San José looking into possible expansion of independent police auditor role

KGO ABC 7 January 16, 2018

The office of the Independent Police Auditor (IPA) has existed since 1933, but its ability to review documents and review panels looking into officer-involved shootings did not exist until an ordinance was passed in 1999. Tuesday night, the entire San José City Council will conduct a study session with the IPA, the chief of police and the public to explore whether the IPA's role should be expanded. It currently cannot look into officer-involved shootings unless a member of the public files a complaint.

Aaron Zisser, who became the Independent Police Auditor about three months ago, told ABC7 News that he responded to an officer involved shooting at the Metcalf Energy Center last Wednesday but had no more access to information or details than the news media. In a far-ranging interview that day, he said that it's often misunderstood that a misconduct complaint can be filed only by a person connected to an officer involved shooting, such as a family member. Zisser says it can be anyone. Complaints are rare.

"There was a total of 13 officer involved shootings in 2016 and 2017," Zisser said. "We're received complaints on exactly one of those incidents."

The IPA does not conduct independent investigations. It reviews the findings of the San José Police Department's internal affairs investigation of officer involved shootings and use-of-force complaints for fairness, objectivity, and thoroughness.

The study session Tuesday evening will start with a lengthy overview by the IPA. The IPA wants to explore if it should be able to review internal affairs investigations without a public complaint and to have access to use-of-force records, including officers' reports and body-worn camera video, to review patterns and trends.

Based on documents submitted for the meeting agenda, Police Chief Eddie Garcia will outline his department's efforts over the past three years to build public trust through policies, procedures and initiatives, even as the number of calls for service reached 312,529 last year while the number of officers has fallen to 926 in 2017 versus 1,059 in 2013. The chief cites changes in choke hold and head strike policy, tactics on use of force, mandatory use of body worn cameras and tasers, and crisis intervention training as some of the improvements made under his command. However, his presentation does not indicate his position on expanding the IPA's authority. Garcia was not available for an interview to learn his position ahead of the study session.

ABC7 News has also been seeking comment from Mayor Sam Liccardo and from Council Member Raul Peralez, who heads the council's public safety committee.

The council study session is open to the public. It begins at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at San José City Hall.

In that presentation, Zisser will discuss possible expansion of IPA authority to include access to records outside of SJPD internal affairs investigations.