SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) - San Jose city leaders and the city’s police department, continue dealing with the fallout over police use of force during a protest in May.
The images are seared into the minds of many San Joseans after a May 29 protest over the death of George Floyd turned violent. Protesters claim San Jose police acted without provocation, while department brass says they were under attack.
“We want to know exactly why the use of force was applied in different situations,” said Vice Mayor Chappie Jones. In response, SJPD Captain Jim Dwyer said, “It was a simple decision. The officers were being assaulted repeatedly with flying debris. It was done in a defensive posture.”
On Tuesday San Jose city members conducted the first of two days of virtual hearings on when and why police officers use force as part of crowd control. Many outside observers have called law enforcement to end to the use of rubber bullets and tear gas as a tool to quell civil unrest.
“When we’re talking about crowd control, and when we hear the term 'crowd control,' really what we should be hearing is damage control,” said Greg Woods, a professor in the San Jose State University Justice Studies Department.
Multiple witnesses report being shot, shoved, beaten and brutalized at the hands of San Jose police. During public comment many of the 300 who joined online excoriated the department.
“I was shot by one of your projectiles. I did not throw anything,” said one person. “The police with their violent response actually caused most of the violence,” testified another. And a third said, "I watched as the San Jose police department intimidated and bullied a bunch of peaceful young people.”
At an afternoon news conference, Chief Eddie Garcia concedes mistakes were made but said the department has enjoyed good community support, and the current crisis can be a learning tool.
“We have moved the needle in this police department. Is it painful to hear? I’m a police chief in the 10th largest city in the country. If you don’t have the thick skin to hear the frustrations of the community, then you should not be a police chief,” said Garcia.
The department is investigating three incidents of alleged abuse, as city leaders grapple over what changes will come to the SJPD.
“We have to see the work that we’ve done here in San Jose. Know it’s still there underneath all the arguments, the pain, the frustration. That stuff is still there. And so we just pull it right back out. Everyone calms down, and we sit at the table and we start talking about it,” said Paul Kelly, president of the San Jose Police Officers Association.
The hearing on police use of force continues on Friday at 11:30 a.m. Mayor Liccardo and Chief Garcia both are waiting for internal reports into several incidents that have been widely publicized.
The council wants video of what led up to the use of force before any decisions are made.