San Jose City Hall in San Jose, Calif. On Thursday, April 29th 2021 Community officials shared their reasons for leaving the city’s committee to reform community security (Anda Chu / Bay Area News Group)
The advisory group was formed late last year following the violent reaction by police at summer demonstrations against the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis with the aim of improving relations between the police and the community.
Rios said he believed the conflict arose out of differing perceptions about the group’s primary objective, which is to take a broader look at community security, not just police reform. He added that a subcommittee looking at police reforms could result from the review the city will be conducting over the next few weeks.
In a city memo released before the first meeting – there were three in all – the group aims to “engage the public on the future of policing on social issues and reduce conflict that is not criminal in nature” .
Rios insisted on the role the police have to play as the main actor: “Ultimately, we want a better relationship between the community and our police department, and that is not done by excluding either party. ”
Questioning the wisdom of a process that ultimately ends with the city, the police department and the independent police auditor deciding what to do, Wilson noted that the departure of former police inspector Aaron Zisser under heavy political pressure was an important reason was too skeptical.
Zisser said Thursday the controversy should lead the city to consider further changes to police reform.
“The city’s ignorance here only underscores the need for not only a community-led task force to address immediate reforms, but also a permanent community-led police commission. The city has commissions and boards for everything else – why not policing? ” he said. “This will not be the last time the city will think about what needs to be changed. This should be an ongoing process with affected communities at the top of the league table.”
SAN JOSE, CA – APRIL 29: LaToya Fernandez with the Silicon Valley black lead kitchen cabinet and founder of YouthHype speaks during a press conference outside of the San Jose City Hall in San Jose, Calif. On Thursday, April 29, 2021. Community The Heads and heads of government shared their reasons for leaving the city’s Reimagining Community Safety Advisory committee. (Anda Chu / Bay Area News Group)
La Toya Fernandez, founder of Youthhype and organizer of the rally on Thursday, described the original form of the advisory group as “wildly offensive” and will not survive without major changes given the needs of rebel groups in the city.
In addition to the Kitchen Cabinet and the NAACP, the signatories of the resignation letter included the La Raza Roundtable, the La Raza Lawyers Association of Santa Clara County, the Silicon Valley De-Bug, Somos Mayfair, the Ujima Adult and Family Services and the Asian Law Alliance.
“Without these organizations, you cannot do this work,” Fernandez said, adding that if it continues, “it must be structured, led and directed by the people.”
SAN JOSE, CA – APRIL 29: Pastor Jethro Moore II, President of the NAACP of San Jose, speaks during a press conference outside San Jose City Hall in San Jose, Calif. On Thursday, April 29, 2021. Community leaders shared their reasons for leaving the city with the city’s “Reimagining Community Safety Advisory” committee (Anda Chu / Bay Area News Group)