After Years Teaching SJPD to Rein in Bias, Former Trainers Say They’ve Lost Faith in Reform

June 1, day two of San Jose’s curfew, which the city imposed to crack down on the George Floyd protests, Frank and Grey Ponciano stopped by a Burger King for a bite to eat.

While the city’s cops were arresting and citing scores of people for the crime of being outside to protest systemic racism, the husband-and-wife duo encountered racism personified in the form of a tatted-up shirtless aggressor.

The couple had just parked when the man approached their driver-side window shouting about the protests. “My problem is you people f*ckin’ hate my people,” the man can be heard saying in a video Grey later posted online.

“Oh sh*t, that’s what this is about?” Frank asks, incredulously. “I don’t know what to tell you, bro. I don’t hate you.”

“You don’t hate me?”

“I don’t. I really don’t. I really don’t.”

“Hey, you know what’s f*cked up, bro? The fact that we f*ckin’ give you everything.”

“I would disagree with that, bro,” Frank calmly replies. “I would disagree with that.”

The guy then tries to goad Frank into a fight.

“Yeah?” the man asks. “Let’s go.”

The shirtless man then moves to the front of the car, arms outstretched, shouting the whole time: “F*ck white people? Right here, bro. Let’s go, N— let’s go. … Go ahead, run me over, mother f*cker. Run me over.”

Shouting all the while, the man slams his hands on the car hood, trying to incite a confrontation. “You motherf*ckers think you can just treat us like shit? Because we f*ckin’, supposedly we f*ckin’ killed one of you? No, f*ck that, dude. F*ck that. Get out of the f*ckin’ car bro or I’ll f*ckin’ pull you out right now. You’ve got five seconds.”

As much as it pained them, Frank and Grey decided to call the cops. The same cops whose systemic racism they’d protested the prior weekend, and the same racism they still protest and experience to date. The same ones that Frank once taught about implicit biases—how to recognize, check and ultimately overcome them. “There wasn’t much we could do and that’s terrifying,” Grey says. “We were sitting ducks.”

But summoning the cops evoked its own terror. “While I was calling the cops I couldn’t keep recording,” Grey said. “And as a person of color, as a Black woman, all I wanted to do was have video evidence because I just didn’t trust the cops at that moment, and it’s terrifying to think of bringing them into that situation.”

The responding officers went on to arrest the angry stranger, holding him personally accountable for his racist threats. What’s weighed on Frank far more than that lone encounter, however, is the persistent failure of training, reforms and even public outrage to hold law enforcement accountable for some of the same racial animus.

An animus expressed not only by individual officers but the system as a whole, through disparate enforcement and myriad more inequities.

Like several other volunteers who worked with PACT—People Acting in Community Together—by sharing personal accounts of racial profiling with San Jose police recruits, Frank, 26, says he’s all but given up hope in fixing local law enforcement.

On Twitter, Frank described the 15 implicit bias trainings he conducted for SJPD in 2017 a “colossal waste of my f*cking time.” One of the lessons he and his PACT cohorts would teach cadets was about the “Community Bank of Trust,” in which actions that support the public are deposits and any act of force is a withdrawal.

When Frank called the cops on June 1, it was only because of an immediate physical threat—and long after that community-trust account had been overdrawn.

Derrick Sanderlin, a 27-year-old fellow PACT trainer, echoed Frank’s dismay.

“Whenever you put on a uniform—a police uniform—you’re also putting on a historical and cultural context of an entire lifetime of policing across the world,” Sanderlin explained while discussing some of the lessons he tried to impart to SJPD. “So whenever someone has a positive or negative experience with another enforcement authority, they’re carrying those images with them in their interactions with you.”

While protesting police brutality outside City Hall just a few days before Frank’s encounter with that individual aggressor, Sanderlin says he became victim of the systemic bias he’d spent so long trying to dismantle. And it came in the form of a rubber bullet, which a cop shot at his groin, potentially sterilizing him for life.

News about the assault on Sanderlin exploded in national media. That marked another withdrawal from San Jose PD’s Community Bank of Trust, an account already depleted by hundreds of rubber bullet strikes, baton swings and shots fired.

