February 28, 2024

The shut of 2023 caps a 12 months during which Bay Space crime and public questions of safety repeatedly surfaced to the highest of stories cycles and the general public consciousness. Some occasions have been broad in attain and visibility, others primarily native — however with sweeping implications for 2024. Listed here are among the highest-profile crime, courtroom and public security tales we’ll be watching within the new 12 months. 

Antioch police corruption

This 12 months noticed the conclusion of a sweeping, 18-month investigation into Antioch and Pittsburg cops that resulted in federal and state fees in opposition to 14 present and former division workers.

The worst accusations have been leveled in opposition to three — Devon Wenger, Morteza Amiri, Eric Rombough — who have been charged with civil rights violations by way of using canine and less-than-lethal weapons.

The investigation started with ideas that a number of officers have been fraudulently acquiring school levels to obtain incentive pay from each cities. When FBI brokers seized Antioch officers’ cellphone numbers they discovered racist, homophobic and sexist textual content messages geared toward colleagues and civilians. That led to an administrative investigation implicating dozens of officers, which is ready to finish in March.

One officer, Tim Manly Williams, has pleaded no contest to fees in Contra Costa County alleging that he and different officers conspired to make visitors tickets go away in change for bottles of tequila. The opposite 13 officers are nonetheless combating their fees.

Physique digital camera video launched by Antioch Police captured an October 26, 2021 encounter with Dajon Smith, suspected of stealing a automotive, which concerned officers siccing a canine, and firing a 40mm sponge bullet at Smith. (Photograph Courtesy: Antioch Police) 
Kiora Hansen and Della Currie, from left, protest during a rally at Antioch police headquarters in Antioch, Calif., on Tuesday, April 18, 2023. Community members rallied and marched to City Hall to demand police reform and accountability following alleged racist, sexist and homophobic texts within the department. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)
Kiora Hansen and Della Currie, from left, protest throughout a rally at Antioch police headquarters in Antioch, Calif., on Tuesday, April 18, 2023. Group members rallied and marched to Metropolis Corridor to demand police reform and accountability following alleged racist, sexist and homophobic texts inside the division. (Jane Tyska/Bay Space Information Group) 

Oakland crime and the seek for a brand new chief

Whereas crime continues to be a high subject within the metropolis of Oakland, quite a few actions by the town’s leaders elevated the town’s turmoil in 2023. Will the neighborhood get reduction from persistent violence and theft in 2024?

The 12 months started with Chief LeRonne Armstrong atop the town’s police division — the division’s ninth chief or interim chief for the reason that departure of Howard Jordan in 2013. However in February, only some days after his second anniversary within the job, Armstrong was fired by Mayor Sheng Thao, for allegedly mishandling two officer self-discipline circumstances. He has sued and received an arbitrator’s ruling, however the mayor has rejected calls to rehire him.

Oakland police Chief LeRonne Armstrong pauses as he discusses the homicide of a two-year-old child during a press conference at police headquarters on 7th Street in downtown Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)
Oakland police Chief LeRonne Armstrong pauses as he discusses the murder of a two-year-old baby throughout a press convention at police headquarters on seventh Road in downtown Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. (Jane Tyska/Bay Space Information Group) 

The town has spent the 12 months since looking for the division’s subsequent chief, with the civilian police fee lately sending three finalists’ names to the mayor. These have been rejected.

Metropolis employees have been additionally blamed for their failure to submit on time a grant software that may have given the town hundreds of thousands of state {dollars} to fight organized retail theft and different crime points. The metropolis was additionally criticized for its sluggish efforts to rent 911 dispatchers — with functions piling up for months on the human assets division whereas residents reported prolonged delays once they known as for emergency assist.

The town’s woes continued, with many crimes surging over 2022 ranges, together with violent crime up greater than 20%. Residents and retailers have been clamoring for months for stronger measures to make sure security on the streets.

The rising visibility of ghost weapons

San Jose Police seized three privately made handguns in an April 28, 2023 search of a road rage suspect's home. (Courtesy: San Jose Police)
San Jose Police seized three privately made handguns in an April 28, 2023 search of a street rage suspect’s house, which additionally yielded 13 different handguns, 21 semi-automatic and bolt-action rifles, two shotguns, one full-auto submachine gun and 10,000 rounds of ammunition. (Courtesy: San Jose Police) 

The previous 12 months noticed an rising use of “ghost weapons” — firearms that lack serial numbers, typically constructed from components ordered individually. The weapons are harder for investigators to hint. The weapons’ unregistered nature additionally makes them enticing for buy by people who find themselves legally barred from proudly owning weapons and usually make it simpler to evade California’s gun legal guidelines.

