Allegations of race-based San Jose policing have skyrocketed
SAN JOSE, Calif. - Ronald Perkins' neighbor woke him up with an urgent favor: He had locked himself out of his car and wanted to search for his 18-year-old son who hadn't yet returned from a party. Could Perkins help?
Perkins said sure.
And so the 54-year-old San Jose man got out of bed, stuck a hanger down the window of his neighbor's car and unlocked the vehicle.
Just then, San Jose police officers descended on Blossom Hill Road where the neighbors were standing about 3 a.m. on June 19. There had been a shooting nearby in the 5400 block of Lean Avenue. Officers were out in force, looking for the shooter.
Perkins said in what felt like an instant, police slammed his body up against a patrol car, drew their weapons on him and placed him tightly in handcuffs, despite his pleas that he had nothing to do with the shooting and did not match the description of the suspect, whom he was told was Latino.
Police also didn't listen to his pleas that they were hurting old injuries that he suffered years ago when his forklift's emergency brakes failed and he drove off a loading dock.
"They told me they were looking for a Mexican," Perkins recounted for KTVU. "I told them I was Black, why were they bothering with me? They told me it's because I was hanging out with a Mexican."
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Perkins' experience comes just one day after the city's civilian-led Independent Police Auditor announced it was hiring an outside research agency, the CNA Institute for Public Research, to evaluate the San José Police Department’s use-of-force and training policies.
Also this month, the auditor's office also released an annual report showing that allegations of police officers engaging in bias-based policing nearly doubled from 54 received in 2019 to 104 received in 2020.
As in past years, most bias-based policing allegations were closed as unfounded and none were sustained.
Currently, police investigate themselves.
According to the number of allegations received against the San Jose police department, a large percentage of the complaints were for courtesy, force and racial profiling – all of which Perkins is alleging.
"It is not uncommon in bias-based policing allegations for the person to complain that an action was taken against them because the officer stated the individual looked like the suspect," Independent Police Auditor Shivaun Nurre said. "Community members, especially those of color, often perceive this as conduct based on race."
In emails, Sgt. Christian Camarillo did confirm there was a shooting.
However, he would not discuss the particulars of Perkins' allegations.
If there is body-worn camera video of what Perkins said transpired, Camarillo would not release it to KTVU as the news organization was not a party to the event. Another clerk at the police station said they also wouldn't release any video or reports to Perkins, telling him he was not a victim of any crime.
Camarillo added that if anyone has a problem with police behavior, they can file an Internal Affairs complaint. Perkins hopes to file such a grievance but is at a loss since police won't give him a report.
Perkins was eventually let go after about an hour.
But he was shaken and complained of severe arm and shoulder pain because of how his body was contorted in handcuffs in the back of the patrol car.
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The neighbor who locked his keys in his car – Dion J. Ruiz, 53 – corroborated Perkins' story.
"They treated me with kid gloves," Ruiz said. "They treated Ron real wrong."
He said he saw police slamming his neighbor against the car and shoving him around.
What is surprising to Ruiz is that he is the Latino one, and would seem to better match the description of the shooting suspect. Ruiz said he also has old gang tattoos on his neck and a wide, bushy mustache.
"l look way more shady than him," Ruiz said.
Ruiz eventually found his 18-year-old son, who had walked home drunk from a party and who had arrived at the scene, too.
Police then focused their questioning on his son, and Ruiz said that his son was acting belligerently because he was intoxicated.
Ruiz said he asked several times to be able to speak to his son to get him to calm down, but police refused. The son was eventually arrested for a misdemeanor battery charge.
Neither Perkins nor Ruiz say they are angels.
Both have felony backgrounds but neither were on probation or parole.
And neither said that Perkins was quiet during the ordeal.
"He kept saying, 'Are you f---ing kidding me?" Ruiz recounted. "This is a f--ing b----. Ron was mad. He was just going to go back to bed."
But both men said that Perkins also wasn't a threat. He wasn't pushing the police or resisting them in any meaningful way, they said.
And they both understand that police have to do their jobs to find suspects and shooters. But they don't have to do it with disrespect and disenfranchise innocent community members, no matter what they look like, both men said.
Perkins said eventually, the officer who allegedly roughed him up apologized. And a sergeant finally came over to speak to him.
But at that point, Perkins was upset and in pain. And their efforts were too little, too late.
He said that his poor treatment was based simply on the color of his skin.
"They would have never stopped me if I were a white man," Perkins said.
As for finding the actual shooter?
Camarillo said that shooting is currently under investigation.
Lisa Fernandez is a reporter for KTVU. Email Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 510-874-0139. Or follow her on Twitter @ljfernandez