SAN JOSE (BCN) — A survey of members of a predominantly Latino church on San Jose’s east side found that the level of trust between police and the community needs repair, members of a multi-ethnic interfaith organization said Thursday.
About 1,800 members—almost 93 percent of whom said they were Latino—of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church completed a survey that asked questions about public safety, racial profiling and immigration.
The results of the survey were announced at a news conference attended by members of the church, the grassroots organization that conducted the survey—People Acting in Community Together, or PACT—and city leaders and officials, including San Jose police Chief Rob Davis.
Almost 90 percent of those who completed the survey said they want a good relationship with police, but only about 48 percent said they trust the department.
“Our stats are just a little bit better than yours; 100 percent of the Police Department wants to get to know you better,” Davis said.
Close to 40 percent of respondents said they believe that the police work in conjunction with immigration officials, and 13 percent, or about 235 people, said San Jose police have come to their home to ask for documents.
Respondents also largely reported fearing gang activity. Forty-four percent of those surveyed reported seeing gangs as an issue in their neighborhoods, 61 percent said they feared for the safety of their children or grandchildren, and 82 percent said they have not ever reported gang activity to the police.
“What the survey is is a reflection of the perceptions of people in the community. It’s not right; it’s not wrong,” said LaDoris Cordell, San Jose’s Independent Police Auditor. “These beliefs are based upon real-life experiences that have led most people in the community to distrust police. And it is those same life experiences that allow us the first major step in changing those perceptions and building trust.”
Members of the church stood Thursday and told their stories of being pulled over by police and feeling disrespected. They also shared stories of their cars being towed and the heavy costs involved with getting the cars released. They asked police and city leaders to revise the current policies.
One speaker said it cost $3,000 to get her car released after being pulled over and cited for driving without a driver’s license. Her car was impounded for 30 days at $65 per day, plus other fees.
Father Javier Reyes, the pastor of the church, said he was pulled over by four police officers because he didn’t use his blinker.
Davis said he understands that racial profiling exists but denies that his department supports it.
“It exists,” he said. “Does SJPD endorse it? No.”
Davis shared a list of actions he and the department have
undertaken since he took command, including private meetings about immigration with U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
Davis, who will retire next month, told the community that the department’s presence at the meeting was not just a “show up” and “feel good” performance.
“We’re in the trenches,” he said.
Sergio Gomez, a PACT leader, and others with the group called for
the next police chief to have experience dealing with racial profiling and working with poor communities and people of color.
The survey was conducted in March during breaks in services at the church. PACT said the surveys were collected and calculated by a third party.
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