In San Jose alone, the variety of seizures of privately made firearms has ballooned over a five-year interval. Although the 2023 tally will not be but compiled, San Jose police Capt. Jason Dwyer mentioned he anticipated that the pattern — from 45 ghost gun seizures in 2018 to 323 in 2022 — would proceed.

Detectives can generally decide {that a} privately made firearm was used when analyzing the ballistic stays at against the law scene, Dwyer mentioned, however that may solely be completed after against the law is dedicated.

In 2024, regulation enforcement companies throughout the Bay Space and the state doubtless will proceed to make ghost weapons a larger precedence. SJPD’s G.H.O.S.T. unit was established in 2023 in an effort to suppress unlawful gun possession and manufacturing and hint ghost weapons again to their supply.

The SJPD racist textual content scandal

The San Jose Police Division remains to be reeling from an unpleasant scandal that surfaced in November, involving former officer Mark McNamara, who resigned after inside affairs investigators uncovered a trove of racist texts that he despatched to a different energetic officer and a former officer. The texts, during which McNamara viciously insults a Black man he severely injured in a capturing final 12 months — in addition to the wounded man’s authorized staff — have been found throughout an unrelated prison misconduct investigation that didn’t yield any fees.

Body worn camera video released Friday, April 8, by San Jose Police captured the March 27 shooting of K'aun Green at La Victoria Taqueria from two officers' point-of-view. The department's community presentation identified Mark McNamara as the officer who shot Green four times. (Photo courtesy of San Jose Police)
Physique worn digital camera video launched Friday, April 8, by San Jose Police captured the March 27 capturing of Ok’aun Inexperienced at La Victoria Taqueria from two officers’ point-of-view. The division’s neighborhood presentation recognized Mark McNamara because the officer who shot Inexperienced 4 instances. (Photograph courtesy of San Jose Police) 

McNamara has been placed on observe for state decertification that may stop him from turning into a police officer elsewhere in California. In the meantime, several civic leaders known as for Police Chief Anthony Mata and the division to disclose who McNamara was messaging, provided that their potential racial animus may have an effect on the credibility of prison fees based mostly on these officers’ previous arrests. The chief has advocated for altering state regulation that may loosen the restrictions of disclosure in high-profile misconduct circumstances.

The county Public Defender’s Workplace has mentioned that it’s analyzing prison circumstances during which McNamara served as a central witness and desires to do the identical for the opposite folks concerned within the textual content message chain.

The fallout will certainly proceed if the names of the opposite officers are publicized. There’s some precedent: Within the aforementioned Antioch scandal, identities surfaced via courtroom discovery procedures. Time will inform if the identical occurs in San Jose. 

Turning to digital eyes to drive down roadway deaths

As San Jose was experiencing a record-high complete of visitors deaths in 2022, a pilot program was instituted to set up an automatic license-plate studying digital camera on the intersection of Monterey Highway and Curtner Avenue, which has traditionally seen a excessive variety of pedestrian fatalities. 

Flowers and candles at a memorial at the intersection of Blossom Hill Road and Winfield Boulevard where April Zoglauer was killed in a crash in San Jose in October. Her baby, who was delivered by doctors after the crash, also later died. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)
Flowers and candles at a memorial on the intersection of Blossom Hill Highway and Winfield Boulevard the place April Zoglauer was killed in a crash in San Jose in October. Her child, who was delivered by medical doctors after the crash, additionally later died. (Dai Sugano/Bay Space Information Group) 

In 2023, the town noticed an elevated variety of roadway deaths — 48 as of the publication of this story — however nothing approaching the earlier 12 months’s file. Nonetheless, the town pushed forward with a plan to add 33 speed-watching cameras throughout the town, with the intention of driving down collisions on the metropolis’s most harmful intersections.

The brand new digital camera array comes by the use of a regulation signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in October to test-run the effectiveness of know-how on deterring driver rushing, with San Jose and Oakland being among the many cities chosen for the preliminary rollout.

There are some privateness backstops: The cameras will probably be allowed to run via 2032, at which level this system will probably be evaluated earlier than any of the programs might be renewed. Knowledge retention will probably be restricted to 5 days, although that span grows to 60 days within the case of a rushing violation being issued.

It is likely to be greater than a 12 months earlier than the cameras are in place and a number of other extra years earlier than sufficient information is collected to gauge their impression. However in Northern California’s largest metropolis, the place prolonged expressways and highways criss-cross the town and might abruptly introduce freeway speeds to floor streets, the pilot may present long-needed reduction.