“I think it’s hard to say if it was all for nothing,” Sanderlin reflects. “I question it. I do have to question, like, ‘Is this working? Is this enough?’ But, you know, the work that we’ve done over the last three years, you know, with civilian oversight and with procedural justice training … it’s, like, tantamount to one person trying to move a mountain with a shovel. And it’s a long process. And some people sort of feel like we’ll get nowhere. I sort of see moments like this, the protests that we’ve seen across the globe, as just like more people coming with more shovels.”

With community trust so depleted, however, Sanderlin says he has doubts about whether there’s enough faith to fund that kind of a mountain-shoveling endeavor. And he sees very little effort to shore up those savings again.

“When you watch an old woman get shot at a close range with a rubber bullet,” he says, “you sort of feel like whoever is at the other end of that riot gun doesn’t really care about the Community Bank of Trust.”

20 Comments

  1. > While the city’s cops were arresting and citing scores of people for the crime of being outside to protest systemic racism, the husband-and-wife duo encountered racism personified in the form of a tatted-up shirtless aggressor.

    Kyle:

    I missed your explanation of how you knew that the city’s cops were arresting scores of people “for the crime of being outside”.

    Was that on the charging documents?

    DId the city’s cop’s cite a civil code for “the crime of being outside”?

    Is this a common crime?

    How many people are rotting in San Jose jails for “the crime of being outside”?

    Is this a reason to recall Sam Liccardo?

    • People were being arrested for being outside TO PROTEST. Y’know, to exercise their First Amendment rights, criticizing the government. Unfortunately, the people they were criticizing had riot gear, tear gas, rubber bullets, and the right to arrest people after they told them to leave.

      • Rioting is not a first amendment right. These were trained activist trained in conflict escalation. Alinsky activists, they went looking and created, for photo ops. Thats it, you want to lie to yourself, continue being the useful idiot. Just dont complain when the 911 call tells you to register your complaint with the mayor.

        • > Rioting is not a first amendment right. These were trained activist trained in conflict escalation. Alinsky activists, they went looking and created, for photo ops.

          As has been reported in a Fly article (SJPD Denies Requests For Video Footage of George Floyd Protests — By The Fly) the coppers aren’t saying much. They’re probably saying a lot less than then know.

          What they probably DO know is an awful lot about the “activists” and “operators” perpetrating “the crime of being outside to protest systemic racism” which I gather is what they call “riots” in these parts.

          The coppers likely have zillions of smartphone videos and photos to sift through, and thanks to the miracle of Google Photos face recognition, they probably have bulging computer folders for each and every one of the MERE thousand rioters who staged their disruptive “action”.

          And, or course, there’s also search warrants which gives the coppers additional tools to sift through or subpoena Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Apple iCloud archives (to name just a few).

          And didn’t we just learn that the Apple iPhone has a secret “location history” folder as well?

          Not only do the coppers have photos and videos of the protesters and their “peaceful looting” and “peaceful rioting”, they likely know every place they’ve been for the last six months, and ditto for their one thousand cohorts (whose names, contact lists, and phone metadata are available to the coppers).

          The Trump administration quickly identified the “ringleaders” who attempted to pull down the Andrew Jackson statue in Washington, D.C. The perps who committed violence and outrageous vandalism and desecrations in Minneapolis, Seattle, Portland, San Jose, and other places should not expect that law will be unable to catch up with them.

  2. What can be done? YES add social workers, add community programs, etc…that works. YES follow-up immediately on reported abuse, etc. Dismantling and rehiring? They have a hard enough time recruiting…who wants to do this in these difficult times? Some will be hired with the same attitudes. Some are smart enough to hide it in training…hide it from the supervisors, etc. How can we detect hidden racism? How can we detect a hidden propensity for abuse of power? Hire diversity? It was an “asian” (Vietnamese?) cop causing some of the problem!

  3. “As much as it pained them, Frank and Grey decided to call the cops.”

    I guess if you are Frank and Grey you can have it both ways. I guess it didn’t pain them enough because they chose to pick up the phone instead of driving away (de-escalating). Most likely the same people that scream “defund the police”. Hypocritical.

