The Ultimate Price

In case anybody needed a reminder of just how stressful police work can be, I ran across an article in Wednesday’s Los Angeles Times and wanted to share it with you.

Susan Clemmer was veteran detective with the LAPD. She was a stand-up cop, well-liked by co-workers, and always wore a smile. The other day, she put a gun to her head and pulled the trigger. As of now, nobody knows why.

Of course, it isn’t hard for a fellow cop to imagine the emotions that must have bottled up inside Ms. Clemmer over almost 20 years on the force. Her death and the suicides of another 19 LAPD officers since 1998 are a stark reminder that this job doesn’t end when you hang up the uniform. The things we see and do on a day-to-day basis take a constant toll. In the backs of our minds, we all know that one day we may be asked to pay the ultimate price in the line of duty.

Police officers are some of the finest men and women around, and they chose public service They chose to serve and protect our streets and neighborhoods. They defend the peace and serenity that we enjoy, and they do it under difficult conditions, understaffed and sometimes feeling unappreciated.

I think everybody should take this opportunity to look at cops as human beings, not just blue uniforms in cars.

Stay safe, and have a great weekend.

Bobby Lopez
President, San Jose Police Officers' Association

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LAPD mourns suicide of veteran narcotics detective
By Richard Winton and Joel Rubin
Los Angeles Times
July 8, 2009

Officers throughout the Los Angeles Police Department grieved Tuesday as news spread that a veteran detective had killed herself in the lobby of an L.A. County Sheriff's Department station Monday night.

Susan J. Clemmer, a well-regarded officer assigned to the LAPD's Gang and Narcotics Division, walked into the Santa Clarita sheriff's station about 9:15 p.m. and spoke to the sheriff's deputy at the front desk, according to sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore and LAPD officials.

Clemmer, 41, placed a box of personal items on the counter and asked to speak to a different deputy. After a brief conversation with a second deputy, when Clemmer was briefly left unattended, staffers heard a gunshot and rushed out to find her with a single gunshot wound in her head, police said.

No one else was injured.

What Clemmer said to the deputies, and whether she identified herself as a police officer, remained unclear Tuesday.

The death of the 19-year LAPD veteran left officers throughout the tightknit department stunned.

"We're in shock. It came as a complete surprise," said Capt. Kevin McCarthy, one of the commanders of Clemmer's unit. "She was always smiling and easy to work with. There was no indication that anything was wrong."

Clemmer, McCarthy said, had sent a text message to another detective in the unit saying she looked forward to seeing him at work later in the week.

Clemmer joined the narcotics unit about a decade ago and for the last several years was assigned to a squad that worked with the U.S. Postal Service on cases involving drugs sent through the mail, according to McCarthy.

He praised her as a solid officer.

Soon after joining the LAPD, Clemmer was thrust into the spotlight as a crucial witness for the defense in the Rodney King beating trials of the early 1990s.

She told jurors in a federal civil rights trial that King had laughed about the beating he got from several LAPD officers after a traffic stop and said King had spit blood on her during the ambulance ride to the hospital. She also testified that she had spoken to one of the accused officers moments after the beating and that he appeared frightened by the confrontation.

Clemmer's testimony was central to bolstering the officers' defense that they had been frightened by King and acted out of concern for their safety. She took the stand after an expert witness for the defense testified that King's behavior, as described by the defendants, was consistent with PCP intoxication.

Two officers were eventually convicted in the federal civil rights case. Clemmer gave substantially the same testimony in the officers' state trial, which ended in acquittals and sparked deadly riots in Los Angeles.

Between 1998 and 2007, 19 LAPD officers committed suicide, according to a department study released last year.

Nightmare On My Street

By Beat Cop

Part one of a three part series

Picture this...

You are returning home after a long day at work. While driving down your street you discover your garage door is open. “Hmmm, I must have left it open when I left this morning”, you think to yourself. This self talk provides a few moments of comfort as you pull in the driveway.

Scanning the front of the house, you notice the side gate is open. This is not getting any better. A quick phone call to your spouse confirms nobody has been home all day. You walk into the garage and notice the door leading into the house is partially open. Reality sets in. Someone has broken into your home...

