What does it take to get a San Jose cop on a burglary case these days? The SJPD is woefully short-handed, its burglary unit fanned out to patrol while the city scrambles for new recruits as officers flee deficit-driven pay and benefit cuts. And even flush departments don't follow up every reported theft.
But when Kurt Loeswick's home near Branham High School was burglarized Nov. 9, he had more to report than just broken glass and missing valuables. He and his neighbors had evidence a neighbor kid was involved and even recovered a stolen safe.
But the police, they said, haven't responded, even after neighbors reported a similar string of break-ins.
"I can't do much more unless I take a vigilante stand," Loeswick said. "And I don't do that."
He's made a report to the Independent Police Auditor. And with his neighbors, he emailed complaints to the mayor and council, whose staff responses show how hard it can be for political offices to find the right touch with frustrated residents.
Mayoral agenda manager Sara Wright emailed Loeswick and his neighbors a link to the mayor's opinion piece on his budget and public safety strategy.
"This is not the time to give Mayor Chuck Reed a public relations promotional moment," neighbor Michelle Holtz shot back. "We, the people of this neighborhood, have done about as much foot work on this particular case as possible, unless we need to perform a couple of citizens arrests as well."
District 10 Councilwoman Nancy Pyle's staffer Tom Johnston emailed the neighbors a suggestion to report crimes to the cops.
"Seriously?" neighbor Susan Wiens replied. "Your answer to this is: 'Sorry the neighborhood is too stupid to call the police when a crime happens?' I will be sure to keep that savvy advice in mind. I would have never thought of picking up a phone when I saw a crime or had a crime happen to me. "
Wiens said the neighbors did get some satisfaction when mayoral spokeswoman Michelle McGurk stepped in to help organize a community meeting where they hope to get answers from the cops and council.
"If they truly did drop the ball on what seems like an easy investigation," Wiens said, "then the problems with the department are far worse than any of us ever imagined."
Utility customers get
tip from police auditor
As if San Jose's cops weren't having rough sledding already, city utility invoices mailed out this month included a bill-stuffer advising residents that if they "have a concern or complaint about a San Jose police officer" or police policy, call the Independent Police Auditor.
The city often uses bill-stuffers to save on postage when sending residents notices -- so much so that Independent Police Auditor LaDoris Cordell told the mayor and council she'd waited months for a bill with no other stuffers to send her $2,975 worth of outreach.
But alas, the officers didn't take it well.
"It's part of our morale improvement program!" quipped San Jose Police Officers' Association President Sgt. Jim Unland. "I think of the stuff they could be sending out -- crime prevention tips, how to protect yourself, how to start a neighborhood watch -- but you won't see that. Whatever. It's more of the same."
Cordell said she understood the bruised feelings but meant no disrespect and was only doing her job.
"Morale is down, this insert is there, they took it in a way that was not intended," Cordell said. "It's part of our mandate to do outreach to the public."
City treads lightly
on police chief forums
San Jose is, of course, looking for its next police chief. But some noticed none of the four community meetings to solicit feedback were in districts of Mayor Chuck Reed's strongest City Council allies.
Reed and his allies have invoked the San Jose Police Officers' Association's ire for cuts to city pay and perks, including a controversial pension reform measure that the union is suing to block. Reed says the cuts were needed to limit layoffs and close deficits spawned by ballooning retirement costs. The cops blame them for an officer exodus and rising crime.
The next meeting will be 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Southside Community Center in the district of Councilman Ash Kalra, a union ally who's fought Reed over the cuts. Did city management pick meeting sites to avoid provoking the SJPOA?
David Vossbrink, the city manager's spokesman, said they chose the sites for "good geographic distribution."
"It's a big city and we wanted to spread them around," Vossbrink said.
Reed and his council allies voiced no objections.
But the city has added a Neighborhoods Commission meeting on the chief selection in the district of Reed ally Rose Herrera, whose re-election just drew vigorous opposition from the SJPOA. It'll be Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Evergreen Community Center.
Said Herrera: "I see this as a positive opportunity for my district to weigh in on what they would like to see in the police chief leadership."
Leigh High backtracks
on T-shirt suspensions
At San Jose's Leigh High School, it's long been tradition for kids to wear T-shirts with the sleeves cut off and side-seams undone, especially on "spirit days" to show support for their sports teams. But Leigh honchos apparently have had it with this.
About two weeks ago, Michael Wise, an administrative dean, ordered a boy wearing such a shirt to replace it with an intact campus-supplied T. And when a bunch of students the next day protested by wearing similarly mutilated Ts in a show of solidarity, Wise hustled them off to the principal's office, where he, Principal Donna Hope and three other school officials went nuclear. They ordered eight kids suspended for what a district staffer characterized as "defiance," even after some agreed to change their shirts.
We're all for appropriate attire and compliance with school rules and agree mangled T's push the boundaries. But Leigh's student code doesn't specifically ban them as it does short shorts, backless shirts and sagging pants. It calls for "good taste" and "generally accepted administrative standards for decency and modesty," things kids and grown-ups often disagree on.
The girl and seven boys involved were appealing their suspensions to Hope and the Campbell Union High School District when we inquired about the matter and asked for district suspension counts.
The next day, Hope revoked the kids' suspensions on grounds that, as one parent said her son was told, "the punishment didn't fit the crime."
And maybe because it was drawing unwanted attention. At least one parent had asked the American Civil Liberties Union to investigate. Could it be that the district doesn't like its decisions being held up to public scrutiny? We don't know, because Director of Student Services Heidi Reyes refused to comment, and the district forbids its school employees from talking to reporters. Perhaps district school staff should consider talking to the ACLU as well.
Internal Affairs is an offbeat look at state and local politics. This week's items were written by John Woolfolk, Tracy Seipel, Sharon Noguchi and Paul Rogers. Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 408-975-9346.