San Jose mayor says defunding police isn't the answer, reform is

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo on Sunday rejected calls to defund his city's Police Department, insisting that it would "undermine substantive efforts at police reform" and harm the very communities who most need protection.

"We have much work to do to confront our long and terrible history of police brutality against black and brown Americans," Liccardo said. "Defunding urban police departments won't help us do it. It is the wrong idea at the worst possible time."

The San Jose fiscal year 2020-2021 budget, set to be released Monday, will reflect the city's commitment to policing, Liccardo said Sunday.

He asserted that the San Jose Police Department has made significant progress recently in eliminating a longstanding disparity between officers' use-of-force rates and arrest rates against people of color, but said those efforts must go farther, including changes to union contracts and laws that create obstacles to ensuring officer accountability, particularly the firing of bad cops.

San Jose's notable police reforms, Liccardo said, include collecting data to track every patdown, stop, arrest or use of force by race, and publishing that data; hiring outside experts to analyze data and make recommendations; investing millions of dollars in body-worn cameras and video data storage; mandatory training for officers in violence de-escalation and implicit racial bias; using data tools to ferret out misconduct-prone officers sooner; enhancing psychological testing and screening in the city's police academies; and recruiting officers who better reflect the community's diversity.

Liccardo said these measures require funding, especially to backfill the thousands of police hours spent in training classes instead of on patrol.

Liccardo's statements come after a majority of Minneapolis City Council members said at a Sunday rally in that city that they plan to defund and disband that city's police department in favor of alternative "community-led safety initiatives."

It was a Minneapolis police officer who knelt on George Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes during a May 25 arrest, and Floyd's subsequent death, that set off almost two straight weeks of Black Lives Matter protests around the United States.