Lawyers’ Committee Files Formal Complaint against San Jose Police Department Alleging Misconduct and Unauthorized Use of Force

Keynote Speaker at San Jose State Graduation Ceremony assaulted, beaten, jailed and released without charges.

Media Contact: Candice Francis / Communications Director, LCCR /  415.543.9697 x216 / cfrancis@lccr.com

(San Francisco, CA) – Today, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area filed a formal Conduct Complaint against the San Jose Police Department (SJPD) on behalf of twenty-three year old Nathaniel Howard who was beaten and detained by SJPD officers after inquiring about the officers’ rough treatment of his friend, who was issued a minor criminal citation. Mr. Howard was in San Jose to give the keynote speech at San Jose State University’s Black Graduation Ceremony. The assault occurred at a subsequent graduation party following the ceremony. Mr. Howard was released after several hours without charge.

This Complaint alleges that the beating and detention were excessive and without probable cause.  At no time did Mr. Howard engage in any illegal conduct, pose any threat to any officer or member of the public, or interfere with any officer’s duties. Onlookers who were in the vicinity at the time of the incident, which occurred in the early morning hours of May 24th, recorded the event.  The unedited digital video recording can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5lnfcY3YWuY.

“Of course I do not think all cops are bad,” said Mr. Howard. “But many use their power excessively, and this is what is shown in this video. I was within my rights to speak up and I broke no laws in the process. Yet, I was slammed to the ground, my face forced on the sidewalk where people walk and dogs urinate.”

“This pattern of excessive police force is not new to the SJPD, and this incident serves to exacerbate the already strained relationship between the police force and communities of color,” said Joanna Cuevas Ingram, attorney and Equal Justice Rights fellow at the Lawyers’ Committee. “Given how routinely the city rejects force complaints such as the one filed today, clients like Mr. Howard fear they won’t have a fair hearing.”

In 2013, 2012, and 2010, SJPD sustained zero force allegations – yet in 2013, the Independent Police Auditor (IPA) reported that 40% of all allegations included the use of a “control hold” and 29% the use of bodily weapons – which it appears Mr. Howard was also subjected to.

On his behalf, the Lawyers’ Committee is asking that the:

  • IPA reviews the Internal Affairs (IA) investigation to ensure it is thorough, fair and complete.
  • IPA closely scrutinizes the IA investigation to ensure that remedial action includes a finding sustaining the allegations made by Mr. Howard.
  • IPA recommends appropriate relief, which should include:
    • formal discipline of the officers involved;
    • a formal, written apology from the SJPD to Mr. Howard; and,
    • increased training of all SJPD officers regarding excessive force police misconduct.

Nathaniel Howard is a 2013 Graduate of the University of Southern California (USC).  The fall following his graduation from USC, he started the “BE the Voice” program at Helix Charter High School in La Mesa, California. Through this program, he teaches high school students how to write and perform poetry.  As a result of his work in the community, he has frequently been asked to speak at events, such as the TEDx Talks at San Diego State University.  His work has been featured in numerous publications including The Huffington Post, L.A. Times, and National Public Radio (NPR).