September 16, 2010; Source: San Jose Mercury News | The United Way of Silicon Valley’s decision to honor the San Jose police department with a “Community Builder” award is not sitting well with community and civil rights leaders. The San Jose Mercury News reports the heads of 12 civil rights and community-based groups sent a letter to United Way this week saying that the award “felt like a slap in the face.”

Specifically, the letter’s senders said they do not regard the police as “role models in community building.” Instead they cited problems with the department that include racial profiling and use of excessive force that are creating tensions between local communities and police. “It’s as if they (United Way) didn’t recognize the concerns people of color have with police profiling and all the other problems,” said Raul Colunga, a former chairman of the Santa Clara County Council on Equal Employment Opportunities.

Separately, the police department came under harsh criticism on Thursday when People Acting in Community Together held a news conference to present findings from a survey of 1,800 parishioners from one of the city’s Roman Catholic churches. The survey revealed both considerable distrust and fear of law enforcement. More than one-third of the survey respondents said the police had stopped them without cause and that 22.5 percent would not report a crime in progress, mostly out of fear of deportation.

According to the Mercury News, many people said they “suspected police traffic check points are immigration raids in disguise, designed to confiscate autos belonging to undocumented immigrants.” The one bright spot from the survey is a desire of a majority of those surveyed for better relations with the police. Speaking at the news conference, Police Chief Rob Davis said “one hundred percent of the police department” also wants better relations to the community.—Bruce Trachtenberg