The Silicon Valley Voice

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City Charter: Police Chief Only Needs a High School Diploma

The qualifications to be Santa Clara’s elected police chief aren’t set by the City’s HR professionals or best practices established by policing professionals. The qualifications are set by a 2000 update to the City’s 1952 charter. And those qualifications are minimal.

The City Charter has a short list of requirements to run for police chief.

In addition to being a Santa Clara resident and registered voter, the candidate must have an active or inactive advanced certificate issued by the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), four years of fulltime law enforcement experience and “a high school diploma or the equivalent.”

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The charter doesn’t enumerate these requirements, instead merely says that the elected police chief qualifications will be the same as those for county sheriffs in California. This requirement can also be satisfied by:

  • One year of full-time law enforcement experience and a master’s degree;
  • Two years of full-time law enforcement experience and bachelor’s degree;
  • Three years of full-time law enforcement experience and an associate degree “or the equivalent.”

Assistant Chiefs Have Higher Bar

According to the City Charter, the bar is higher for Santa Clara’s Assistant Police Chiefs.

To start, the minimum education requirement is “education or experience equivalent” to a  bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, police science, business administration, or an approved related field.

Assistant chief candidates must also have a minimum of two years’ experience as a Police Lieutenant in Santa Clara, and have served as a sergeant or lieutenant in more than one division for “at least” two years.

“Desirable” experience includes:

  • Successful completion (and application) of P.O.S.T. Supervisory Leadership Institute (SLI), FBI National Academy, or P.O.S.T. Command College;
  • At least two years as a sergeant or higher in Personnel, Training, Professional Standards, or Reserve Police Unit Director, or Traffic Lieutenant;
  • A history of actively seeking diverse

Santa Clara At the Back of the Class When it Comes to Police Chief Qualifications

Santa Clara’s qualifications for its elected police chief are among the lowest in the Bay Area, and appear to be among the lowest statewide. The Weekly was unable to find any other City where a high school diploma or G.E.D. is considered sufficient formal education for a police chief.

And since 2021, when the California legislature passed a law mandating that new police officers have a bachelor’s degree, it’s theoretically possible for a Santa Clara police chief to have less formal education than the City’s newest recruits.

The International City/County Management Association recommends that among other requirements, a police chief should have “advanced education (e.g., a master’s degree in public administration, organizational leadership, or criminal justice) and management training through the FBI National Academy, IACP Center for Police Leadership, University of Louisville Southern Police Institute, or Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command.”

Every other California city The Weekly looked at requires a bachelor’s degree — with further education such as P.O.S.T. Management, the FBI National Academy or a master’s degree. Many cities also require 7-10 years of law enforcement experience, and 2-7 years in a management position. The Weekly’s research into the qualifications held by police chiefs in 30 California cities showed Santa Clara with one of the least qualified, and highest paid, chiefs.

This isn’t a new conversation in Santa Clara. Thirty years ago the San José Mercury reported that then police chief Manny Ferguson, after a vicious election, told the city council, ”I’ve never, ever believed an elected police chief is something we should have. For a city of our size, it’s unbelievably medieval.” [1993 mercury vote on elected police chief]

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4 Comments
  1. Buchser Alum 12 months ago
    Reply

    Carolyn,
    .
    I am not in principle opposed to changing our police chief position to being an appointed one.
    .
    Do you and everyone at the Silicon Valley Voice who have been writing opinion pieces advocating for this change also feel that the position of county sheriff should be changed from elected to appointed?

  2. Another SC Resident 12 months ago
    Reply

    I’m all having highly qualified candidates for Police Chief, but I find the title of this article to be very misleading. It implies that only a HS diploma is needed: “Police Chief *Only* Needs A High School Diploma”, emphasis on “only”.

    The article itself says that the candidate must have an active or inactive advanced certificate issued by the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), four years of fulltime law enforcement experience *and* “a high school diploma or the equivalent.” Emphasis on *and*… meaning in addition to the diploma, they need to have job experience as well.

    The title of the article seems to be phrased to be misleading and to generate “clicks”.

    Now, in my opinion, whether or not a candidate with “only” a HS diploma and years, if not decades, of relevant work experience is sufficient to lead the SCPD, is something the voters should decide. Personally, I’d rather have the voters decide than a few councilmembers.

  3. Civics 12 months ago
    Reply

    Now do the minimum qualifications for President of the United States.

  4. observation 11 months ago
    Reply

    At best, Carolyn, you are being untruthful and misleading.

    The devil is in the details.

    The city requirements for police chief include a candidate having been awarded an Advanced POST Certificate, after meeting many requirements for such.

    Carolyn, an Advanced Post Certificate would not be awarded to an individual who had only completed high school. You see, college is a requirement to receive an Advanced Post Certificate.

    Oops.

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