Santa Rita Jail reforms

Alameda County Sheriff Yesenia Sanchez took workplace in 2023 driving a wave of momentum having scored a shocking political upset of a four-term incumbent with a marketing campaign geared toward reforming the county’s long-troubled Santa Rita Jail. Together with her first 12 months in workplace coming to an in depth, the strain is on Sanchez to higher implement the reforms that outdoors specialists say are wanted to make the jail a protected place for folks affected by psychological sickness.

Regardless of a wave of adjustments on the jail during the last 12 months, progress on implementing reforms seems to have slowed in latest months, in keeping with lawyer Amy Xu, who helps to supervise a court-monitored consent decree that requires the sheriff’s workplace to hit sure benchmarks in reforming the jail after quite a few folks sued the county complaining of deeply insufficient psychological well being care.

Sanchez’s tenure in workplace “has not include the sort of radical transparency or progress that I might need hoped for,” Xu mentioned.

The Care First Group Coalition held a “Care Not Dying” vigil, Saturday, April 1, 2023, out entrance of Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Space Information Group) 
With indicators bearing the names of individuals killed whereas incarcerated at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, Calif., the Care First Group Coalition held a “Care Not Dying” vigil, Saturday, April 1, 2023. (Karl Mondon/Bay Space Information Group) 

Among the many considerations are the period of time that inmates are allowed to spend outdoors of their cells each week. The consent decree required the jail’s leaders to extend these hours — significantly amongst folks despatched to “administrative segregation,” often known as solitary confinement. The delay of progress in that space threatens to overshadow a number of beneficial properties made on the jail during the last 12 months, together with the creation of some insurance policies geared toward stopping inmate suicides.

“Our general takeaway is that when you appeared again at how issues have been earlier than the consent decree, we predict the jail has made quite a lot of enhancements,” Xu mentioned. “However we’re additionally pissed off, as a result of quite a lot of the deadlines required within the consent decree, and quite a lot of the adjustments they’re alleged to have made by now, haven’t absolutely gone into impact.”

Reducing the intersection of psychological well being and police response

Advocates for mentally sick and unhoused folks in San Jose have lengthy complained about how these populations are the topic of over-policing and, by extension, inordinate power from cops. 

That rivalry was borne out in a sweeping, two-year investigation by the Bay Space Information Group, KQED and the California Reporting Venture revealed in October that examined a decade of use-of-force data from San Jose police and concluded that people who find themselves mentally impaired — both by psychiatric sickness or intoxication — accounted for practically three-quarters of significant use-of-force incidents and 80 % of police killings. 

The investigation additionally highlighted broad tendencies of police encountering folks exhibiting erratic conduct, with out threats of violence, ending up experiencing critical power and damage.

Lisa Chi, with her son Tony Chi and husband Tung Nguyen, remembers her late son Thompson "Tommy" Nguyen, during an interview at the family's home in San Jose, Calif., Saturday, March 25, 2023. Tommy Nguyen was shot by San Jose police in 2018 during an encounter at a South Bay power plant in which he carried an ax while suffering a psychiatric crisis. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
Lisa Chi, together with her son Tony Chi and husband Tung Nguyen, remembers her late son Thompson “Tommy” Nguyen, throughout an interview on the household’s house in San Jose, Calif., Saturday, March 25, 2023. Tommy Nguyen was shot by San Jose police in 2018 throughout an encounter at a South Bay energy plant during which he carried an ax whereas struggling a psychiatric disaster. (Karl Mondon/Bay Space Information Group) 
Thompson Nguyen, 27, marched towards San Jose Law enforcement officials whereas demanding they “shoot him” and holding an ax and steel pipe at Metcalf Power Heart in San Jose, California on January 9, 2018. Officers shot and killed Nguyen after this physique digital camera screenshot was captured. (SJPD) 

The police division has defended its practices. Nonetheless, neighborhood teams and, now, Santa Clara County, need to develop residents’ entry to non-police response packages for folks experiencing psychological well being emergencies. Amongst them is the Trusted Response Pressing Assist Staff, or TRUST. This system dispatches 4 groups — for every quadrant of the county — consisting of a behavioral well being skilled, a medic and a neighborhood member with “lived” expertise to offer peer assist. 

The Board of Supervisors in December accredited a referral that may work out the logistics of building a direct contact line for TRUST to assist folks in misery get assist with out having to navigate via different dispatch and triage programs.

A report on the direct line’s implementation is due on the finish of February, and momentum for additional increasing assets for civilian response packages seems to be to develop in 2024.