Parent-Teen Mediation and How It Can Help

By Kathleen Flynn

Laws governing how you can discipline your child have changed considerably. If you use any type of physical force on your child, spouse, or a family member you can go to jail. Once you are arrested, jailed, and ordered to appear in court your whole life will change and not for the better. Luckily, the DA’s Office offers families without a history of violence an option to consider avoiding prosecution. The DA’s Office sends cases to mediation in an effort to empower families to better communicate and come up with improved skills in which to handle conflict. The County’s Dispute Resolution Program (DRPS) receives DA referrals and provides the community with just that type of service.

Last week, I handled such a case. A mother and daughter got into a physical altercation over a cell phone. After attending a Birthday party, were she had had a few drinks, the mother came home at 1:00 am to find her teenage daughter talking and texting on her cell phone. When she told her daughter to give her the phone and go to bed, the daughter told her mother to get out of her room and mind her own business. The fight escalated from yelling into a physical tug of war over the cell phone which ended in black eyes, a swollen ear, choke marks on the daughter’s neck, and a bloody foot that ended in a trip to the Emergency Room, and 7 stitches. During the fight, a neighbor called the Police. The mother ended up in jail, and the teen ended up in a shelter run by Child Protective Services.

When the mother and daughter recounted their version of the events, I was struck by the immense lack of compassion and communication I saw between them. As I listened to the mother telling me that she lost her job because she had to miss so much time to keep her court dates, the loss of some friendships, and humiliation she has suffered from this experience, I was surprised to hear them both say that if they had they known that programs like ours existed maybe this and other fights could have been avoided.

Parent/Teen Mediation, or any type of mediation through DRPS is a voluntary program that is free to the public. It is not therapy or counseling. Mediation is a setting in which you can clear the air and find positive, constructive ways of dealing with volatile emotions in a safe place. It isn’t as formal or frightening as it sounds.

After scheduling an appointment, you will meet with two experienced mediators that will listen to both sides of the story. Everything said in the mediation is kept strictly confidential. They are not there to judge you, nor will they tell you what to do. They are there simply to assist you and your child, family member, or spouse in learning active listening skills and ways to communicate more effectively. Once you have reached an agreement on how to do things differently, the mediators will put it in writing so that both of you know what was agreed to. No one sees that agreement but you. You may come back for a second or third mediation if you need to.

For more information on the Dispute Resolution Program you may call Brohne Lawhorne at 408-792-2330, or email him at Brohne.Lawhorne@ohr.sccgov.org.

Kathleen Flynn is a professional mediator and community activist.

Priorities and Objectives

By Ed Rast

Did you know that 4376 criminal cases in San Jose were not investigated in FY 2007-2008 due to a lack of police officers and resources, up 70% from 2,574 uninvestigated cases the previous fiscal year?

It is estimated that 5,800 cases — or almost 10% of all cases received — were not investigated in FY 2008-2009. This would mean an increase of over 125% in uninvestigated crimes in just two years.

Estimates predict that 4,500 criminal cases will not be investigated in FY 2009-2010... even if the eight new police officers approved in 2008-2009 budget for Investigative Services are hired to improve case investigations and clearances in burglary and auto thief.

The 2009-2010 proposed operating budget (p. VII 282) states that these eight investigative officers could instead be assigned to “service demand increases related to annexation of County pockets within San Jose, normal population growth and the impact of proposed reductions to other police services.”

The State of California plans to take $75 million from San Jose’s Redevelopment Agency and borrow $20 million of San Jose's property and sales tax revenues to balance the state’s $24.1 billion budget deficit, which means that previously eliminated public safety staff and budget cuts are back on the table.

So how can San Jose city administration year after year propose cuts to police staffing and funding if public safety is the No.1 budget priority of residents, neighborhood leaders, and most of the City Council?

Because our city administration:

1. Does not have a clear definition of “essential city services” — which always includes police, fire and emergency medical services — to be used to prioritize budget cuts;

2. Does not link city budget items to clear performance service objectives* (see below);

3. Does very few city service and cost comparisons to other large California cities or local cites using national performance measures; and

4. Does not link staff compensation to the achievement of department-specific service objectives in the budget, which are linked to long-term city goals.

We will continue to see police staff and budget cuts until our city administration defines their budget priorities and expenditures are linked to clear performance objectives and measurable standards.

* A performance service objective is defined in a budget document from nearby Sunnyvale as “generally a two-part sentence, describing both the service to be provided and the measurable standard with which it’s results will be compared.” For example, here’s the police service objective from Sunnyvale’s budget: “a) Provide quality investigations to aid the District Attorney in the prosecution of criminal cases in order that criminal charges are files on 90% of the cases submitted for review; b) promote the safety of the community and an atmosphere of security, primarily through the deterrence and prevention of crime and the apprehension of offenders in order that the city remains within the lowest 25% of Part 1 crimes for cities of comparable size at a cost of $103.82 per capita.” Now that's specific!

