NAACP presses San Jose police for changes

The Associated Press
Tuesday May 08, 2001

SAN JOSE — The NAACP asked San Jose police Monday to put video cameras in squad cars and increase sensitivity training for officers after the president of the group’s Silicon Valley chapter said he was treated rudely while being questioned. 

Rick Callender said his encounter with police on April 24 showed that some officers deal with minorities more harshly. He said his branch of the civil rights organization has received more than 20 complaints about San Jose police behavior in the last three months. 

“We don’t need another Cincinnati here,” Callender said, referring to the riots that erupted there after a white officer fatally shot a young black man last month. “We need to get a hold of all the issues before they occur. I don’t want to see someone’s insensitivity leading to anyone getting hurt.” 

Separately Monday, the city’s independent police auditor said in her annual report the department “has made significant gains in public trust and customer satisfaction.” Two-thirds of San Jose residents who have had contact with police believe the department is fair, the audit said. 

Less than 4 percent of the 895,000 people in San Jose are black, according to the 2000 census. Thirty-six percent are non-Hispanic whites, 30 percent are Hispanic and 27 percent are Asian. 

San Jose police were among the first in the country to voluntarily compile racial data about traffic stops.  

The new audit said police should expand the information they collect, to include how stopped drivers were treated and whether they were searched. 

Callender also asked police to make that change, besides putting cameras in cars and increasing sensitivity training. 

Spokesman Rubens Dalaison said the police department is increasing the capacity of its computers so more traffic-stop data can be collected.  

He said sensitivity training is such a high priority that Chief William Landsdowne teaches it himself every year. 

Dalaison also said San Jose police have experimented with cameras in squad cars and are trying to figure out whether they would be worth the cost – $3,000 to $4,000 for each of the 360 cars in the fleet. 

Callender was stopped as he and Rod Diridon Jr., a white Santa Clara city councilman, were walking to their cars after having dinner downtown. Police were looking for a black man who had stolen a wallet from a nearby apartment. 

Callender said one white officer politely explained the situation. But he said two others – one white and one Callender believes is Hispanic – were “rude and unprofessional” and “tried to be intimidating,” allegedly referring to another black man being questioned across the street as “your friend over there.” 

Callender said he got the impression he would be arrested if he asked too many questions about why he was being stopped. 

When asked whether he could confirm Callender’s account, Diridon said he would leave the details to Callender.  

But the councilman said “it was interesting to see how a skilled, well-spoken police officer can do a lot to defuse a situation, and how somebody who’s not so skilled can be pretty abrasive.” 

Callender’s complaint is being investigated, Dalaison said. 

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