Op-Ed: Why Do We Police Protests Against Police Violence?

Why do we need police at the protests against their very existence?

Wouldn’t it be safer and smarter to just let our citizens and people express themselves and not pit them against already trigger-happy, testy, easily insulted armed cops whose careers and jobs are being called into question?

Isn’t this the moment to start policing our community differently by not actively policing them—especially with armed cops?

No more, or at least less, “proactive” policing.

We need to shift away from police contacts with civilians that are not necessary and do not promote public safety. These police contacts disparately target minorities and find their roots in implicit biases about people of color.

No more hunting by police for “criminals” that haven’t committed an obvious crime. No more “consensual encounters” with random black or Latino male on the street to gather gang intelligence. No more stop and frisk. Less laws, less probable cause.

Instead, community service oriented policing. More fix-it tickets. More reactive policing where officers respond to discrete crimes with distinct information looking for specific suspects. Less subjectivity, less room for implicit bias to rear its ugly head.

Isn’t this the moment to reevaluate who we hire and train as police officers?

Police departments are more likely to hire aggressive, confrontational people rather than compassionate, peaceful types. This practice of hiring the combative instead of the kind manifests in hostilities and distrust on the streets between police and the public, particularly people of color. Police contacts become stages for battle. A community member’s tension, nervousness or anger triggers an already testy officer. Explosions, literal and figurative, ensue.

Eric Garner, Alton Sterling, Oscar Grant, George Floyd dead.

We need a concerted shift in who we employ to serve and protect. We need a return to police as peace officers, not law enforcement officers. We must demand that police act as guardians, peacekeepers and protectors for the communities they serve.

We should emphasize qualities such as compassion, empathy and sensitivity in our hiring of police. We should recruit the cerebral, detail oriented, calm, rational, and composed to be our police officers.

We don’t need warriors with guns walking our streets. We need protective problem solvers. Isn’t this the moment to finally change the way we do things? Instead, as I write this, our police state grows and perpetuates with the imposition of citywide curfews.

Sajid A. Khan is a deputy public defender in Santa Clara County and one half of the Aider and Abettor podcast. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. Send op-ed pitches to [email protected].

28 Comments

  1. Given the amount of responsibility, and authority, that people are given when sworn in as a police officer, it makes sense to do a full vetting of the person’s background, mental and psychological history, etc. I appreciate the fact (if it is indeed a fact) that SJPD requires a college (hopefully a bachelors) degree to join the force.

    In this opinion piece, I do agree with Mr. Khan that we should go back to the idea of a peace officer rather than a LEO (law enforcement officer). People like the SJPD riot cop that was showing lots of signs of being rarin’ to go bust heads doesn’t need to be on the street. Nor on the force. His behavior, actions, attitude and language demonstrate his lack of understanding of what his role is supposed to be.

    However, I’m not sure if a strong show of force to protect the city (ie, property) from looting mobs isn’t entirely appropriate. But when the riot police start marching toward the protesters (as opposed to the looting mobs) and telling them to disperse, that crosses a line. With that, they are saying they are ready to rumble with anyone, which, again, is highly inappropriate and will just further fan the flames just as our Cheeto-in-Chief does with his twit account on an hourly basis.

  2. is this an onion article?

    just because you are protesting the polices existence doesn’t mean you are the only people that exist

    why we need them is to protect us and our stuff from looters, rioters, and road blockages that come part and parcel with your protests

    you want to protest, demonstrate, virtue signal, go for it…

    just don’t ‘burn this place down’, don’t pillage the Target, and don’t block me from going to the store, work or the hospital

    you have your rights, we have ours

    this Minneapolis thing is not going to get solved by getting a large screen after breaking some glass, setting fire to Altanta police cars, or taking 2 for 1 in San Jose, San Antonio, or San Diego

    its going to get solved in Minneapolis, in the city council, in police/community discussions, between their residents, their leaders, and their police

    and cops will always kill civilians to some extent, it is the cost of granting them a monopoly over violence which civilization requires

    the alternative, anarchovigilantism, does not work and will not work

    grow up

    • Thank you for writing this op-ed. I have been waiting for someone to comment on why we are addressing concerns of police violence with police violence. I’m sorry that so many commenters are only capable of insulting you, or responding with fallacious arguments. Reading these comments makes me feel as if there is little hope of change, especially when individuals are unable to reason, and seem incapable of empathy.