The Reality

In our city, with a population of almost 1 million, the San Jose Police Department investigates over 4,000 burglaries a year with only 7 detectives assigned to the burglary unit. Eight consecutive years of cuts to the public safety budget are bound to affect you as a victim of this type of crime.

In 1986, with a population of approximately 700,000, San Jose Police had 13 burglary detectives and a 16-person burglary suppression unit. Since that time, the city has eliminated the entire burglary suppression unit and cut investigators almost in half.

The city projects that by the year 2020 the population will have increased to 1,150,000. More people and more housing will undoubtedly lead to a rise in burglaries. There does not however, seem to be any plan to increase the amount of burglary investigators.

The case load of every burglary detective does not even come close to making a dent in the amount of cases going through the unit. The lack of adequate personnel prevents most burglaries from even being investigated. With the public safety budget getting cut every year, non-violent property crimes receive less attention. Understandably violent crimes continue to take priority with investigators. For the victims of home burglaries, this is of little consolation.

The Good News

On the bright side, SJPD takes great pride in our professionalism. An overly-abundant case load will not make a detective care for your case any less. There does, however, exist the undeniable reality that an impossible workload reduces the time allotted for each incident.

Thankfully, Chief Davis understands our staffing shortfalls and is working with the City Council to staff SJPD at appropriate levels for a city of this size. Until that happens, we will do the best with what we have. As always, call us, we will be there.

As members of your San Jose Police Department, we want to get involved. We want to catch the person or persons responsible just as badly as you do. With your help, and our expertise, we have a good chance.

Most importantly, let us go inside first to make sure no one is still there — this is why we have guns. Once inside, we will start the collection and preservation of evidence for future prosecution. All patrol officers are trained in evidence collection. You are welcome to watch although don’t expect the process to look like an episode of CSI. It’s actually slow and meticulous, not glamorous, but very important.

Finally, we will work with you and your neighbors to offer our expertise in burglary prevention. There are steps members of the community can take to help protect themselves from burglaries and help the police catch the crooks.

Working together, we can reduce the number of burglaries that occur and arrest more of the people responsible for them.

I’ll tell you more about this in future articles.

Proudly serving you,
Your Beat Cop

You Are Not Alone!

By Kathleen Flynn

A rape prevention class saved my fiancé’s life and mine when we were victims of road rage that could’ve ended in a stabbing.

We were driving home one night after a late night meeting. We were stopped at a stop sign. An SUV sped up behind us and passed too close, almost hitting us. My fiancé honked his horn — a natural reaction — and I watched in horror as the driver spun around and started chasing after us. Of course this would be the one time we didn’t have our cell phone with us so we were pretty much on our own until we could get to a phone.

Even in my terror, I began to remember what I was taught in the rape prevention class I took. They said to try to remain calm in a crisis, never drive home if you are being followed and whenever possible, drive to the nearest police station, or brightly lit busy convenience store. I told my fiancé to pull down a side street, and not into our driveway, and to get on the main street as soon as possible. The SUV caught up and cut us off, boxing us in behind a parked car. The driver got out, stood in front of my car, and started threatening to kill us.

He didn’t look like the creeps you see in the movies, quit the contrary. I was deeply struck by the fact that the man standing before us was an attractive, blonde haired, blue eyed, young man in his late 20s early 30s. He didn’t have any tattoos, was nicely dressed, and spoke in a soft voice. The only thing that gave me cause for alarm besides the fact that he had chased us down, and was threatening to kill us was the crazy look in his eyes.

My fiancé got so angry he started to roll down the window to yell at the guy. Another thing we were told never to do, so I begged him not to, and to lean on the horn non-stop instead, in the hopes that someone would call 9-1-1. It was rather frightening to see that people looked out their windows but that no one came out, or called the Police. Something that the instructor told us would likely happen in these kinds of situations.

Undaunted by the horn, the driver proceeded to the passenger window while pulling out a knife. This move cleared a way for us to escape. I got the man’s license plate number as we were backing out, and we drove to a well-lit gas station and called 9-1-1.

The police came immediately, took down our information, but never caught the guy, as far as we know. The officer told us we did the right thing by taking the actions we did, and gave us instructions on what to do to get home safely. He assured us that the guy was probably high on something, was long gone, and most likely wouldn’t even remember doing this in the morning.