    It is no wonder the teaching isn’t working. Well I shouldn’t go that far. Despite some rogue comments as of late and force techniques during protest, I think SJPD is doing a good job in difficult times. Continued training is better then no training. But maybe better training should be considered.

    Conveniently the article skirts the details of the arrest. I imagine it was handled professionally and without a hitch (I didn’t see the video).

    • Yeah – the person harassing them was white, data tells us they are much less likely to be arrested with force. You’re missing the point here.

      • Please cite your data when making these assertions. Might I suggest you research – US Police Use of Force Rate compiled by race (respective of population percentage), compared/contrasted with US Homicide Perpetrator data compiled by race (also respective of population percentage). I caution you though, the results of your research may result in cognitive dissonance.

        Thanks.

  4. So much stupidity, so little time to point it out…

    Frank Ponciano laments the absence of results from his years of educating the police on implicit bias. His frustration reminds me of that endured by Wiley Brooks, the Breatharian who failed in his attempt to convince 1980’s America to empty its cupboards and refrigerators and turn to sunlight and cosmic dust for sustenance. You see, Mr. Ponciano, like Mr. Brooks (whose credibility crashed when he was observed gorging on cheeseburgers), traded in pseudoscientific novelties designed solely to soothe suckers and impress dullards.

    What Mr. Ponciano and other champions of nonsense would have you believe is that their absolute (i.e. implicit) conviction that all police officers possess implicit racial bias is objective in nature (Ha!) and founded on credible, reliable, testable evidence. They believe this because others who believe it created a test they claim proves it (note: they did not require evidence of any kind to prove it to themselves). The first problem is their beliefs do not make sense (how is it the same “science” that cannot reliably diagnose the capacity for murder in obvious psychopaths can tease out a deeply buried prejudice in an otherwise well-adjusted person); the second, their test has not stood up to scrutiny within their own field.

    All you need to know about the targeting of implicit biases in cops is that it was rooted in the race industry’s failure to identify explicit examples of bias. Subtract the hurt-feelings complaints of a handful of unhappy opportunists within the ranks of SJPD and I suspect the number of credible bias-related complaints is too small to be of use to either race-baiters or the media.

    The Left has done an admirable job of unfairly scapegoating cops for the social and economic failures of African-Americans, but where they did their best work was in convincing several generations of African-Americans to step aside and let immigrants come in, struggle mightily with the language and culture, and exploit every opportunity so that they, American-Americans born and raised, could invest their time and hearts grieving over historical wrongs (done to their ancestors), increasing their dependence on government handouts, developing crippling persecution complexes, abandoning churches (beloved by their ancestors), accepting incivility in their young people, surrendering the benefits of the nuclear family, serving as the poster child of American failure, and representing the ever-ready riot arm of Leftist revolutionaries.

    I don’t know that it’s happened yet, but African-Americans are owed a great big thank you by all the immigrants who seized the many openings, chose to pursue the American Dream, and opted against hanging about and bitching about racism.

    • Wow – singled out African Americans! What you fail to recognize in your ignorance is that the problem is wider and extends to all the communities that the force is supposed to protect and serve.

      • Excuse me, it is not I who have singled out African-Americans, but they themselves, along with the Dems, destructive radicals, etc. who have for a half century treated them as useful idiots. African-Americans have no one but themselves to blame for allowing liberal mesmerizers to convince them to fill their lives (and their children’s heads) with resentment and animus, encourage them to choose the path of resistance and rage, support them as they burned and looted their neighborhoods, and excuse them for rejecting the examples set, and guidance provided by, the millions of their ancestors who lived good lives, contributed and sacrificed for their country, and worked to make things better for their descendants.

  5. Dear Chief Garcia,

    See. Every day, maybe every other, little pricks to the sheeples on how racist and evil your police force is. Everyone who has read anything know implicit bias training does not work and is frequently counterproductive. But you knew that too and you still wasted money on it and force people to participate. But know look, the joke is on you. Ha Ha. Your trainers just threw you under the bus again, one more proof that there lurks in the heart of ever police racial animus that is, of course, invisible.

