San Jose unveils searchable database of police misconduct cases

The City of San Jose on Friday unveiled a new way for residents to learn about cases of alleged police misconduct.

Detailed reports which used to be closely held and sometimes took a judge to approve, are now available online.

State law now requires records involving officers discharging firearms or any incident where somebody is killed or seriously injured by police to be public. And some of these online records are very detailed.

One case from the newly released files describes an incident on July 4, 2016 when San Jose police officers responded to a call from a man who said he was suicidal with a gun.

Two officers eventually shot and killed 18-year-old Anthony Nunez after, police say, he refused to drop his weapon.

San Jose’s police chief at the time, Eddie Garcia, defended his officers’ actions.

"I think our officers used great judgment and were trying to de-escalate the situation," Garcia said at a news conference after the incident.

But a complaint was later filed with San Jose’s Independent Police Auditor, also known as IPA, saying officers never sent an ambulance nor requested medical help to the scene.

One neighbor reported that police told medical responders to leave the area.

The district attorney cleared the officers of criminal conduct. But when SJPD internal affairs closed the case, the IPA disagreed with its findings.

The IPA said it took SJPD 939 days to investigate this case and it was only closed one day after a jury awarded $2.6 million in the case where jurors found officers used excessive force.

The entire investigation and oversight review took four years. The full case file is now available online.

"We know that the issue of police accountability is not a new one here in this city or in any other big city in America," said Mayor Sam Liccardo.

Liccardo said he hopes this new level of openness will help build trust with the public when it comes to police oversight.

"We need to make the information truly accessible meaning it has to be well organized, and easily obtained for anyone who wants to get it online or any other way," Liccardo said.

The website can be accessed from the Independent Police Auditor section of the city’s home page and is searchable.

"You will see enter your search terms – you can type in incident type, officer name and the like. But once you find a case you want to look into you will click into the case and here you will see the actual PDF so this will hold the finalized IPA report," said Stephen Caines, the deputy chief innovation officer for the City of San Jose.

San Jose’s Independent Police Auditor, Shivaun Nurre, believes transparency like this could help to influence day-to-day policing over the long term.

"We did see some significant change in officer behavior after body-worn cameras were made available at least to my office and to defense attorneys and to the DA. It may be that we see something similar but it is too early to tell," Nurre said.

KTVU did reach out to the San Jose police officers association for comment about this new transparency effort but did not receive a reply. Closed cases from 2014 to 2020 are currently available online with more recent cases being added as they are closed.

The full report can be accessed here.