      To SJ Kulak: please don’t engage in false dichotomies, and if you must please educate yourself on anarchism before you make ignorant claims about anarchovigilantism, which is not even thing. It’s made up concept, for which no evidence exists of it’s having been instantiated. You also seem to be playing the victim in this about your rights being trampled. It’s hard for me to see you as any sort of victim when you care more about property and the windows at Target than the live of people.

      • SR27, ANOTHER MONKEY OF THE CRAZY BERNIE CLUB! These are the same guys that want us to leave dictatorship Muslim countries alone, praise Fidel Castro and support Maduro. The same guys that focus on all “injustices” around the globe but the Bacha Basi, rape of boys, in some Muslim countries. These are the democrats who have the erroneous belief of being the based of the Democratic Party and to be needed by Biden to win. It was demonstrated you extreme ‘democrats’ are the 4% of the Democratic Party as Pelosi stated. Biden needs the moderate, independent, and disengaged Republicans, not the extreme left!

        • > It was demonstrated you extreme ‘democrats’ are the 4% of the Democratic Party as Pelosi stated. Biden needs the moderate, independent, and disengaged Republicans, not the extreme left!

          Highly amusing.

          Pelosi likely thinks that Leon Trotsky was a “moderate Democrat”.

          What the hell do “extreme democrats” believe?

      • getting rid of police protection in the face of loot-riot that has claimed 16 lives is asking me to forgo my rights

        police exist for a reason and yes anachrovigilantism is a made up concept, but it is the logical result when the cops don’t do here their job, re: Koreans on roof-tops

        and yes, I do think property rights are fundamental to human and civil rights, you ain’t free, you aren’t even human, if the state owns your stuff. and the cops enforce property rights, so they are the best civil rights organ we have if coupled with the bill of rights.

        ask yourself how many people died in your ideology, you know communism, people over profits, housing is a human right, blah, blah, blah. the only people who do well in communism are body bag makers

        Dekulakization
        Holodomor
        Great Purge
        Red Terror
        Great Leap Forward
        Cultural Revolution
        Tibet
        Tiananmen Square
        Khmer Rouge
        North Korea

        and on
        and on
        and on

        Is it any surprise these communist protests of 2020 are so violent?

  3. The old joke ends when Tonto says the punchline, “What do you mean ‘we’, white man?” Of course, one can only guess at the skin color of Sajid Khan.

    Here are photos of a protest with almost no police presence:
    https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2020/05/31/18833476.php
    It looks like the last gasp of UCSC before all the students move away and complete their UCSC degrees online.

    The San Jose protest started Friday and marched onto 101. That’s against the law (ordinary legislated state law, not some emergency “order”) and a hazard to the public. What else are CHP and SJPD for?

  4. > cops will always kill (black and brown) civilians to
    > some (much greater) extent (than white people), it is the
    > cost of granting them a monopoly over (racist) violence
    > which (a Eurocentric) civilization requires

    There, since we’re talking about the United States, I fixed that for you, Kulak. YW.

    • Tuen of MSNBC, you’ll be happier.

      Cops kill more whites than brown and black civilians.

      https://www.statista.com/statistics/585152/people-shot-to-death-by-us-police-by-race/

      Cops disproportionally kill more whites than brown and black civilians when accounting for law enforcement interactions.

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/07/13/why-a-massive-new-study-on-police-shootings-of-whites-and-blacks-is-so-controversial/

      Yes, America is a Eurocentric civilization. Property rights matter, rule of law matters, intersectionality is a intellectually and morally bankrupt ideology.

      • That Statista page is interesting, but it only shows absolute numbers. It would be far more interesting, and appropriate, if it provided numbers as a percentage of the population. I don’t know exact numbers, but for example, African Americans represent maybe 8% of the US population, but represent 30% of all incarcerated persons in the US.

        That same page also says this: “The number of homicides committed by police in the United States is often compared to those in countries such as England, where the number is significantly lower.” And this: “the trend of fatal police shootings in the United States seems to only be increasing.”

        There ya go.