Paperwork

By Bobby Lopez

I don’t know about you, but I was having a good weekend up until yesterday morning. That’s when I saw this article in the Mercury News.

A long-awaited police substation is about to cost $5 million more than the City originally thought. It’s the second time this year City administration has had to adjust their numbers because of “flawed design documents”. To add insult to injury, they want the council to pay for the cost overrun with funds that are meant for a police driver safety training center.

In the past, I’ve pointed out numerous examples of wasteful spending coming out of City Hall. This is just another example, and it comes at the expense of cops.

This substation has been a long time coming. Our officers and support staff are stretched too thin to keep our streets and neighborhoods safe. A second home in South San Jose would relieve some of the pressure. Councilmember Kalra has it right the Merc story when he says, “it’s something we need to do.”

But think of the cops we could put on the beat with $5 million. Think of the new technology SJPD could use to improve reporting and records keeping. Think of the community policing programs we could fund. I think about it, and it makes me cringe, because instead of spending that $5 million on public safety, we’re making up for messy paperwork.

Recently, we’ve been hearing about how police pensions and benefits are bleeding our City coffers dry. Maybe things wouldn’t be so bad in the first place if the City spent our tax dollars wisely.

Bobby Lopez is President of the San Jose Police Officers' Association

Time to Go

Friends,

I am writing to explain my decision to resign as President of the San Jose Police Officers’ Association effective January 1, 2010. I am extremely proud to have been President for nearly four years. We have the finest group of police officers in the entire country, and it has been my privilege to serve you. That being the case, I feel that it is now time for me to leave.

I have made some needed changes, and I hope that my Presidency has strengthened the organization, both internally and through relationships with every organization and person the SJPOA deals with.

I will be writing in more detail regarding my term as President in my monthly column in the POA’s Vanguard newsletter. It has been a long four years, with numerous late nights and long meetings. I have been thinking about this for some time. I signed up to be a street cop and a father to my two sons. As I come to the end of my career, I want an opportunity to finish on the streets and to spend more time with my two boys.

I know that Vice President George Beattie will be a strong President for you in the future and that the POA has a great Board of Directors to serve its membership.

Please be safe out there.

Robert "Bobby" Lopez
President, SJPOA

Where's the Accountability?

By Pete Constant

How many times have you read an article online or in a newspaper that questions whether the San José Police Department holds its officers fully accountable for their actions? To be honest, I’ve lost count.

In 1993, the City of San José opened the office of the Independent Police Auditor (IPA). This newly created position was designed specifically to ensure that police officers were held accountable for their actions and to ensure that the police Internal Affairs Unit did not whitewash investigations of misconduct.

Approximately 4 years ago the San José City Council appointed Barbara Attard to be the IPA for a four year term. Since Attard lived in San Francisco, the city council provided her relocation assistance and a $250,000 executive home loan so that she could live in the community she served. When her term of office ended at the end of 2008 the city council decided to not re-appoint her. Attard continued to make her payments on her executive home loan for 3 months, and then abruptly stopped paying – even though she continued to make her first mortgage payments to her mortgage company. Months later, she informed the City of San José that she could not sell her home so she offered the city a deed to the property in lieu of foreclosure. Of course, there was still the matter of the first mortgage, so the city would have to pay off that loan in order to take possession of the home. Unfortunately, the city council agreed with this, voting to approve the settlement (9-2, with Councilmember Campos and myself voting against).

So she walked away from her obligations, leaving the taxpayers holding the bag – nearly $350,000 in loan forgiveness, and now the residents of San José own a downtown condo that might be worth $240,000 - if you could even sell it in today’s market.

So I ask, where did the concept of accountability go?

Four and a half years ago the city council approved this home loan, even though it appears to fail to meet the spirit or even the letter of the Executive Home Loan Program. After all, the intent of the loan program was to help new executive relocate to San José, an area long known for its high housing prices. But Attard was coming from San Francisco, an area with even higher housing costs.

Can anyone really argue that accepting a job 40 miles or so from your home requires relocation? Many hardworking city employees and taxpayers commute farther than that every day to their jobs.

The Executive Home Loan Program also specifically states that these loans are for the executive’s “principal residence.” While it was well known that Attard maintained her San Francisco residence during her employment, it is less known that Attard maintained her voter registration in San Francisco County and continued to vote in elections there while she was employed as the IPA. Remember, if you move, you are required to re-register to vote when you move to a new residence. Additionally, Attard never filed for a Homeowner’s Property Tax Exemption in Santa Clara County, but did keep the Homeowner’s Property Tax Exemption on file for her San Francisco residence. You can see that to claim this exemption, you must certify, under penalty of perjury, that you occupy your home as your “principal residence”.

So did Attard qualify for an Executive Home Loan to purchase her principal residence? I don’t think so, it’s clear to me she didn’t think it was her principal residence.

