To Pledge or Not to Pledge

We thought we’d give you another update on the status of the pledge we asked your Councilmembers to sign to recommit to making public safety their top priority.

The scorecard as of our last post: Mayor Reed and seven Councilmembers signed on; Councilmemer Oliverio abstained; and Councilmembers Herrera and Liccardo had not responded.

We’re happy to announce that Councilmember Herrera’s office called to let us know she will make signing the pledge one of her first acts when the Council returns from their Summer recess.

We also saw that Councilmember Oliverio mentioned the pledge in his blog on another website. He explained that he doesn’t sign pledges for interest groups because he doesn’t want to promise anything he may not be able to deliver.

I understand where he’s coming from. But an overwhelming majority of San Jose’s residents regularly list public safety as their top priority. Are the people of San Jose an interest group?

We’re only asking our leaders to reflect the support our public safety officers receive from the community. It’s a pledge of principle.

Later on in his blog, Pierluigi mentions that he’s already got his own public safety pledge posted on his city website. We went there and looked around but couldn’t find it. Maybe he’ll post a link in his blog today. We’ll let you know.

P.S. In case you were wondering, Councilmember Liccardo still has yet to respond.

Rushing to Judgment

By Bobby Lopez

I think President Obama got it right, just not right away.

Last week, he made some negative comments about the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Gates by Cambridge Police. This week, Mr. Obama corrected himself, and he deserves credit for that.

Unless you’ve been on a desert island, you know Prof. Gates was apprehended at his home after Sgt. James Crowley and others responded to a reported break-in there. Prof. Gates refused to provide his identification, which is all the cops needed to see it was actually his house.

If Prof. Gates had simply shown the officers his driver’s license, he could have avoided this mess. Instead, he got angry and accused the cops of racial bias. (I can speak from personal experience this happens a lot – even when a Latino officer, like myself, questions a Latino citizen).

Mr. Obama got caught up in the moment and rushed to judgment without knowing all the facts. At a press conference, he said the officers “acted stupidly."

When I heard Mr. Obama’s statement, it was like deja vu. It reminded me of the reaction of our city leaders to recent news reports of arrest data.

Without waiting for a complete analysis of the facts, some city leaders looked at one set of numbers and decided we have a problem. In general, the City Council allowed itself to be intimidated by vocal activists pounding the podium.

They created a task force to examine the “problem” and had numerous council discussions on the topic. Finally, they brought in an independent group of academics to study the numbers.

As I’ve said before, we welcome any fair and unbiased study of our work. If the academics come back in a year’s time and clearly prove that we do have a problem, then I’ll be the first to admit it, right here on this blog.

But what if they don’t? What if the study finds that the men and women of SJPD acted professionally and fairly? Will our city leaders follow President Obama’s lead and admit a rush to judgment?

And will I get a beer out of it?

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

Cracking Down on Bogus Charities

By Jerry Brown

As part of a nationwide crackdown on fraudulent charities, my office recently filed eight lawsuits against 53 individuals, 17 telemarketers and 12 charities that "shamelessly exploited" people's generosity and squandered millions of dollars of donations intended to help police, firefighters and veterans.

These suits are intended to permanently stop the charities' deceptive practices and require the repayment of all funds raised under false pretenses. My office is seeking involuntary dissolution of eight of the charities.

These individuals shamelessly exploited the goodwill of decent citizens trying to help police, firefighters and veterans. In point of fact, a shockingly small portion of donations went to those in need, while millions went to pay for aggressive telemarketing and bloated overhead - and in one case, to purchase a 30-foot sailboat.

These suits were filed in conjunction with the Federal Trade Commission and 48 other states as part of a nationwide sweep called "Operation False Charity."

In California, just as in the other participating states, the so-called charities raised millions of dollars based on false claims that donors' contributions would benefit police, firefighters and veterans organizations. But in reality, these charities rarely benefit public safety personnel. And, in most cases, 85 percent to 90 percent of donations are used to pay the fees of for-profit telemarketing firms.

Last year, I launched an investigation into 12 of the worst offenders, resulting in the eight cases filed today in Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, and San Mateo counties. It is estimated that since 2005, hundreds of thousands of Californians have been deceived by the solicitation campaigns these charities and their fundraisers have conducted.

Here are tips to avoid being the victims of charity fraud:

- If you receive an unsolicited call asking for a donation, it is most likely from a paid telemarketer who may keep a substantial part of your donation as payment of fundraising fees.

- Recognize that the words 'veterans' or 'military families' in an organization's name don't necessarily mean that veterans or the families of active-duty personnel will benefit from your donation.

- Donate to charities with a track record and a history. Charities that spring up overnight may disappear just as quickly.

- If you have any doubt about whether you have made a pledge or a contribution, check your records. If you don=t remember making the donation or pledge, resist the pressure to give.

- Check out an organization before donating. Some phony charities use names, seals and logos that look or sound like those of respected, well-established organizations.