I barely slept a wink for days. I kept seeing the terrifying scene every time I closed my eyes. I was frightened to go outside because this took place right next to my home. I was sure he was outside watching, laughing, and waiting to “kill us.”

After three days of hiding and canceling appointments, I reflected on my work with victims of violent crimes. In almost every case, the crimes they experienced were random, not intentional. When victims realized that they were not targeted but rather victims of random crimes, they were able to find a bit of peace.

The phrase “random acts of violence” kept running through my head. Then I got angry. The reality was that I didn’t know this guy, and he didn’t know me. He was just a bully high on something who randomly chased us down the street. That anger turned into empowerment. I was taking my power, and my love of life back! I wasn’t going to stay a prisoner of fear any more; I was going to get on with my life just like he had.

I decided to share this story because all of us have the same emotional reactions to being victimized. Whether you have experienced a crime as simple as vandalism or as devastating as rape, you are going to feel outrage, fear, and a sense of helplessness. It is nothing to be ashamed of; it is a natural response to having our sense of security and safety violated.

Also, when we don’t report crimes we are enabling thugs like this to hurt someone else. Two of the most important things to do when you’ve been victimized by a crime are report it to the police, and talk about it with someone you trust. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the support you’ll receive and how many stories similar to yours you will hear. And if you’re like my fiancé and want to confront the guy, please DON’T! There’s no reason to lose your life over something like this.

I also want people who are here illegally to know that if someone violates you or commits a crime against you or a family member, please report it to the Police. They will not report you to ICE, nor will you be deported. Too many undocumented immigrants are victimized and don’t report it to the authorities. Whether you are a legal or illegal citizen, no one has the right to harm you or your property and get a way with it.

I’d like to invite readers to share their stories. Tell us how you coped with or are coping with being a victim of a crime. Please add any resources you have used or know of that would help others.

Kathleen Flynn is a professional mediator and community activist.

San Jose's Understaffed Police Department

By Ed Rast

Did you know that San Jose in 2005 had the lowest ratios of sworn and civilian police per resident of the 23 U.S. cities with populations between 500,000 and 1 million?

At the time, San Jose had only 1.48 sworn officers and 0.40 civilian staff per 1,000 residents while the average of those 23 large cities was 2.64 sworn officers and 0.72 civilian staff per 1,000 residents.

Mayor Gonzales in his 2006-2007 budget message directed the San Jose Police Department to prepare a Five-Year Staffing Plan to close that gap and deliver to the community the high-quality, innovative, and efficient police services we have come to expect.

It was estimated in 2005 that 597.5 additional personnel were needed — including 332 sworn patrol officers, 146 sworn staff in investigative, preventative and administrative positions, and 119.5 civilian staff. But this would still not bring San Jose to the 23-city staffing average.

Unfortunately, San Jose’s sworn and civilian police ratios have only gotten worse. To date, the City has added only 40 new staff of the 597 proposed in the five-year plan. A proposed addition of 25 officers in FY 2009-10 went unfunded. Meanwhile, our population continues to grow, and the police workload right along with it.

SJPD’s understaffing problems began with an economic downturn in 2001 and continued through eight straight years of budget deficits. For four of those years, there were no staffing increases to offset increases in population, development, service calls and administrative workload.

Officers were shifted from proactive prevention activities and community policing to primarily reactive Patrol Division calls for service. Limited investigative personnel gave priority to crimes against persons.

This shift in priorities resulted in significant increases in auto theft (111%) and burglary ( 52%) from 2000-2005. Increasing property crimes — as predicted — jeopardized San Jose’s “Safest Big City in America” status.

Staffing reductions in 2005 nearly brought the SJPD back to 1998 levels (1,343). But between 1998 and 2005, San Jose’s population grew 10% to 910,528. That’s an increase equal to an entire council district.

As estimated by the California Department of Finance, San Jose’s population increased 10.6% (or 111,949 residents) from 894,943 in the 2000 census to 1,006,892 in January of 2008 — two years ahead of an estimate by the Association of Bay Area Governments.

The long and the short of the story is this: We need more police, and we need them now.

