For the first time ever, the San Jose Police Department is rewarding its officers for getting guns off the street as part of a broader effort to keep violent offenders in prison.
"You see how gun violence impacts communities, I think it drives home the point that we officers need to stay proactive," said SJPD Officer Colin Bryan.
According to the department, 30 officers who seized 166 guns off the street over the past year received an honorary pin Thursday.
"Every gun we take off the street, that’s someone who’d not getting carjacked, that’s someone who’s not getting robber," said SJPD Chief Eddie Garcia.
Since November, the police chief and district attorney have been trying to get more gun cases to the federal level, where there are much stiffer penalties than in California.
"With things such as Proposition 57, a felon in possession of a firearm or a meth dealer in possession of a firearm is not considered a violent individual only because they didn’t use the firearm that they have in their possession," Garcia said. "If those individuals are going to slip through the cracks, that’s not what this community wants."
The cases they target to send to federal courts include: felons in possession of handguns, armed robberies, armed carjacks and drug trafficking. In the past three months, 20 cases have been moved to the federal level.
"I don’t think anyone in the community would have anything against less gun violence," said William Armaline from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "I think what we’re all talking about is ‘what actually helps us get there?'"
Armaline said sending more people to federal prison won’t solve the problem.
"I think there are sometimes assumptions that sound reasonable like increasing punishment and think like that, but over and over again we see from the data that doesn’t always produce the result that we would think it would," he said.
The SJPD Chief argues he’s using the tool to do this job, to keep suspects in that target category where they need to be.
"Those individuals should be treated as violent offenders, and that’s all we’re simply saying," Garcia said. "The reality is, if those offenders need to be incarcerated because it keeps on individual alive, then so be it. We want to do everything we can and use every tool possible to keep our city safe."