- Ask the soliciting charity or the paid fundraiser what percentage of your donation will go towards fundraising expenses and what percentage will go towards the charity's charitable purpose.

- Do not send or give cash donations. For security and tax record purposes, it is best to pay by check made payable to the charity.

- Ask for a receipt showing the amount of your contribution.

- Be wary of promises of guaranteed sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a contribution. You never have to give a donation to be eligible to win a sweepstakes.

There are a number of resources to obtain information about a charity. My website is a good place to start.

Use the search feature to find out if a charity and its fundraiser are registered. Review the Attorney General's Guide to Charitable Giving for Donors for additional tips. Other sites that have valuable information include:

American Institute of Philanthropy
Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance
CharityNavigator
Federal Trade Commission

Jerry Brown is Attorney General of California.

Integrity

By Francisco J. Hernandez

How about truth, integrity and consistency in news reporting?

I’ve lived in San Jose for all 30 years of my life. Born, educated and employed in San Jose. I’ve enjoyed living here (with some ups and downs) and have no immediate plans to leave. In my 30 years, I’ve read thousands and thousands of San Jose Mercury News articles spanning the Knight-Ridder era to the brief McClatchy ownership to the current MediaNews (aka Bay Area News Group) ownership. There have been excellent news stories and stories about the news. Lately though I’ve noticed a lot more of the latter.

I don’t know what it is but over the last three years I’ve seen a rise in articles that are biased against San Jose police. While there have been officers “spotlighted” for their accomplishments on and off duty (one recent article was about two officers taking enforcement action 20,000 feet in the air), the majority of the stories have been negative (use of force, public intoxication, retirement benefits, etc). The overwhelming majority of negative stories are about racial profiling.

I find it insulting when people make racial accusations as soon as they are stopped. People never pause to think, “Why is this officer stopping me? Was I supposed to stop back there? Is my music too loud?” or maybe, “Is my tail light out… again? I thought I sent in my registration yesterday… Oh crap, here’s the envelope…” Nope, some people jump straight to the racial difference between us. I’ve heard the “You only stopped me ‘cause I’m (insert non-white race)!” rationale more than I care to say. (The fact that I’m Hispanic doesn’t seem to matter because, in their eyes, I’m no longer Hispanic once I put on the uniform.)

To those who have used that rationale or plan to continue using it, all I have to say is, “Oh really?” I guess it doesn’t matter that I was behind you when you ran that red light or rolled through that stop sign. Or that I could hear and feel your music from half a city block away. Or that I noticed your tail lights are out or your vehicle registration is expired. Or that I can see that you are driving an otherwise clean car that happens to have “limo-tint” on all windows. You insist that I stopped you only because you are (insert non-white race), even though I can’t see inside your car and was behind you the entire time. As I walk up to your car, I only know that there is one person (you, the driver) in the car. I don’t know who else is in there or if they have a gun pointed at my head since the windows are tinted.

I’ve been in law enforcement for seven and a half years with the first five and a half spent on patrol, and I can tell you that the San Jose Police Department employs a diverse group of officers. Our officers are Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, African-American, Middle Eastern. You name it, we have it, from Sergeants to Lieutenants, Captains to former Chiefs of Police. To say that SJPD is plagued with officers who enforce the law based solely on a person’s real or perceived ethnicity, as the Mercury News seems to suggest, is a complete insult. In this case, the Mercury News is also neglecting to acknowledge its own past reports.

In February 2007, the Mercury News published a front-page article about the perceived racial profiling behavior of the SJPD. The article was seven months in the making. What was the Mercury News’ conclusion? Its own reporters found no evidence of racial profiling by SJPD. NONE!

Don’t believe me? Here’s a word-for-word excerpt from the article:

“To move beyond the rhetoric, Mercury News Reporters fanned out across downtown on selected weekends during a seven-month-period, delving into the city’s nightlife from the perspectives of the police, clubs, and customers. In more than 100 hours on the streets, they did not witness racial profiling.”

- James Hohmann, Rodney Foo, Marian Liu and Leslie Griffy
San Jose Mercury News, February 17, 2007

So, what gives? Why does the Mercury News continue to publish stories about racist cops intimidating the public (i.e. minorities)? Why do they continue to suggest that the high number of minorities arrested by SJPD is a problem of racial profiling?

Apparently, the Mercury News has forgotten what its own people have seen (or in this case, not seen) with regards to the current accusations against the San Jose Police Department.

Francisco J. Hernandez is a San Jose Police Officer.

Ask Ed

Anyone who follows Protect San Jose knows Ed Rast is good with numbers, especially when it comes to public safety. In his regular Tuesday column, he's examined staffing imbalances between local agencies, wasteful spending at City Hall, and methods for modernizing the San Jose Police Department to save money and ensure the safety of our streets and neighborhoods.