So where’s the accountability? Is the city council not responsible for approving this loan? Most of that council is no longer in office, so I guess not. Is Attard responsible for leaving the taxpayers holding the bag? I guess not, since the city attorney has informed the council that we have no other recourse. In fact, the city’s Finance Department doesn’t even think we are able to report the default to the credit reporting agencies.

With the city unable to provide essential services, can we really afford to buy a condo?

I, for one, am not willing to sit by and just let this go. I have asked the city manager to not offer this Executive Home Loan to any new hires until the Council can conduct a full review of the program, and I have asked for an investigation into the facts of the case.

Pete Constant is serving his first term on the San Jose City Council representing District 1 (West San Jose).

Our Report Card from the IPA

By Bobby Lopez

Yesterday, the San Jose City Council got some good news in an annual report from our interim Independent Police Auditor: The total number of citizen complaints against San Jose police officers fell 5% between 2007 and 2008.

I have to admit, hearing that made me feel pretty good. But then I thought about a Mercury News story I read two weeks ago when the IPA report was first published. I didn’t remember seeing that 5% figure in the story, so I looked it up online and read it again.

Sure enough, the overall drop in complaints isn’t mentioned until the middle of the third paragraph, and even then it’s almost an afterthought. Based on the headline and the opening of the story, the paper was more interested in pointing out that “slightly more people complained that San Jose officers used unnecessary force or were rude to them in 2008.”

Maybe the Mercury News thinks a slight increase in a single category is bigger news than a 5% drop overall. I like to focus on the bigger picture, so let me borrow a line from Protect San Jose statistical guru Ed Rast:

Did you know that SJPD handled a record 436,855 calls for service in 2008 and only 467 (0.1%) of those resulted in a citizen complaint? Or that the number of complaints per 100,000 residents (47) has stayed pretty much level over the past few years even though our city’s population has grown by almost 50,000 people since 2005?

(By the way, I’m a little confused... The City Administration’s numbers say that 1.0% of calls for service resulted in a complaint. By my math, it’s about ten times less than that. I went ahead and included the Administration’s numbers, just so you know I’m not kidding around. Check out the chart at the bottom of page 2, run the numbers, and see what you get.)

I’ve said it before, cops work in the most scrutinized profession in America. We accept that and we welcome the scrutiny because we think we do a pretty good job. But I’d sure like to see the number of complaints against other City departments — that is, if statistics are available. Can any department do better than 0.1%?

Who do I call in the City of San Jose’s Department in Charge of Decimal Points?

Bobby Lopez is President of the San Jose Police Officers' Association

Right Goal, Wrong Measure

By Ed Rast

Did you know San Jose residents and business don’t have sufficient information to know if our city is safe?

San Jose frequently quotes CQ Press’s 2008 City Crime Rankings as an indicator of our city’s public safety. In 2008, we were ranked 4th on CQ’s list of “Safest Large Cities in America” (with populations over 500,000) based on the FBI’s “Crime in United States 2007“ data.

CQ Press’ methodology states:

The crimes tracked by the UCR Program include violent crimes of murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault and property crimes of burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft, also called “Crime Index” offenses; the index is simply the total of the seven main offense categories. The FBI discontinued use of this measure in 2004 because its officials and advisory board of criminologists concluded that the index was no longer a true indicator of crime. ….. The consensus of the FBI and its advisory groups was that the Crime Index no longer served its purpose and that a more meaningful index should be developed.

Public safety is consistently ranked as the #1 city budget priority by San Jose’s residents. With that in mind, maintaining our status as the “Safest Big City in America” is still a good goal. But once you looked at why the FBI discontinued its use of the CQ methodology — because it was “no longer a true indicator of crime” — you begin to understand a new measurement is needed.

San Jose’s city administration should not rely on CQ Press’s City Crime Rankings to measure public safety, or set city budget priorities or police staffing levels.

Developing additional, detailed crime comparisons for San Jose and selected large cities in our county and state based on the FBI’s annual “Crime in the United States“ report will provide the Mayor, City Council, residents and businesses with additional information to measure public safety and set police staffing and budget levels.

In addition, there are two public reports that, if published monthly, could assist in police staff and budget allocations and educate everyone about crime and related social issues. The public could then use Community Policing to potentially prevent crimes and also address the social issues that contribute to crime.

Phoenix’s Monthly Count of Actual Offenses Known to Police uses the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) classifications and definitions and is a more comprehensive citywide crime report that what is available in San Jose.

The California Department of Justice’s Adult and Juvenile Criminal Report provides crime and demographic data that could alert city leaders, city administration and residents to potential social or criminal problems such as the drunk-in-public arrest rates. (See Page 2: Misdemeanors - Drunk; Page 4: Adult demographics; Page 6: Juvenile demographics.)

Unfortunately, due to budget shortages, the San Jose Police Department does not have the requested staff or improved technology systems needed to replace it’s decades-old, inefficient manual reports and retrieval system. Either of these would allow SJPD to produce the desired reports I have discussed previously.

Syndicate content