San Jose police union pushes for restoration of elite anti-gang unit
Joe Rodriguez (Mercury News) | September 19, 2010
Trying to generate public pressure to force City Hall to reverse its decision, San Jose’s police union Sunday lambasted Mayor Chuck Reed and the City Council for disbanding an elite anti-gang unit.
“This is a warning,” said George Beattie, president of the San Jose Police Officers Association. “The elimination of the Violent Crime Enforcement Team will have a devastating impact on the city.”
Friday was the last day for the team, whose 21 officers were credited with making about 1,000 gang-related arrests annually in recent years. Better known by the unit’s acronym, VCET, officers mainly patrolled neighborhoods where gangs held sway, keeping a close eye on veteran gang leaders while steering younger ones to social services. It also kept scrupulous files on many of the city’s estimated 9,000 gang members.
To make its case against City Hall, the police union held a news conference at a strip mall in East San Jose where an innocent bystander — a 12-year-old boy — was shot in the head last Halloween night, allegedly by three gang members. He suffered near-fatal, disabling wounds.
The union also praised VCET’s record in a paid, full-page advertisement in Sunday’s Mercury News.
Almost a year later, the Halloween shooting has not been forgotten.
“The area needs more police,” said Saul Echeverría, who has a financial stake in the Costa Chica restaurant owned by his brother at the Sunset Gardens Plaza shopping center. “This area used to have an even bigger gang problem.”
Two City Council members, Nora Campos and Ash Kalra, joined the police union’s appeal to their fellow council members to reinstate the unit immediately.
“Without VCET, we can’t do it,” Kalra said. “They were doing the real heavy lifting against gangs.”
But Mayor Reed on Sunday defended the decision by Police Chief Rob Davis and the council to disband VCET as part of a larger reorganization that Reed said was largely the result of skyrocketing police pension benefits.
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Image source: Mercury News