        • The paper the WP comments on points out there are disproportionate LEO engagements with Blacks and Browns. It’s massively disproportionate actually. Whites do commit crimes, like drug dealing, robbery, etc but they do so in general on private property. Due to the genius idea of prioritizing public funded housing, minorities commit crime in public spaces and are not given the presumption of privacy and get caught. I would argue there goes our friend unintended consequences. But that’s what not listening to anyone who knows anything about money and making owning and renting from private people impossible and making public housing the only resort.

          Cops killing anyone sucks, but this ‘cops killing black bodies’ bu**sh**’ is not reality, it is actually a function of the numbers.

        • A bit of research helps. US black population: 13.4% (source 2010 Census), now estimated at 14%. CA: about half @ 7%.

          Yet…blacks comprise 45% of 3-strikers in CA state prisons. 53% of all gun US homicides (about 1/3rd of all gun deaths; suicides are about 2/3rds). FWIW, blacks have a lower suicide rate than whites. Men in all races more likely to kill themselves. Sources: FBI Uniform Crime Report, CA CDCR, NIH/CDC.

          Possible some racism may contribute to the conviction disparities, but tough to imagine so wide a gap much. Particularly when D.C, is examined. Large black population, large numbers of black cops and judges. Even more disproportional.

          “His behavior, actions, attitude and language demonstrate his lack of understanding of what his role is supposed to be.”

          A typical stress reaction includes smiling and boxer-like movement. SJPD has relatively little experience in these sorts of encounters unlike some other areas (e.g. DC & NYC) where protests are more common. The cop’s reaction is easily explained by self-talk stress – not a call to action. Happens a lot – particularly sports & warfare. Disclosure – didn’t watch the video & assume comments here fairly accurately portray the situation.

          ” not sure if a strong show of force to protect the city (ie, property) from looting mobs isn’t entirely appropriate.”

          Worked in Chicago after Mayor Daley issued a shoot-to-kill order for looters and arsonists during the MLK riots. Pleas by community leaders, a curfew, and other less draconian measures failed. The STK order worked. Force typically does against bullies – in a mob or as individuals.

          • Hey Tp, you’re mixing things up. My point was that as a percentage of population, African Americans are more likely to get stung in various ways. Again, I’m not talking about things like the percentage of all gun related deaths and such, but how our African American neighbors continue to get the shaft by the legal system, as a percentage of the population. Then BBC releases this yesterday:
            https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52877678

            It shows:
            1. African-Americans are more likely to get fatally shot (by police)
            2. African-Americans are arrested at a higher rate for drugs (though usage is on par with whites)
            3. More African-Americans are imprisoned

            The semi-related stats you talked about prove these points, how many African Americans are imprisoned for three strikes. They’re always getting the shaft by our society.

          • SCC — It’s pretty simple really. Blacks, whites, browns, yellows/everybody all end up dead in direct proportion to their propensity for committing violent crimes.
            Care to guess who is the least likely to have problems with police? Asians. Oh – those RACIST cops!

        • “you’re mixing things up”

          Not mixing things up in the least – just wish you’d be more careful instead of tossing out vastly incorrect, yet easily checked figures.

          “My point was that as a percentage of population, African Americans are more likely to get stung in various ways.”

          Agree and supported by data. I can add more disproportionalities: single parent households, illegitimate births, scholastic achievement, rates of violent and property crime convictions. Rates of crime victimization (most violent crime is same race for all races). Other differences too like the rate of STD infections, particularly HIV.

          Useful to remember that ‘correlation does not imply causality’.

          But who owns the problem? What are the workable solutions, by how much, at what cost, and how long to see improvement?

          We’ve spent massive amounts of public and private money since the 1964 civil rights act. One can argue that the expenditures are effectively reparations. And produced some positive outcomes.

          There have been improvements for blacks in life expectancy, literacy, and prosperity (actually more under Trump than Obama). Yet we still have glaring differences when analyzed by race. Offhand, don’t know if aspects like conviction rates have changed pre v. post civil rights act.

          One warranted justice reform (and arguably motivated by racism): stiff sentencing for smoking crack v. less severe for snorting coke. I believe sentencing is now equal.

          Eager to know of others. Please identify warranted reforms so we can advocate for them.

