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San Jose Police Union Calls for Firing of Rogue Watchman Police Auditor Alleging Skewed Report

The San Jose Police Officers’ Association today called for the firing of an independent police auditor, saying he skewed values to over-represent police bias against people of color in use of force cases.

A formal complaint to Mayor Sam Liccardo and the City Council says independent police auditor Aaron Zisser is a “rogue watchman” guilty of official misconduct due to his May 22 report.

Association President Paul Kelly said a critical issue with Zisser’s report was presenting the data in percentages, but not supplying the raw data.

Because the numbers were so low, even adding one additional case could shift a percentage from 60 percent to 80 percent.

For example, of 16 white people who were not charged in use of force cases, 16, or 100 percent, were taken to the hospital afterward. Of six black people who were not charged in a use of force case, four, or 67 percent, were taken to the hospital.

Association officials said adding one more person to the latter category would push the percentage to 83 percent. Kelly said these technical differences were “cocky” and intentionally done, designed to display bias where there wasn’t any.

“This is a very serious request,” Kelly said.

Zisser denied the allegations, saying the report was supposed to help community members and stakeholders understand the police department’s online resource for use of force statistics, which debuted in December 2017. The dashboard is open to the public, but Zisser said many people don’t know how to navigate it.

He said he used the values that were available on the dashboard, and he wasn’t trying to present a comprehensive understanding of police bias.

“There are much more robust reports and data about bias and disparities that I intend to follow up on,” Zisser said, but this was not the purpose of his report.

Association officials pointed to one specific difference between Zisser’s initial and updated report, saying he removed a statement labeled as a “key statistic” saying, “White suspects were reportedly more than 2.5 times more likely than Latinos and 81% more likely than Blacks to leave a use-of-force incident with ‘no charges’ referred.”

Zisser said his office made several changes to the report that were not part of the council’s recommendations to cut down on space and avoid “getting too much into the weeds.”

The mayor and City Council will now review and respond to the letter.

Kelly said Zisser has spoken to him at least two times since the letter first went out, but he is certain that the initial report is grounds for his firing.

Zisser doesn’t agree.

“I think there’s a whole lot of people in town who meet with me regularly who give me a lot more benefit of the doubt,” he said, including Liccardo and San Jose Police Department Chief Eddie Garcia.

“It was an oversight, I did not anticipate that people would interpret it the way they ended up interpreting it,” Zisser said.

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