Many residents do not understand how adding new officers, staff and improved technology like a proposed computerized records system as well as increasing — not decreasing — community policing activities can help our understaffed police department prevent, investigate, and solve crimes.

If you’d like to get a better idea for yourself, have a look at SJPD’s proposed Five-Year Staffing Plan for 2007-12. Police and staff comparison charts can be found in graphics 9 and 10 (or pdf pages 16-17).

Next week, we’ll compare San Jose’s police staffing and crime rates to local cities. Enjoy the summer with your family and friends.

What do you think?

EDITOR'S NOTE:

It's been a month since we opened our doors here at Protect San Jose, and we'd like to hear what you think about the site so far. What do you like? What do you dislike? What could use improvement? How should we improve it?

It's an open forum, so speak your mind. But remember the ground rules: keep it brief and keep it clean. The floor is yours...

Fourth of July Safety Tips

As we begin the holiday weekend, we wanted to take a moment to remind you to have fun and stay safe out there. The Fourth of July is an exciting day all across America, with sun-baked parades and barbeques giving way to night skies lit up by fireworks. But it only takes one careless moment to spoil a good time.

With that in mind, the San Jose Police Department has released their tips for a safe and happy Independence Day celebration. We've included them here, along with the original press release.

Stay safe, and have a happy 4th!

City of San José Welcomes July 4th with Caution
Residents Urged to Celebrate Safely

The City of San José welcomes this upcoming July 4th on Saturday by encouraging safe celebrations and reminding residents that all fireworks are illegal in San José. The only legal use of fireworks allowed in the City is for a “pyrotechnic display,” operated by a Licensed Pyrotechnician, with a City Permit.

“We’re increasing our outreach to make certain San José residents understand not only that fireworks are illegal but why they are illegal,” says Fire Chief, Darryl Von Raesfeld. “This ban was added to the municipal code in the interest of public safety. Fireworks cause hundreds of severe injuries in the United States and ignite thousands of fires in California every year. With our current drought conditions the potential for a major fire incident is incredibly high.”

For many residents fireworks are considered an integral part of July 4th celebrations, along with other traditional community festivities. While fireworks are suitable for large scale events, they must be used under carefully controlled conditions. Groups planning to host a ‘pyrotechnic display’ should contact the Fire Prevention Bureau for permits with the understanding that only fully professional displays under very strict safety regulations will be permitted.

When most residents think of fireworks they think of large bottle rockets, roman candles, and firecrackers. However, the ban includes the popular ‘sparklers,’ usually reserved for younger children.

“Sparklers can reach over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit,” says San José Fire Marshal & Deputy Fire Chief, David Schoonover. “They account for 50% of fireworks-related injuries to children under age five and 10% of fireworks-related injuries overall.” For residents who’d like to observe the tradition, ‘snappers’ and ‘champagne party poppers’ are not considered fireworks and deemed legal for use in San José.

The penalty for violating the fireworks ban is stiff. Any individual who possesses, stores, sells, or uses any materials deemed fireworks, is in violation of the law and subject to arrest. Violation of these laws can result in a fine of up to $1,000 and possible jail time according to California Fire Code (CFC 7802.3) and the San José Municipal Code (SJMC 17.12.730). For more information on the laws, regulations and rules regarding fireworks in the City of San José call the Fire Prevention Bureau at (408) 535-7750.


Click on the arrow in the upper right corner to go to full screen mode.

About Time

EDITOR'S NOTE:

Regular readers of this blog will remember Monday’s post from SJPOA President Bobby Lopez defending Lieutenant Jose Salcido from attacks on his character as he ponders a campaign for Santa Clara County Sheriff. Mr. Lopez pointed to Lt. Salcido’s lifetime of work keeping our streets and neighborhoods safe and his strong ties to the community as reasons why he deserved a promotion.

Well, it looks like Mayor Reed was paying attention... But seriously, we'll repeat what Mr. Lopez wrote earlier: Lt. Salcido is a good man and deserves recognition for his years of public service. Let’s hope the Mayor and others listen to him.

UPDATE:

The Mayor's office finally got around to posting the official press release on the web. You can read it here for yourself. (Click on the arrow in the upper right corner to go to full-screen mode.)

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