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Lawmakers Hold Hearing On Police Community Relations


Oakland native Jinho Ferreira is a rapper, activist, writer and sheriff's deputy. He says the idea to enter law enforcement came as he was protesting the death of Oscar Grant, a black Oakland man who was shot by a white police officer in 2009.

"We believed that there were police officers that existed that didn't care about our community or didn't have our values. That's what people at the protest were saying," he says.

Ferreira decided if that was going to change then people like him, a young African-American man, would need to do something about it. So he became a deputy with the Alameda County Sheriff's Department. Ferreira says police officers aren't the only ones who make snap judgments, as he found out after knocking on doors to introduce himself around the neighborhood.

"A day later an email came from an apartment building manager to one of the detectives on our agency that basically said there was an African-American male impersonating a police officer and he has stolen a uniform," he says.

Ferreira acknowledges he doesn't see many officers misbehaving, likely, he says, because they know his background.

But Judge LaDoris Cordell says it does happen, and it needs to stop. She's San Jose's independent police auditor and she's developed eight recommendations for improving police community relations. One suggestion is to stop letting District Attorneys decide whether law enforcement officers should face criminal charges.

"In my view, to establish trust with the community and transparency," she says, "when there is consideration of whether or not an officer should be criminally charged with a shooting or excessive force, that decision should be made by independent prosecutors."

Cordell also recommends eliminating the use of criminal grand juries in such cases.

Democrat Bill Quirk chairs the Assembly Public Safety Committee. He says the hearing will likely result in legislation being proposed. And he notes several bills are already pending.

"There's legislation out there on gathering data. There's proposed legislation on basis, racial basis. There's proposed legislation on training," he says.

Other bills would require all peace-officers in the state to wear body-cameras, and generally prohibit public agencies from using drones.  

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