Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | san jose
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San Jose Police shoulder patchThe San Jose Mercury News, which broke the story several weeks ago of a video that shows San Jose police may have used unnecessary force when officers arrested a San Jose State University student, is now under a darkening cloud of questions about the batons and Taser used to subdue Phuong Ho. The Mercury News today published a follow-up article with an enhanced version of the cell-phone video that had been shot by a roommate with clearer sound, which shows Ho compliant, crying and repeatedly asking for his glasses, which had been knocked off by an officer. The Mercury News article says:
All four officers on the scene were placed on administrative leave last month on the day the grainy video, provided to the Mercury News by Ho's lawyer, first was posted on the newspaper's Web site. The department has completed an investigation into the incident and turned over its results to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office, which is deciding whether to file criminal charges against the officers. Charges that the office brought against Ho in September, for brandishing a weapon at another roommate and resisting arrest, are pending. Meanwhile on Wednesday, Mayor Chuck Reed called on a City Council committee to step up outside review of the department's use of force. The mayor's recommendation comes after continuing controversy over the issue. The Mercury News reported Nov. 1 that a study of more than 200 criminal prosecutions of resisting arrest last year showed that the police use of force in such instances often developed from minor infractions, including jaywalking and missing bike head lamps. Most of those cases involve people of color, the newspaper review found.
I'll let the legal system and City Council review run its course, but I agree with the Mercury News' editorials, which called for, and now applaud the review of the cops' use of force. Just listening to the audio and reading the transcripts gave me a queasy feeling in my gut, not just because Ho is Asian, but also because for most of my life, I was virtually blind without my glasses, and I know the feeling of desperation and panic that I can hear clearly in Ho's voice when he keeps asking for his glasses. You can read the full transcript of the enhanced video. Here's an excerpt:

These banners are on display throughout San Jose Unlike the many Chinatowns that serve as ethnic cultural enclaves in many American cities from coast to coast, and the increasing numbers of districts variously called "Koreatowns" and "Little Saigons," you won't find many Nihonmachi, or Japantowns. There are lots of reasons for this, but the main one is probably the Japanese American community's need to assimilate into mainstream America after the shame and humiliation of being imprisoned in internment camps during World War II. In the 1950s and '60s, most JAs moved into suburban America and avoided clustering in ethnic Japanese areas. Denver has Sakura Square, a one-block development built in the 1970s I like to call "Tiny Tokyo" because it's ridiculously small compared to Los Angeles' Little Tokyo. And New York City has a couple-blocks of Japanese businesses that have sprouted in recent years in the East Village that might be called a "mini-Japantown" in Manhattan. Seattle's Japantown evolved after the war into the International District, though I think it's still anchored by the awesome, generations-old Uwajimaya supermarket. But not surprisingly, the three Japantowns that are officially recognized as national historic districts are all in California, where the vast majority of Japanese immigrants settled in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Along with the well-known and tourist-filled Little Tokyo in LA and San Francisco's Japantown is the Japantown area of San Jose that's more a neighborhood than a business district. Erin and I have traveled to and stayed at both Little Tokyo and San Francisco's Japantown, but only visited San Jose's J-town a couple of times. We spent a few hours there last week and we love it. Here's why:

The San Jose Mercury News has been driving the coverage of the ongoing controversy over the way San Jose police officers arrested Phuong Ho, a 20-year-old San Jose State math major who allegedly threatened his roommate with a steak knife. Another roommate shot cell phone video footage that appears to show Ho crying out as he's Tasered and beaten by one officer using a baton while another stands by with a relaxed stance. Ho was treated at a hospital for Taser burns and cuts, including to his head. The Merc (full disclosure: I work for MediaNews Group, the parent company of the San Jose Mercury News) published the video on its website over the weekend, and the footage has sparked a protest within San Jose's large Vietnamese community and within the Asian American blogosphere, claiming the police officers abused their power. Attorneys for the officer deny that excessive force was used, and said in an article today on the Merc's website, "Mr. Ho is responsible for his conduct, and he is responsible for not taking lawful directives from a police officer. He is being combative and non-compliant, and he raises the stakes of the game."
The Mercury News obtained a copy of the videotape last week from Ho's attorney, and showed it to six experts, four of whom expressed alarm at the force used by the officers as Ho can be heard on the ground, crying and moaning. Several of the experts expressed alarm at the last baton strike, appearing to occur after Ho has been handcuffed — which is how Ho recounts the incident. But attorneys (Terry) Bowman and Craig Brown ... both said Monday that Ho was struck only after he was resisting, and not after the handcuffs had been applied to both hands. Bowman said that the poor quality of the video has caused confusion over this point, adding: "Whatever people think they are hearing, it is not the sound of handcuffs before the last baton strike." Siegel is a 15-year veteran; Payne, a three year veteran of the force, is a combat veteran and son of a veteran officer. The Mercury News provided a copy of the tape recording to police officials last Thursday with the approval of Ho's attorney, and they promptly launched the investigation.