          • > There have been improvements for blacks in
            > life expectancy, literacy, and prosperity (actually
            > more under Trump than Obama)

            Those (unreferenced) facts (for life expectancy and prosperity) are dated. Any kinds of gains made during the impeached President Cheeto’s regime have surely been wiped away due to mishandling of a global pandemic. Speaking of references, how did you come up with the idea of “more under Trump than Obama”?

            If anything, it took Obama 6-8 years to clean up George Bush Jr’s mess, then comes the thin-skinned reality TV figure who can barely read for himself, and he screws things up worse than Junior in his bumbling 8 years.

        • Like math textbook examples that give an answer, “the solution is up to the reader to derive”. Do your own research. It would be a refreshing and welcome improvement.

          Happy to be corrected. And see more recent studies that you doubtlessly can provide. Your sources?

          And still waiting for your examples of racist policies that merit correction. “Enquiring minds want to know”

          • SCC, when you (and others) say things like “thin-skinned reality TV figure who can barely read…”, all I hear is: “I am a closed minded person who lacks the skill of critical thinking and is easily influenced by the media”.

            Perhaps if you were a little more objective in your posts you could be taken seriously. Being close minded, bigoted, and angry is no way to go through life in my opinion.

  5. Our freelance team has covered large protests in San Jose for the past four years. 2017 Women’s March, same area , saw three media trucks at the perimeter and a total of 5 police officers. The cops were on motorcycles and never got near the crowd. Ratio of protestors to cops at this protest : 1000 to 1
    2018 Separation of families at the border, not as many people, but protestor to cop ratio 1000 to 1.

    For the George Floyd protests in San Jose this past weekend the ratio was easily the absolute opposite 1 to 100. While I saw good police officers out over the weekend, I also saw some police officers shooting and gassing a crowd that simply did not appear to pose a threat. The violence and looting occurred AFTER the police reaction, Bottom line: There were far more police officers than protestors on Friday night in San Jose.

    Interestingly enough San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia was one of the first top cops to denounce Derek Chauvin’s role in George Floyd’s death. However, police chiefs will not be judged by what they say now, they will be judged by the culture they manage and supervise in their own departments. Locally, Chief Garcia is not off the hook. He has police officers such as Jonathan Silva to answer for. And then there are all the police reports, domestic violence calls and manner in which these police officers speak about victims. ( Yes, our insiders have reported what cops said about the San Martin rape victims as the told the public they were outraged ) . Chief Garcia should be worrying about what his officers are doing right here in San Jose. That includes what these police officers are doing when it comes to the local DA and criminal justice system.

    The culture of a police department is defined by the duly elected leaders in a community. This means the district attorneys, judges, Santa Clara County Supervisors and mayors. These elected officials , and the government lawyers, working as a ” risk management team” are the ones who write the police contracts and defend cops who lie in in police reports or commit perjury to get an incompetent DA a plea deal or conviction through jury nullification.

    The courts are closed today. The press release noted the reason as related to the protests. Instead consider we now have juries who will question if a police officer has told the truth. If video has been edited, or ” unavailable” , a jury may finally question what was going on when the cameras were not rolling.

    So yes, the author has a point. It felt as though the police presence and conduct at these protests incited protestors and maybe even the looting. But think about the response, it clearly came because this is a big crack in the #ThinBlueLIne and we all know what the public will see when there is a little sunshine flooding in to what is just behind that line! Here are two of the Videos from Friday’s George Floyd Protests in San Jose. You decide :

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZameoFn-uQQ&t=45s
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZameoFn-uQQ&t=45s

  6. Mr. Khan you are the greatest idiot of this time. You think you are tryin to help but failed. People are NOT protesting against the existence of police. They are exercising their right to protest again police unlawful killings and abuse of power. The people have a right to protest and police a duty to monitor situation and preventing crimes. Anyone trained in crisis situations knows the importance of not reacting to people’s emotions and words. If you are the professional addressing the crisis, you main goal is to de escalate not make crisis bigger. Officer’s Yuen behavior escalated the situation. He was ready to fight not monitor and prevent…

  7. On another note Mr. Khan, aren’t you the public defender who was the main person against the Persky recall? I have excellent memory. You were one of those that were trying to create the narrative that the Recall was against the judicial system but it wasn’t. It was against the corruption and abuse of power of the judicial system in Santa Clara County. Back then, SJPD officers were also kicking signature collectors from outside the stores and other places, no crime committed. You and others never spoke against this violation of people’s rights, on the contrary. I have insider knowledge about this too. I was one of those collecting signatures and fighting with police about my right to do this. If you are not a politician, your certainly behave like one, flipping!

