Silicon Valley Leaders Discuss Police Reform

June 15, 2020 Updated: June 17, 2020

SANTA CLARA, Calif.⁠—Leaders in California’s Silicon Valley have made some reforms to law enforcement already following the calls for reform after George Floyd died in police custody. And they propose more, but caution against calls to defund the police.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said defunding the police would “hurt the very people who have suffered the most from systemic racism in this nation.” America’s wealthy will hire private security guards, he said in a June 8 press release, while everyone else will lack police protection.

He asked proponents of defunding to consider what programs the cuts would impact. “Any police chief or city council will be loath to cut the lifeline 911 emergency response that patrol officers provide to communities in moments of distress,” Liccardo said.

Early in June, he banned rubber bullets in crowds and granted more authority to the San Jose’s civilian independent police auditor. On June 11, he released a budget message to invest in the new changes. It included creating an Office of Racial Equity and increasing scrutiny of police use-of-force.

“Safety from police violence is a civil right,” Liccardo said. “Safety from all violence is a human right.”

The San Jose Police Officers Association joined two other police unions—the Los Angeles Police Protective League and the San Francisco Police Officers Association—to release a national reform agenda on June 14.

“No words can convey our collective disgust and sorrow for the murder of George Floyd,” the unions stated. “We have an obligation as a profession and as human beings to express our sorrow by taking action.”

The agenda included a “national use-of-force standard that emphasizes a reverence for life, de-escalation, a duty to intercede”; an early warning system to identify where more training is needed; and ways to flag officers fired for gross misconduct so they’re not hired by other agencies.

In Santa Clara, the county sheriff’s office has said its policies are in line with the 8 Can’t Wait campaign, a call for eight key changes in law enforcement, the first of which is banning chokeholds.

“Our current policies and training have always embraced our core values and are in line with all eight reforms, most of which have been our practice for years,” the office said in a statement.
The sheriff’s office recently removed carotid restraint from its use-of-force continuum.

Palo Alto’s police department has also recently banned carotid restraint. Police reforms have been debated in City Council hearings; the Palo Alto City Council passed a symbolic resolution in support of Black Lives Matter on June 8.

Police Chief Robert Jonsen said at the June 8 council hearing that receiving criticism from residents there was “rough,” but he defended his police force as already “very progressive,” reported Palo Alto online.

“Are we capable of improving? Absolutely. Are we willing to improve? Always. That is what we strive for each and every day,” Jonsen said.

At a press event in Oakland on June 9, reporters asked Governor Gavin Newsom if he believes in defunding the police.

He replied, “If you’re calling for eliminating the police, no. If you’re talking about reimagining and taking the opportunity to look at the responsibilities and roles that we have placed on law enforcement … then absolutely I do think this is necessary.”