A black activist who trained the San Jose Police Department on implicit bias was shot with a rubber bullet and seriously injured by the same department during a protest, the mayor’s office said.
Derrick Sanderlin suffered potentially permanent injuries during a demonstration in the city, according to a statement from the city’s Mayor Sam Liccardo. The incident took place on May 29, toward the start of the protests against racial bias and police brutality following the death of George Floyd in police custody.
The tensions grew between demonstrators and police that day as they marched towards the capitol, Sanderlin told CNN’s Don Lemon Monday night. Sanderlin stood between the two groups and begged the officers not to use force when, he said, one officer appeared to aim a gun with rubber bullets at his groin and fired.
“We are profoundly sorry for what happened to Derrick Sanderlin, a member of our community who has worked to help us become better police officers,” President of the San Jose Police Officer Association Tom Saggau said in a statement. “As a father I am heartbroken at reports that Mr. Sanderlin and his wife are worried they may not be able to have children.”
San Jose Police Chief Edgardo Garcia called Sanderlin “a real leader in our communities’ efforts to reduce bias and discrimination.” He said that he spoke to Sanderlin and assured him that the department will be investigating the incident.
Though Sanderlin said he could see that there were officers there who did not hold ill intent, he saw complicity. He said he sees the task of changing policing in America as a daunting task.
“I was holding a lot of tension over the years … trying to hope for something better and trying to fix the system slowly, and that was like someone trying to move a mountain with a shovel,” Sanderlin said.
Officials announce changes in policies
More than a week after Sanderlin’s injuries, the department announced changes Monday to policy and procedures related to concerns within the community.
The situation around the protests necessitates “updating our training and tactics in crowd control and a need for deeper engagement with our community on these issues,” Garcia said in a press release Monday.
The changes include requiring officers to report and intercede when they see another officer using excessive force, expressly prohibiting knee on neck choking and engaging the community in procedure reviews, according to the release.
Updates will also be made to crowd control. The release said that, effective immediately, projectile impact weapons can only be used “where a person is actively attacking an officer or another person or when an armed agitator poses a threat.”
Department-wide updates will be implemented on facilitating peaceful protests and media access, practical crowd control and a review of equipment to ensure the use of the safest options on the market, according to the release.
“Our dedication to continuous improvement did not start today and it will be ongoing,” Garcia said in the release. “This department’s love for our community is unwavering and will be the foundation from which we build a bridge through these difficult times.”
Mayor Liccardo said changes will also be taking place at the city level.
The goals include increasing accountability and “the firing of bad cops,” according to the mayor’s office. Measures also include collecting data on every patdown, stop, arrest and use of force by race, hiring external experts to analyze the data and enhancing psychological testing, the mayor said.
“Safety from police violence is a civil right,” Liccardo said. “Safety from all violence is a human right.”