San Jose acting Police Chief Larry Esquivel unveiled a new strategy for his officers that he says puts the emphasis back on protecting and serving.
In an exclusive interview, Esquivel also responded to criticism he is facing for rescinding a practice of tracking something known as curb sitting. Under the policy ordered by former San Jose Police Chief Chris Moore, officers were required to document all stops, even if they didn't make an arrest. They were asked to keep track of the race of people they pulled over and whether the person was asked to sit on the curb while the officer determined if a crime had been committed.
Today Esquivel told NBC Bay Area the suspension is temporary. He said he is tweaking the policy to make sure it works for everyone, including his officers. He said the department's decision, which Esquivel admits he was part of, to track the race of people asked to sit on curbs may have been rushed.
"I think as an administration, we could have done a better job. We didn't work a lot with the stakeholders like we should have. So that's on us for not doing a good job of rolling it out that way," Esquivel said.
At the time, Moore was applauded by minority groups who said curb sitting is a form of humiliation that unfairly targets them.
Judge La Doris Cordell, who is the San Jose Independent Police Auditor, said there was no other police department in the country that required officers to keep track like San Jose did. She called it "truly groundbreaking."
Cordell said she was disappointed when the current chief suspended the policy, adding it is a move in the wrong direction. "You know, we move on and my hope is this chief is going to do the right thing. He might narrow the scope. I personally disagree with that, I thought the scope was just fine," Cordell said.
Esquivel did not give a timeline on when he will make a final ruling on the curb sitting issue.
Also Thursday, Esquivel unveiled his vision for the force called "Our City" which focuses on fighting gangs, improving morale and reconnecting with the community.
"That's the main thing; to keep our kids out of gangs," Esquivel said. "We don't want to remain idle. We owe it to our citizens and the department, not only to improve morale, but also to enhance our services."
It's worth noting that Esquivel has not officially applied for the job of Chief of Police, which has been open for months. Since he took the helm as acting chief, morale in the department is reportedly up. Officers credit his straightforward approach as helping gain the trust of his troops.
We also noticed that he is only wears two stars on his uniform. A chief could wear four stars, but when asked about it - Esquivel said he had bigger things to think about than figuring out how to get the star addition to his wardrobe.
Another reassuring symbol for his rank and rile is the H-pin he wears.
That symbolizes his eight years on the elite SWAT team.
Officers tell me it proves he's one of them - a cop.