SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) - San Jose’s city council spent much of Tuesday afternoon grappling with changes in how its police force responds to civil unrest. This comes after a new police report said a lack of training is partially to blame for violence between officers and protestors during a May demonstration that turned riotous.
Days after police bodycam from the May riot was released, top brass told city council members a lack of training hampered their efforts.
“We recognize we’re not perfect. There are things we can improve upon,” said San Jose Acting Police Chief Dave Knopf.
On May 29, violence erupted during a protest over the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd. San Jose officers used rubber bullets to quell and disperse the crowd, causing some to suffer serious injuries.
The police action report said the department was surprised by how large and animated the crowd grew, which led commanders to improvise how to control a crowd of about a thousand.
“Ban the use of rubber bullets,” said one public speaker at the city council meeting. “We can’t bear this broken trust any longer,” said a second. “You’re a disgrace,” chimed in a third during the virtual meeting.
Councilmembers are considering six changes to the police duty manual which include a ban on the use of rubber bullets for crowd dispersal, a requirement for officers to identify themselves before entering a residence to make an arrest, and minors under the age of 12 cannot be handcuffed.
A divide has formed over the use of rubber bullets, with the mayor calling for an outright ban in crowds. But the police chief and some council members say the tactic should be allowed for self-defense.
“It is my view that certainly, the police have ample non-lethal weapons to be able to use, from OC spray, pepper spray, to Tazers,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo. Countered Councilman Johnny Khamis, “It’s better to have an option than to not have an option. It’s a less-lethal option. I’d rather the police officers have one more less lethal option than using a gun or a taser.”
The San Jose Police Officers Association sent an email to KTVU that reads in part; " We share the City’s goal of ensuring... the best services and practices in keeping our community safe…These changes impact officer safety concerns… We look forward to robust and collaborative discussions over how to move our Department forward.”
The mayor spared with police command on the use of rubber bullets and how much training officers receive before using the weapon.
The after-action report and changes to the duty manual, including banning rubber bullets, is just a starting point. The independent police auditor will also pen an after-action report, this time with community input.
Some groups also believe the public should write the job description for the next police chief, who’ll replace the retiring Eddie Garcia.