REGARDING LAW ENFORCEMENT ACTIONS
August 31, 1991
By Yolanda Reynolds
The Santa Clara County Human Relations Commission heard a series of protests regarding police behavior as it affects the Hispanic community, in a lengthy meeting on Tuesday evening.
Dona Racheal Silva, a long time Eastside resident recounted a recent incident in which San Jose police had put a gun to her head while she and her son were leaving an area (a short distance away) where a robbery had occurred. She says that this took place, even though the police had a video tape of the thief. Mrs. Silva feels that she and her son were accosted simply because her son is a parolee.
The police ordered her son out of the car, roughed him up and frightened Dona Silva, who has a severe heart condition. Silva is just now recovering from a recent heart attack.
The harassment did not end there Silva says that several days later the Police, in combat formation with guns drawn, marched down the street to her home. The alarmed neighbors were told “Silva’s son robbed an elderly couple at gunpoint.” According to Silva, the police broke a side bedroom window and entered her home – when in fact the front door to her home was open that day.
The police said that they would be coming by her home every hour on the hour and the police helicopter ﬂies overhead, flashing its spot light on her home almost nightly. Silva says she objects to such harassment.
Mrs. Silva has been unable to obtain records of any of these recent incidents. She has been told that “there are none.” Police further contended that they did not have to be accountable to families and neighbors of ex-offenders and also mentioned that there was a warrant out on Mrs. Silva. Mrs. Silva has not been able to locate the warrant nor does she know of what she might be accused.
John Ramos, a spokesman for a group, the “Citizens for Racheal Committee” and a resident in Racheal’s neighborhood, read a proclamation protesting the endangerment of Racheal Silva’s life. ‘The Committee asked that the County Human Relations Commission investigate this matter involving Racheal and her son. The Committee further stated that it was concerned that other elderly persons in the community are been mistreated, particularly the families of ex-offenders.
County Commission member, Robert Delgado, was concerned that there was no police report of the incidents described by Mrs. Silva.
Commissioner Tom Sing wanted to know the name of the officer who informed Mrs. Silva that there was a warrant out on her.
Long time community activist, Henry Dominguez, spoke forcefully regarding this incident and others that have been brought to the attention of La Confederacion de la Raza Unida. Dominguez asked for an investigation. He said “We (the community) are getting plea bargaining, not Justice.”
Dominguez mentioned that recently a young (15 year old) man was badly beaten and almost killed by the policemen when he tried to tell his parents about his young friend, who the police were roughing up. The son was taken to Juvenile Hall.
The mother of the injured youth was subsequently served with a warrant for obstructing justice. Her one action appears to be that she scooped up in her hands some of the blood that had pooled around her son who was lying on the pavement near the garage door. An officer stuck her son on the head with his baton.
The mother, fearing her son dead, held her son’s blood and asked the police what her son could have done to cause such behavior on their part.
Once accused, competent and proper legal defense is very costly. Many families cannot absorb such expense. It is common practice for many charges of wrong doing to be lodged against a “suspect.”
To remove suspicion and clear the record, each charge that is made must be answered. To do that takes hours of a lawyer’s time and, consequently, is a very costly process. Especially since a person has no assurance that justice will indeed be served.
Dominguez said that the “war” on drugs and the “war” on gangs has put the entire community under siege. He added that shoddy treatment of innocent elders or children of the community will not be tolerated.
Debra Ramon. another Eastside resident told of a young Latina girl (14) who had been raped by 3 Latino males, one of whom is an adult. Ramon said that the police who investigated the complaint seemed to feel that since the rape involved all Latinos. “it was no big deal.”
The young rape victim attempted suicide but her alert parents saved her life.
Ramon pointed out that inaction by the police is also a form of harassment.
Maria Ortiz, a member of La Confederacion de la Raza Unida, said that she was very concerned for the well being of Latino youth and said that children were feeling terrorized and losing respect for law enforcement officials. Ortiz announced that a group has been formed to study complaints involving law enforcement abuses. The group is named. “Raza Victims Against Police Violence.”
Henry Morillo, an artist, said that abuses toward the community by law enforcement officials changed his mind about a career in las enforcement. He does not want this bad image of the enforcement of the law to continue and thus discourage other youth from the important service that most police officers provide for the community.
Robert Duran, a noted poet living in East San Jose, read a poem he wrote in honor of Racheal entitled “Racheal.” The poem was published last year by the University of California Press, Santa Cruz in a collection of poems on feminist themes. Duran also read a poem that he wrote while serving time in prison for preventing a San Jose police officer from killing a friend.
Aurora Becerra, another long-time community advocate from the 60’s, questioned the role of the Commission and mentioned that her requests for help appeared to fall on deaf ears, even though there were promises that the matter “would be looked into.”
Juan Haro, a senior at San Jose State and a member of MECHA announced that a “Raza Victims Fund” had been established. He also asked the Commission for clasiﬁcation on the time and the manner in which the Commission would respond to the many concerns that the group had brought to their attention.
Commission Bob Gonzales reminisced about the days that he, James McAntee (the Director of the County’s Human Relations Department) and Racheal Silva worked shoulder to shoulder on similar law enforcement issues in the late 60’s. He said to Rachael “It was you who created equal opportunity in this valley.”
Human Relations Director, Jim McAntee, began the evening meeting by expressing his deep respect for Racheal. He added that Racheal is it highly respected leader in the community. McAntee has known Racheal since 1965.
The Commission promised to pursue every avenue possible because a throughout investigation of the complaints they heard that evening and to discover the extent of similar actions towards others who were not at Tuesday’s meeting.
The Commission also directed Alberto Carrillo, a Human Relations staff person, to personally visit Racheal’s neighbors and inform them that the police allegations of It hold up involving her son were false.
After having had very bad community – police relations in the 1960’s. San Jose’s police department had greatly improved the training and selection of its’ officers, which resulted in substantially improved community relations for many years.
These reports indicate that, at last among some members of the police department, a very disturbing trend has emerged.
It is imperative for the future of matters must move to insure that law enforcement officials and personnel work together with the community to avoid the turbulent and counterproductive conflict that has torn other cities apart.
Airing these grievance before the Commission is the first step towards addressing this very serious issue and clearly reflects at desire for mutual participation in arriving at solutions.
For contact regarding La Confederacion de la Raza 251-2885.
For more information regarding the Raza Victims Fund. telephone 729-9052.
The Santa Clara County Human Relations Committee may be contacted at 299-2206. © La Oferta Newspaper.