Officer Involved Shootings – FAQs
(Q) What should I do if I witness or know of someone who has witnessed an officer-involved shooting?
(A) Any person who witnesses or has knowledge of someone who has witnessed an officer involved shooting should immediately call 9-1-1 and report that information to the Police Department.
(Q) What is the procedure the San Jose Police Department follows after an officer-involved shooting occurs and who investigates the incident?
(A) Whenever a police officer is involved in a fatality or shooting incident in the City of San Jose, the San Jose Police Department’s Homicide/Crime Scene Unit is assigned primary responsibility for the investigation of the incident. The investigation follows the “Officer-Involved Incident Guidelines” developed by the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office and approved by the Santa Clara County Police Chiefs’ Association.
The San Jose Police Department’s procedure for an officer-involved shooting incident investigation is as follows:
- Immediate first aid will be provided for injured parties.
- An on-duty SJPD command officer is notified and immediately responds to the scene.
- The on-scene Patrol Commander will ensure the crime scene is secure.
- The command officer will ensure the timely notification of the following individuals:
- Homicide Unit Commander
- Homicide on-call investigative team
- Crime Scene on-call investigative team
- Internal Affairs Unit commander
- Office of the Independent Police Auditor
- Investigator with the City Attorney’s Office
- District Attorney’s Office on-call investigator
- Bureau of Investigations’ Deputy Chief
- Witnesses will be identified and interviewed.
- Homicide investigators will assume command of the scene and investigation upon their arrival.
- Involved officers will be transported to the Police Department and interviewed.
- The crime scene will be systematically processed and relevant evidence collected will be examined.
- The District Attorney’s Office will monitor the investigative process employed by the Department including monitoring at the scene of the shooting.
- Reports documenting all actions taken will be presented to the District Attorney’s Office for review.
- The Internal Affairs Unit will conduct an independent administrative investigation.
(Q) What happens to the officer involved in the shooting incident?
(A) The officer is placed on a minimum four-day administrative leave according to Department policy.
(Q) What is the role of the Independent Police Auditor (IPA) in officer involved shootings?
(A) For details about the role of the Independent Police Auditor following an officer-involved shooting please visit their website at http://www.sanjoseca.gov/ipa/
(Q) What is the SJPD Post Officer-Involved Incident Panel? What are the objectives and who is part of the panel?
(A) The San Jose Police Department’s Post-Officer Involved Incident review procedure was established by the San Jose Police Department to review all officer-involved incidents resulting in injury or death, for the purpose of reviewing Department policy and procedures, training and tactics, officer safety, equipment and communication.
(Q) How does the public know the outcomes of the Post Officer-Involved Incident reviews?
(A) On an annual basis, the Chief of Police will provide a public summary in narrative format to the Mayor and City Council that will summarize the Panel’s deliberations and recommendations. This summary will not identify individual officers or other involved persons.
(Q) Is there a San Jose Police Department liaison to the family of the person injured or killed as the result of an officer-involved shooting?
(A) The Homicide Unit Commander/Detective is designated as the Department liaison to members of a family who are involved in an officer-involved shooting.
(Q) Why would an officer use a firearm against a citizen?
(A) The San Jose Police Department recognizes and understands the complexity of those situations necessitating the use of force. Department members follow established authorizations to use force provided by state law (Penal Code Sections 835 and 835a) and applicable federal constitutional standards on what constitutes a reasonable use of force. At times, officers are confronted with situations where control is required to effect arrests or protect the public safety. Attempts will be made to achieve control through advice, warnings and persuasion. However, in situations where resistance, a threat to life, or a threat of physical force against officers or others is encountered and verbal persuasion has not been effective, is not feasible, or would appear to be ineffective, an officer may use objectively reasonable force.
San Jose Police Department Duty Manual* Section L 2602 defines objectively reasonable force:
Objectively reasonable force is that level of force which is appropriate when analyzed from the perspective of a reasonable officer possessing the same information and faced with the same circumstances as the officer who has actually used force. Objectively reasonable force is not judged with hindsight, and will take into account, where appropriate, the fact that officers must make rapid decisions regarding the amount of force to use in tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving situations. Important factors to be considered when deciding how much force can be used to apprehend or subdue a subject include, but are not limited to, the severity of the crime at issue, whether the subject poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether the subject is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight. This policy guideline applies to all uses of force, including deadly force.
San Jose Police Department Duty Manual* Section L 2638 specifies the circumstances in which an officer may discharge his or her firearm:
DIRECT USE: An officer may discharge a firearm under any of the following circumstances:
- When discharged in a safe manner at an approved range
- When used for the humane destruction (euthanasia) of a seriously injured animal, or to dispatch any animal that poses an immediate threat to any person or other animal, and other dispositions are impractical
- When deadly force is objectively reasonable in self-defense or in defense of another person's life
- When deadly force is objectively reasonable to effect the capture of, or prevent the escape or rescue of, a suspect whom the officer has reasonable cause to believe has committed a felony involving the use or a threat to use deadly force, and whom an objectively reasonable officer could believe would pose an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to other persons if he or she were to escape.
(Q) What is the overall role of the District Attorney?
(A) The District Attorney’s Office has the responsibility of reviewing each officer-involved shooting incident where there is a use of force which results in great bodily injury or fatality to ensure the case is being handled objectively and according to established protocol. Investigators for the District Attorney’s Office respond directly to the scene of the incident. They are able to review the crime scene and are briefed as to the status of the investigation by on-scene personnel. After a thorough review of the scene, they respond to the Police Department where they are able to monitor all aspects of the investigation.
As soon as practical after each incident, the District Attorney’s Investigators will report their findings regarding the status and conduct of the investigation to the District Attorney’s Office. The District Attorney’s Office has the right to initiate a separate and independent investigation into each incident should they so decide.
When the primary investigative team has compiled their reports they will present their case to the District Attorney’s Office to determine if an officer’s actions were legally justified. If the District Attorney’s Office determines the officer acted legally, they will then complete a detailed report describing the underlying facts, the applicable law, and the decision as to why the officer’s actions were, or were not, legally justified. If the District Attorney’s Office determines criminal liability on the part of the officer, the case will proceed through the criminal complaint process.
(Q) Are there opportunities for public forums, if so, whom do I contact?
(A) On an as-requested basis, the Independent Police Auditor sponsors public forums attended by representatives of the IPA’s office and the Police Department. Members of the public wishing to request a public forum should contact the IPA’s office at (408) 794-6226 or visit the IPA’s website at http://www.sanjoseca.gov/ipa/.
*Note: Due to continuous changes in the law and operational policies, the Duty Manual remains a fluid document and may undergo periodic revisions..