Under acting chief Larry Esquivel, the San Jose Police Department has suspended a policy that orders officers to document all the stops the make -- arrest or not -- including the person's race and whether they are told to sit on a curb. Monte Francis reports.
Officers disciplined for misconduct by the San Jose Police Department in 2012 fell to the lowest level in almost two decades while one in five officers were named in conduct complaints, according to an independent audit released on Monday.
Also, the controversial policy of "curb sitting" appears to be back in practice, much to the independent auditor's dismay.
And conduct complaints lodged against San Jose police last year were highest among the most experienced officers with 38 percent named in them having 16 or more years of service, the Office of the Independent Police Auditor reported.
These findings were part of the auditor's 2012 IPA Year End Report, a summary of the agency's annual review of closed investigations of alleged police misconduct by San Jose police's Internal Affairs unit.
Retired Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge LaDoris H. Cordell, who leads the IPA, said she was amazed by the audit's finding that IA complaints fell 7 percent despite early retirements, layoffs and other turmoil the police department suffered in 2012.
The IPA's review also found that only 11 San Jose police officers were disciplined for misconduct by the department in 2012, a big reduction from the 42 officers disciplined in 2011 and the lowest since the IPA was formed 19 years ago.
"This report is good news," Cordell said. "It was a tumultuous year. I'm surprised and pleasantly so."
Cordell said she was surprised as well that so many of the IA complaints were about veterans when usually complaints involve mostly less-experienced officers.
"You can't say it's a trend, it may be an anomaly," she said.
Cordell said her top recommendation in the report is for San Jose police to revive a policy documenting all people detained or searched but not arrested, including those made to wait curbside after traffic stops, Cordell said. That practice is called "curb sitting," and often humiliates people who are told to sit on the curb if they are pulled over by police, but not arrested.
The policy, started by then-police Chief Chris Moore in 2012, required officers to enter into a computer the names, ethnicities and other information of each person detained, a policy Acting Chief Larry Esquivel stopped in January, Cordell said.
"The chief has suspended it," Cordell said. "I do hope it gets reenacted."
Complaints against San Jose police officers reviewed in the IPA concerned allegations about arrests and detentions, biased policing, lack of courtesy, conduct unbecoming an officer, use of force, neglect of duty, not following police policies and searches and seizures.
The IPA audited 329 of 411 IA cases completed in 2012, 248 of which involved alleged misconduct by police, 26 about not following police policies, 49 not related to misconduct and six about minor matters such lack of communication by supervisors.
The IPA agreed with the IA's conclusions in 84 percent of the cases and disagreed or had "concerns about" the other 16 percent, Cordell said.
Of the policy-related complaints, 38 percent centered on lack of response to calls for service or follow up from officers on information and leads provided by complainants, the IPA reported.
The complaints mentioned the names of 216 San Jose police officers, amounting to 20 percent of all officers in the department, the audit reported.
In those conduct complaints, 177 of the allegations were filed against the officers on the force for 16 years or more, 42 percent over policy concerns and 21 percent for not being courteous.
Use of force was the biggest complaint among allegations against officers with seven to 10 years of experience -- 28 percent of allegations -- and those with five to six years -- 35 percent.
The 329 cases that IPA reviewed last year contained 625 allegations against San Jose police, the IPA found.
Of those allegations, 98, or 16 percent, were about use of force, compared to 120 such complaints in 2011, reflecting a decline in use of force complaints since 2009, the audit reported.
At 39 percent, the most frequent of the use of force in the complaints, which often involve multiple allegations from multiple people, were "control holds" where officers used physical pressure to restrain a person.
Take downs, where a person is forced to the ground, made up 27 percent of force complaints, with "body weapons" -- punching or kicking by officers -- next with 18 percent and being hit by a baton at 7 percent.
A total of 10, or five percent of allegations involved a taser, and only three, or one percent, involved a gun last year.
The report mentioned the department's two officer-involved shootings, one of which resulted in the death of a suspect, and one suspect who died in custody in 2012, down from eight such incidents in 2011.
The IPA was created in 1994 to provide civilian oversight of the behavior of San Jose police and became a permanent branch of local government when voters amended the city's charter to include it in 1996.
The IPA, in addition to reviewing IA cases, also accepts case filings about alleged police misconduct from the public and last year 47 percent of complaints were filed directly with the IPA office, the agency reported.
NBC Bay Area's Monte Francis contributed to this report.