  8. For the people of San Jose and Santa Clara County, Please notice how Mr. Khan is part of the SVDe-Bug group. What this shows is that most of the time the people that create these groups have a political gain in mind. In the case of this guy Khan and other like him, they just want to show a false image of social justice advocates, but they flip based on personal and political gain, Thus Mr. Khan is pro people’s right to protest now, but against women’s right to collect signatures before. These are professionals politicians friends with Liccardo, Cindy CHAVEZ…They want people’s votes and Goggle’s money to support their political goals and financial gain. The other De-Bug people are the same. Use them to achieve your social justice causes. DO NOT VOTE FOR THEM OR THE CANDIDATES THEY SUPPORT. They are all a piece of sh!t!

    • Hey Fexx, I’m a Santa Clara County resident (see my name/handle!), and I don’t vote for people who use playground bully tactics and calling people names. I wouldn’t vote for you, and certainly not for your hero, the Cheeto-in-Chief. He acts like a scared little boy whose father hit him and berated him all the time. Wonder if that’s what happened to you, too, given the stuff you write, and the personal attacks are you making.

      • About my father SCC, he is a man of a big faith and big mouth. He taught me that the only man deserving of my respect and obedience is the lord Jesus Christ. He also taught me to care and protect children, the elderly, the oppressed, and the not able, and to use any power and wealth for the sake of others. He taught my brothers to never hit a woman not even with the petals of a Rose. Thus no, I was raised by a tough and loving father with a big faith and a big mouth! It appears a big faith and big mouth are also learned behaviors.

  9. SCC, I have never been a politician and do not plan to be. Thus, save your vote for when is hard to find toilet paper again. I have only one Chief, hero, King, Jesus Cristo. If the cheto cheese is sexually perverted Trump, I give a shi!t about him. I voted for Biden and will vote for him again. I don’t like Biden, but my other two options were crazy Bernie or crazy Trump. Thus he won my vote by default. I know you share the mind and culture of Mr. Fake Khan, Khanna, and the like. Would you ever learn to be authentic and to have more [email protected]? I have lots of those to spare. I have uterine [email protected] though. DO YOU CARE Querido?

  10. On another note SCC, my favorite snack is a bag of hot Cheetos and a Coke Zero. Thus, those are the only Cheetos I care to have. I am going to have some now to celebrate your Cheetos’ comment.

  11. There’s a line that I believe Khan has crossed.

    SJPD officers and police in general are clearly instructed to NOT use their position for public advocacy. I’ve heard Chief Garcia raise problems with Prop 47 & 57 in talks. But not use his office or position as Kahn does.

    Same for most public employees. A Public Information Officer handles such matters. Otherwise, it’s unclear what is a government position v. an individual employee’s position. And private industry too. Imagine the reaction if Apple’s Tim Cook (an Alabama native) were to appear in public waving a confederate flag to celebrate his heritage.

    Discord potential too. Should we now anticipate DA Rosen to advocate for ‘lock ’em up and throw away the key’ grudge match? I’d like a ringside seat.

    Kahn could just as easily plant a piece e.g., submit it under Raj Jayadev’s name (SV De-bug). But he didn’t. And Kahn was prominently featured in a Spotlight piece about the court curfew. It seems as though his impassioned advocacy has eclipsed professional conduct and judgement.

    I would take him to the woodshed were he my employee. And perhaps that’s what he wants. Leave the defenders office in a burst of self-justified, glory martyrdom.

    Plus he really needs to ensure the words and music align. Kahn’s impassioned pleas for justice aren’t reflected in the latest IPA report. Only about 5% of SJPD complaints are Sustained per the auditor.

    Sure would be nice to know how many of his clients are frequent flyers. Spot data from several agencies cite the large number of revolving door re-arrestees since COVID $0 bail / home confinement begun.

    Just wish someone would detail what constitutes a a $0 bail ‘minor felony’. Is it like being ‘slightly pregnant’?