#4in8 -- San Jose Reacts to Four Officer Involved Shootings in Eight Days

This August, San Jose saw an alarming number of people who lost their lives in incidents involving the police – 4 in 8 days. Adrian Rivera, 22 (Aug.9th). Aaron James, 30( Aug.10). Mathew Castillo, 29 (Aug.16). Richard Jacquez, 40 (Aug.17). We started a running conversation from community stakeholders and leaders about what this means for our community moving forward. Follow the hashtag #4in8 as we continue to gather and share perspectives.

Standard Protocol with No Accountability and No Consequence

When I read or hear about another innocent life being cut short by violence, it saddens me. Then I hear that the life was cut short by police, I feel betrayed. The job of the ‘peace officer’ is to protect. I ask myself who is being protected. Lives are being stolen all across the country with no remorse, no accountability, and no consequence. My son was executed; the officers made sure he would have no chances of survival. That seems to be their standard protocol, no survivors. Someone told me that the officers that killed my son were devastated. My reply was, devastation is to have your child shot beyond recognition, having your entire family die inside from the loss of a loved one, forcing a 3 year old to grow up without her father. I don’t know what the officers feel, but I do know this, they are not concerned about any reprimand because they followed the protocol, no survivors. -Sharon Anthony, Mother of Philip Watkins, 23, killed by San Jose Police Officers

A Community Left in a State of Turmoil

I am angry and disgusted for the response from department leaders on the disrespect and disregard for human life. The failure to act by government leaders and public servants has cost us way too many lives and resources that could have been used in a more positive way to help our children feel safe and succeed in school. Violence by police, leaves family survivors, friends and community in a state of turmoil. Transparency and no accountability is part of the problem.” - Laurie Valdez, partner of Antonio Lopez Guzman killed by San Jose State Police Officers

The Problems with Policing and Criminal Justice are Fundamental

What we're witnessing in San Jose is a demonstration of fundamental problems with policing and criminal justice in the US. By best estimates approximately 725 people have been killed by police in 2015 – over 70 in June alone. While this number may not seem large, it is (a) a very likely underestimate, given what we've learned about the difficulty in getting PD's to keep, let alone share, any of these records following federal investigations in Ferguson, and (b) statistically off the charts in comparison to other "Western democracies."

More disturbing, those killed by police in the U.S. each year are almost universally people of color – African Americans and Latinos in particular – and/or members of the working poor. This is also the case in all 4 recent murders in San Jose. Further, a significant amount of these killings–as illustrated by all of the most notorious cases –were of unarmed individuals.  This was not the case in all 4 of the SJ killings, but even in the case of armed "suspects" (stabbing suspect, suicide threat killing) there is some significant question as to their level of threat to police officers. Third, a significant number of the killings by police each year have involved victims who were suffering from psychological illness or disorders. This is clearly the case in at least one of the four SJ killings (suicide threat)--and further information is needed to determine whether this is the case in the other 3.

Finally, all of this runs us into a serious rights issue: constitutional and human rights to due process. For each killing, police departments have now made a habit of criminal character assassination of the victims (and often, their families, friends, and supporters) after the fact. No matter how sure (for example) SJPD claims to be that the young man found (and killed) with a knife is absolutely guilty of stabbing someone--it is not their job or role to make this call. Only a court can convict and sentence punishment. Each time a suspect is murdered in police interactions or custody, particularly in violation of the law, they are denied their right to due process.

For those who believe that the police exist to execute the law (constitution) while providing for public safety and answering to the communities they police–recent data is incredibly damning evidence to the contrary. For those of us who see the police as institutional decedents of strike breakers, slave catchers, and state terrorism whose institutional thrust is to protect rulers and capital–this pattern of police killings in San Jose and the US is completely unsurprising. - William T. Armaline, Associate Professor, Justice Studies Director Minor in Human Rights     

Only a Third Party Can Ensure Unbiased Investigation

When deadly force is used by the San Jose Police Department, the facts need to be carefully investigated, by a third party, either by independent investigators from the State Attorney General's Office, or by investigators from the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office. This will ensure that the investigation is fair and unbiased. Richard Konda, Executive Director of Asian Law Alliance

Transparency and Accountability are Key to Trust

Whenever a trend develops that involves violence and the loss of lives in our communities,it is always reason for concern. However, when the trend involves the actions of Police Officers, for obvious reasons, it generates even greater reason for concern. Our community wants to believe they can trust our Police Department and they want to believe in our Police Officers. Transparency and accountability are the keys to obtaining that trust. - Michael Lopez, Executive Director of Mexican American Services Agency

We Need to Question When and Why Deadly Force is Used

We are devastated because four families are shattered, and there is no way to fix it.  We are thinking of, and praying for, each of these victim's loved ones. The number of involved shootings in under a two week time span is a frightening trend.  We've lived most of our lives in San Jose, and cannot remember this level of police violence in our city.  Clearly there has to be a change in SJPD's justification of deadly force.  We have to question what training law enforcement is getting in the use of force.  Non-compliance or resistance should not rise to the level of lethal force. We still need the presumption of innocence and the process of the court of law.  SJPD cannot be judge, jury and executioner. -  Vickie and Jim Showman, parents of Diana Showman who was killed by San Jose police on August 14, 2014 


Pattern of Excessive Force

Although we appreciate the cooperation and professionalism that the San Jose Police Department personnel has provided, we believe that SJPD engages in a pattern or practice of excessive force with respect to firearm discharges in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Section 14141, and that officers fail to avail themselves of feasible lower-force options before shooting at someone, especially in cases involving perons in obviously compromised mental states or persons with mental illness. It is of a critical nature that the Department of Justice conduct an independent investigation into the San Jose Police Department."- Pastor Jethroe Moore II, President of Silicon Valley NAACP 

Police Can’t Police Themselves

Police are civil servants and they need to be transparent and accountable to the citizens they serve. Especially when lethal force is used. As long as the police are essentially policing their own conduct a gulf of mistrust will exist between them and the communities they patrol. It's hard for me to trust SJPD's version of events in these recent shootings because there is no video evidence or citizen involved review process. - Demone Carter, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Future Arts Now!

Police Need to Know the Context of Place They Work In

Many justify this behavior by claiming police have no other option; they are facing a life and death situation and they must choose between their own life or the suspect in front of them. Police should not anticipate death because they should not anticipate guilt. The fact that police confrontations have a root tension in the first place leads to harmful outcomes. Because of the context, people don't feel safe when in contact with police and police don't feel safe interacting with citizens, which is a major problem. Taking that tension away could alleviate situations and could allow us to have better interactions with the police. It's unfair for people to be killed when one conversation with the police could result in life. There is no chance for that conversation, the dialogue is not happening and that is incredibly challenging to change. Especially because there is a hesitation to change. There are roughly 39,000 cities and as far as I know, no one is trying anything significantly new - i.e. taking away guns from officers. Aside from body cameras that only address accountability after the deed, we should look for ways the police could deconstruct their training and implementation. Not just giving them a mandatory sensitivity class, but maybe having a department in police academies dedicated to teaching the context officers are working in. Unfortunately, most officers are not mentally equipped to do their jobs properly and don't have ties in the communities they alter. - Segen Gebrehiwet, Evergreen Valley College Student


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