Now, Ed wants to open up a dialogue with you, the reader. This is your chance to ask him all those questions that have been nagging at you...

What's the most wasteful spending project in San Jose?

What are the factors that determine "America's Safest Big City"?

Where do all these taxes and fees end up?

These are just a few examples. We encourage to post your own questions in the comments below.

Stay safe.

Protecting the Horse Mounted Unit

By Denelle Fedor

The San Jose Mounted Unit is an integral component of the San Jose Police Department.

The unit was created in 1986 by Police Chief Joe McNamara, who came from the biggest city in the United States; New York City. Chief McNamara served 15 years as San Jose’s Police Chief. He is currently a research fellow at the Hoover Institute, has authored numerous books on policing and is regarded and recognized nationally as an expert in criminal justice, police technology and management systems, crime prevention, and international drug policies.

With Chief McNamara’s experience in working in a big city, not a small town, he understood the importance that a horse patrol would bring to San Jose. As a result, he created a task force of private citizens to help establish the unit. This group raised $70,000 to help pay the costs, making the unit one of, if not, the first public-private partnerships in
San Jose.

Although every Police Chief since McNamara has supported horse patrol, city management proposed eliminating police officers on horseback this year by stating the city could save $1.4 million if the unit was cut. However, management’s million dollar number was misleading. The actual cost of the unit is approximately $230, 000. The1.4 million is the compensation for the eight officers who patrol on horseback. Therefore, the only way management could save 1.4 million is if they eliminated police positions, which has nothing to do with mounted unit. They should have stated they were eliminating police positions instead of using the mounted unit as a ploy.

Mayor Chuck Reed kept his commitment to public safety and specifically to horse patrol by directing management to enter into an agreement with the Friends of the San Jose Mounted Unit who agreed to pay the cost of the unit for the 2010-2011 budget year, making the unit a cost-effective public-private partnership.

As a result, the Friends of the San Jose Mounted Unit will be embarking on a campaign called “Pony Up, San Jose” which will officially launch in August 2009. With a million people in San Jose, all we need is $1 from two hundred and thirty thousand of them. Spread the word and send your dollars to Friends of the San Jose Mounted Unit PO Box 7408 San Jose, CA 95150-6511 or visit our website.

In my opinion, San Jose has moved away from community policing since McNamara’s retirement. However, under Chief Davis, San Jose is trying to bring it back. The new Captain for the Downtown nightlife served as a mounted unit officer. Perhaps the unit will be utilized more in the Downtown. We can only hope.

When you have former Vice Mayors Cindy Chavez and Pat Dando along with Tom Martin, General Manager for Santana Row, Scott Knies, President of the Downtown Association, and thousands of business owners and residents in San Jose who support the mounted unit, then perhaps these voices should serve as testament that the Mounted Unit is important and should remain intact.

Denelle Fedor is President & Founder of the non-profit Friends of the San Jose Mounted Unit (www.sjmu.org). She has worked for Councilmembers Pat Dando and Ken Yeager and currently serves as Chief of Staff to Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio.

Bringing Silicon Valley Innovation to Sacramento

By Chris Kelly

When I was growing up in San Jose, it was the safest big city in America. I know that the SJPOA is dedicated to restoring that designation, and that you’re going to need lots of help in these tough times. I promise to stand with you when I’m Attorney General.

We need innovative solutions from Sacramento to get out of the $26 billion budget mess, but instead we get schemes to release over 20,000 felons from state prison – not to mention the attempt to seize local government funds that may result in cuts for your department.

The prison release plan is supposed to save $1.2 billion, but that’s just accounting trickery. In fact, a Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics study finds that nearly 70% of early-released inmates are rearrested within three years, 20% of them for violent crime. That will mean more than $3 billion in increased costs from crime while causing serious harm to hundreds of thousands of innocent victims.

I've spoken to police chiefs, law enforcement groups and civic associations throughout California about the issue, and they're deeply worried about the crime wave this scheme will unleash. It will be hard enough to make San Jose a safer community in tough economic times without the problems caused by early release.

I know that we need to solve the budget crisis. But this misguided early release plan would do far more harm than good, and I need your help to stop it.

To organize against schemes like this, I’ve started the cause Protect California Communities on Facebook, which is already helping avoid the worst forms of early release. But the plan keeps coming back. Please join me at http://www.causes.com/protectcalifornia, and follow the activism instructions to help us beat it back again.

Over the last four years, as Chief Privacy Officer and Head of Global Public Policy at Facebook, I’ve been working with Attorneys General from across the nation and law enforcement across the world to build a safer and more trusted Internet for our more than 250 million customers.

Working together, I know we can bring the innovation of Silicon Valley to Sacramento and develop real, honest solutions to get California moving again.

Chris Kelly is Chief Privacy Officer and Head of Global Public Policy for Facebook and a candidate for Attorney General of California. He wrote this article for Protect San Jose.

Syndicate content