June 8, 2009
We write to express our concern regarding the recent tone of the rhetoric between a few members of the San Jose Police Officers Association and police critics. Issues surrounding race and police enforcement inevitably invite controversy and sharp differences of opinion. Nonetheless, we expect that members of the San Jose Police Officers Association and other community members will confront what they view as distortions of the facts with respectful criticism and correction. We do not expect, however, that any member of the San Jose Police Department will label critics as “thugs.” Nor can we condone a recent POA video that mischaracterizes Raj Jayadev’s reference to a “street response” as a “threat,” particularly where Mr. Jayadev has repeatedly advocated nonviolent community activism and dialogue. We believe these public statements fall below the very high standard that members of our San Jose Police Department have long set by their routinely exemplary conduct and statements. By the same token, we do not condone the suggestion that San Jose POA had anything to do with a childish “rebuttal” video that mocks police officers or members of the council. Lacking evidence of its authorship, no one should attribute such efforts to anyone else. In total, we believe that inflammatory comments and actions like these reflect poor judgment, and we ask both sides to take a deep breath and consider how to proceed in a constructive manner. Most importantly, we emphasize our commitment to First Amendment freedoms that may be chilled when dissent is characterized as “threats” by the only group lawfully entitled to use force to administer our laws. If the expression of dissent is false or concocted, every police officer, and every individual in this society, is entitled to say so. Whether truthful or not, however, the free and uninhibited expression of dissent remains essential to proper functioning of democratic institutions in our pluralistic society. During this time of economic crisis, our community needs to band together to address our city’s serious challenges. We look forward to a more civil tone in the dialogue on these issues, and we urge those on all sides to remember that we have far more to lose in incivility than to gain through rhetorical posturing and name-calling. We look forward to a full, honest, and meaningful discussion of these issues, to help bring us closer to our common goals of protecting our residents’ lives, property, and civil liberties.
Ash Kalra Councilmember
Sam Liccardo Councilmember
200 E. Santa Clara St., 18th Floor, San Jose, CA 95113 tel (408) 535-4903 fax (408) 292-6456