    Have you been paying attention to anything going on the past two decades? This is a war, and the other side is playing for keeps. You keep fooling yourself, you are in this together. You are not. These people don’t care about blacks, poor people, whatever. They are fighting for power and they are never satisfied. Why? Because they think they, if they just do things the right way and have the power to implement it, they can make a perfect world. Heaven on earth, the City of God. Anyone will half a brain knows this is impossible. But ask yourself if someone has an impossible goal and they think with just more power they can get it done, how much power will they take? How much damage will they do to get it? How easy is it to justify unintended consequences when perfection is at hand?

    This is a war, and you need to fight like it is.

    All the best,

  6. “”As much as it pained them, Frank and Grey decided to call the cops. The same cops whose systemic racism they’d protested the prior weekend, and the same racism they still protest and experience to date.””

    To make the assertion that Frank and Grey are currently experiencing racism at the hands of police, “to date”, begs for some context and examples. Without context and examples, the only explanation I can see is they’ve chosen to adopt a mindset of being in constant fear of the police instead of applying present day reality and their own personal experiences with the police.. which as you wrote later in the article, were positive. Maybe too much fear mongering by the media? I’m aware that driving between the hours of 11pm to 4am greatly enhances the rate at which I could be involved in a fatal collision involving a drunk driver, but if I have to get on the road at those times, I don’t drive in constant fear that my life is on the line or I’ll be injured. I’m accountable for my own safety and driving habits.

    “”But summoning the cops evoked its own terror. “While I was calling the cops I couldn’t keep recording,” Grey said. “And as a person of color, as a Black woman, all I wanted to do was have video evidence because I just didn’t trust the cops at that moment, and it’s terrifying to think of bringing them into that situation.””

    Okay, so without the context of above, Grey seems to have consciously chosen to lead a life based in victimhood rather than factual reality. Even if you’ve had negative interactions with the police, of which I’ve had more than a few, to harbor this mindset is a personal accountability and choice issue, not a race issue.

    “”The responding officers went on to arrest the angry stranger, holding him personally accountable for his racist threats.””

    The police were summoned by innocent, law abiding, human beings because they were in fear for their safety. The police responded to this request completely irrespective of race, arrested the other human being who was committing a crime and held him PERSONALLY ACCOUNTABLE for his actions. I don’t see the connection of this story to the title, Kyle. If anything, this story demonstrated to me that Frank and Grey hold some of their own hateful, implicit biases against the police, AND their biases were invalidated by the police who responded to their emergency and did their jobs in a professional, exemplary manner.

  7. Reading these comments is discouraging. I see some of these same names making provocative comments and slamming people for trying to solve problems on other threads. They often like to throw around names like communist, etc. Reminds me of growing up in 1960s Orange Co. California and the John Birch Society trying to intimidate people for teaching kids about the United Nations at my school. Or the guy going 65+ mph on the freeway, pulling up alongside of me, rolling down his window to call me a “libertard” because he did not like my bumper stickers. So hate filled.

    • > Or the guy going 65+ mph on the freeway, pulling up alongside of me, rolling down his window to call me a “libertard” because he did not like my bumper stickers. So hate filled.

      I think you may have misunderstood.

      My guess is he was saying “leotard”. I think he was trying to say he liked your leotard.

  8. Jared Yuen is still employed making a quarter of a million dollars a year on tax payer money. This is absolutely outrageous. I don’t care if they cops take sensitivity training. Hold these people accountable. Yuen is a loose cannon and needs to be removed. He’s a stain on SJPD.

  9. Again this highlights why now is an even better time to apportioning +more+ of the SJPD budget on training for cultural sensitivities rather than on more riot gear, weapons, fancy cruisers and exceptional overtime pay. Clearly, the training that the SJPD have on key soft skills adapted to meet the needs of the communities they serve is currently grossly deficient.

    It’s time to try and turn around and go in the other direction, stay the course long-term with even higher levels of this training to weed out those who don’t fundamentally want to protect and serve, until they win back their community trust and respect for their police force.

    Police reform please!

  10. “ While the city’s cops were arresting and citing scores of people for the crime of being outside…”

    This is the worst journalism I’ve read in years, and there’s a lot of bad journalism out there. This article reads like an angry 6th grader. Are you aiming for 4th grade level next week?

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