Fifth San José Human Services Commission Meeting

Tonight is will be my fifth Human Services Commission meeting with an agenda focused on the needs of women, interactions with law enforcement, and continuing to work to support immigrant communities being targeted by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Police Annual Report
Aaron Zisser, Independent Police Auditor
Purpose: to provide the Commission background on the IPA process and data with a gender overlay of the history of complaints made of the San Jose Police Department.
My thoughts: I asked if Mr Zisser could attend and I am excited to hear from him as I’ve heard good things about his work in the community. Below, I’ve pulled together the context that could help make our time together productive. In my time on the commission, we’ve interfaced with SJPD on 4 major issues:

  1. Hiring/retention of women and people of color in SJPD. We heard from Heather Randol back in March about her efforts to increase the recruitment of women in SJPD.
  2. SJPD handling property of homeless people. We have been working through a request from Anthony King of De-Bug Silicon Valley to see if it would be possible for SJPD to handle the property of homeless people when it is seized during sweeps; Vanessa Beretta of the Housing Department has asked us to wait on recommending that change to City Council to see if the new contact with HomeFirst and Tucker Construction (or whoever wins the relevant bids) improves the current situation.
  3. The gender analysis portion of the Women’s Bill of Rights. You probably know this, but the Women’s Bill of Rights is our local implementation of the UN’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and was passed by city council unanimously on December 17th, 2017.

    In the bill, the Human Services Commission is required to 1) recommend which city departments, policies, and programs should undergo a gender analysis, 2) oversee the gender analysis (here is more on what a gender analysis entails).

    As part of that, we wrote to city council requesting they include $300k in the FY19 budget for the gender analysis and several local women’s organizations have also sent letters in support. Last I heard, Vice Mayor Carrasco included a BD for the gender analysis, though I am not sure at what price point.

    Whether the funding comes through or not, the bill requires the commission to recommend to council who will undergo the gender analysis first. Sita Stukes of the Cities for CEDAW taskforce requested that the commission advise city council that SJPD should be one of the first departments to undergo a gender analysis; SJPD has told the City Manager’s office and the Vice Mayor’s office that they prefer to not to undergo a gender analysis this year. We’ve been receiving community feedback from survivors of domestic violence and their allies requesting the SJPD undergo the gender analysis soon rather than later.

    This third issue is the one that led to me if Mr Zisser could join us, as I’m hoping you could help us understand how best to time and manage the competing requests the commission is getting on this issue.

  4. 280 women in South San José arrested for commercial sex. In January, Councilmember Tam Ngyuen’s staff liaison to our commission reported to the commission about an operation SJPD’s vice team ran in South San José in the last 6 months of 2017 that involved arresting 280 women for involvement in commercial sex (after some disagreement, I confirmed that was the correct number with Sgt Richard Galea back in March).

    As a rough estimate, according to a number of folks in law enforcement I checked-in with, arresting that many women takes about 280 officer hours, that is, about 7 full weeks of work.

    The commission connected with Community Prosecutor Josue Fuentes and Sharan Dhanoa of South Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking (notes from their presentations here) to get a sense of whether those women were sex workers or survivors of sex trafficking; we heard only 2 were identified as survivors and that they knew of, none had been referred for the Valor diversion program (though this isn’t 100% clear).

    I connected with the nonprofit that generally coordinates services for survivors of trafficking in the county, and they said they hadn’t seen a major increase in referrals.

    I checked with friends who work in law enforcement in Oakland and another friend worked in California Department of Justice’s on human trafficking policy issues and both said that 280 women in 6 months is a huge number for a city San José’s size; given that I have found no one who provided any of these women services, and none seem to have been prosecuted (though, again, this is not entirely clear), it is not clear to me who benefitted from these arrests.

    Why this matters: whether someone is a sex worker or a trafficking survivor, having a prostitution arrest on her, his, or their record makes a wide range of employment outside of commercial sex immediately and permanently unavailable and so causes lasting and quantifiable harm to those arrested.

    (As a bit of personal context for newer readers — my first job out of college was running online advocacy for Polaris, the organization that runs the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. As part of that, I worked directly with survivors, advocated for comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation, and worked to increase law enforcement training in dozens of states,, so I have some depth on the complications and intricacies of this issue).

Women’s Bill of Rights Policy
: to determine what city departments will undergo a Gender Analysis under the Women’s Bill of Rights.
Action: Vote to recommend to city council that this Human Services Commission be allowed to create a 3-year task force to fulfill its obligations under the Women’s Bill of Rights, modeled on Santa Clara County’s CEDAW Task Force. This San José City CEDAW Task Force should formally include members of the public as well as commissioners. Here is the CEDAW Final Ordinance.
My thoughts: We’re waiting on the City Manager’s office to finish translating the survey we wrote 5 weeks ago into Vietnamese and Spanish; in the meantime and as mentioned above, we have received feedback from survivors of domestic violence hoping that SJPD will undergo a gender analysis sooner rather than later. We don’t currently have a recommendation on which departments, policies, or programs should be reviewed first, but if you have thoughts, please comment!

Two other items on this:

  • We are moving forward in securing funding for the gender analysis; we will know more when the Mayor’s office gets back with their estimate.
  • I’ve started redrafting the CEDAW legislation with the help of a wide and wonderful range of community groups, using the research I did here. If you have feedback, you can provide it by email or by commenting on the Google Doc of the draft legislation.

Commissioner resource deployment to support the Rapid Response Network
Purpose: to look at the Commissioners own networks to find places to amplify the message and information about the Rapid Response Network Action: Discussion only. Here’s more on the City’s Rapid Response Network.
My thoughts: I went on my first Rapid Response call last month and believe increasing the number of volunteers (particularly in East San José and Gilroy) who can monitor ICE and support community members being targeted will increase the safety of those communities.


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