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Activists critical of San Jose POA

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Activists Monday demanded an end to an ongoing “attack campaign” by the San Jose Police Officer’s Association toward the independent police auditor, saying it has distracted from their years-long fight to ensure police accountability.

People Acting in Community Together, a multifaith organization, led the news conference Monday at San Jose City Hall with the Asian Law Alliance, The NAACP and other local organizations.

President of the POA Paul Kelly first brought allegations against IPA Aaron Zisser in June, saying he had skewed values in a report to the mayor and City Council which over-represented police force against people of color.

Zisser denied Kelly’s accusations in June and again in July, when Kelly claimed he had attended an anti-police rally and failed to inform police about a credible threat to their safety.

Community members who had lost loved ones to police violence held the rally, and Zisser said he lent an ear to families before the rally, but was not in attendance when disparaging remarks and threats were made against police officers.

PACT speakers said on Monday that Kelly had previously agreed to work with them on three expansions to the IPA office: access to data on police uses of force, immediate permission to audit officer-involved shootings and the ability to audit complaints within the police department that do not come from community members.

Now, they said Kelly is refusing to work with Zisser and making it very difficult for their goals to move forward.

Derrick Sanderlin, a PACT leader, said:

“Our community needs the support of the mayor and the City Council to expand the role of the IPA office right now … They should not be distracted by the attack campaign of the union officers sworn to serve and protect our community.”

Mayor Sam Liccardo attended the news conference, though his comments were brief and did not touch on Kelly’s call for Zisser’s resignation.

Liccardo said of PACT’s goals:

“I expect that all parties will continue negotiating in good faith to move forward on these reforms.”

Local NAACP president Rev. Jethroe Moore said Kelly should resign, and that the community’s relationship with the POA would “retard and go backwards” if he stayed at his post.

Moore said:

“Paul Kelly, step down, sit down, go home … There’s a better place for you-it’s called retirement.”

Activists held the news conference to re-emphasize their goals, rather than explicitly defend Zisser, but a handful of community leaders hoisted signs supporting him and the IPA’s office.

Zisser said the POA’s allegations are not distracting from his work, and that community members have clearly supported him-where local officials like the mayor and police Chief Eddie Garcia have not.

Zisser said:

“Of course there’s value in engaging with the POA … we have to be able to move forward pretty soon.”

He said the community recognizes the “genuine relationships” born from his work, and the community doesn’t want him fired over Kelly’s claims.

Kelly won’t work with Zisser, however, and reiterated Tuesday that he had no intention of speaking to him while the City Council investigates the POA’s allegations.

He agreed with community members who said the investigation was a distraction from larger goals, but said Zisser was entirely to blame.

Kelly said:

“We want to move forward with these reforms-we’re just not going to give the keys to the car to someone who keeps crashing … The sooner he’s gone, the better it is for police accountability.”

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