Police union and community leaders in San Jose held a news conference Sunday to discuss what they claim is the elimination of a unit specifically dedicated to investigating gangs and violent crime. They also took out a full page newspaper ad in the San Jose Mercury News. The ad's headline read: San Jose's Wrong Priorities.
But the picture gets a little murky after you hear from the mayor's office.
Michelle McGurk with San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed's office also issued a release Sunday. She said the VCET was not being eliminated and called it a staffing change forced by budget cuts.
Both sides agree that no one is getting laid off. The 18 officers and three sergeants dedicated to the team will be absorbed into other assignments in the SJPD.
The reason this is happening on a Sunday is that the change takes effect September 19, 2010.
McGurk said in a statement:
"While previous cuts focused mostly on reducing sworn positions in every sector other than front-line patrol or Special Operations, the recent cuts forced the Department to find ways to cut sworn staffing in the Field Operations sector. The reorganization of the Metro Unit, as described below, included absorbing the responsibilities of the VCET Unit. These two Units (VCET and Metro) went from having 57 sworn officers and Sergeants prior to September 19, 2010 to 38 sworn officers and sergeants effective September 19, 2010, which represents a reduction of 33.33% of sworn personnel for these units."
"Data Point" from the Mayor's office"
Prior to September 19, 2010, two Units of the Special Operations Division were called the Violent Crimes Enforcement Team (VCET) and the Metro Unit (Metro). VCET was made up of three (3) teams, each having six (6) officers and one (1) sergeant, for a total of 21 sworn officers. VCET’s primary focus was gang suppression, and they would work very closely with the Bureau of Investigations’ Gang Investigations Unit (GIU) to address the prevention, intervention and suppression components of our gang strategy.
The Metro Unit consisted of 30 officers and six (6) sergeants, for a total of 36 sworn officers. The size of each Metro team depended on what their assigned tasks were. For example, the graffiti team consisted of two officers, and they were supervised by a sergeant who also supervised another enforcement team. Metro was responsible for the enforcement of quality-of-life-issues such as street prostitution and street-level narcotics dealing. The Metro Unit also was responsible for homeless encampment clean-ups on public and private property.
As a result of the Special Operations Division reorganization, effective September 19, 2010, VCET and Metro have been combined to form the NEW Metro Unit, consisting of 32 Metro officers, four (4) Metro enforcement sergeants, one (1) Training/Admin sergeant, and one (1) Admin/Intel officer , for a total of 38 sworn officers. Each of the four teams is responsible for gang suppression activities in each of the four Police Divisions, focusing the majority of their efforts on gang suppression throughout the city seven days a week. There will be a Day Shift and Swing Shift Metro team each day.
The NEW Metro unit will no longer be responsible for the coordination of the homeless encampment clean-ups. These will now be coordinated by the Secondary Employment Unit (SEU). The Metro unit has provided training to Patrol officers on the rules for encampment clean ups in anticipation of this change. The responsible entities, such as the water company, the railroads, etc., will be paying for this service when the encampments are on their property.
To set the stage, there are more than 50 active gangs in San Jose and more than 9,000 validated gang members, according to figures from the SJPOA.