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.