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Milestones – They Don’t Want You to Pay Attention! – Opinion

As you may already know, there is an election in Santa Clara on March 5th.

The Santa Clara Police Officers Association has decided its preferred outcome and doesn’t want you to mess up their game plan by voting.

With the blessing, encouragement and more-than-generous contracts ensured by Mayor Lisa Gillmor and her former council, the POA has its own rules for operating in Santa Clara. In fact, they are so sure of their autonomy and independence they have already selected their choice for Santa Clara’s next chief of police.

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Ah yes, there is nothing like the fox being appointed to guard the chicken coop.

But wait a second. If the vote has already been decided by the POA, why would residents vote? This answer depends on voters like you. If you don’t vote in March for an independent, professional appointed chief, you will get what the POA gives you. Which means the POA continues to run their show as they please with one of their own as their chief.

If you decide to vote, you can transfer decision power and choice from the POA to the city manager and the people’s representatives on the city council. Unlike the police chief, council members are elected in competitive races with more than one candidate.

The current process of electing a chief of police generally goes to the candidate who has the most money to fund a campaign. It has little to do with experience, skill, ability, qualifications or management capabilities.

Currently, in Santa Clara, the POA decides who it wants as chief and funds that candidate’s campaign for election. Mayor Gillmor totally supports the POA because it also funds her campaigns.

Because it’s an elected position, the City is powerless to reprimand, oversee or evaluate the position of the Chief of Police. The City is legally accountable for police malfeasance, but the police chief is accountable to no one.

You think I must be kidding? Nope. That’s the way it is currently. An elected chief is not responsible to anyone in the City that can evaluate their performance.

This means that only voters, not City management, have one opportunity to evaluate the chief’s performance once every four years. And that’s not really an opportunity because there’s only one candidate.

Mayor Gillmor’s argument that “We have always done it this way” is old, tired and should be retired.

Voting for an appointed chief would provide oversight and accountability for a job that has enormous responsibility and visibility. Yet, this is the one and only position in the City that is immune from review and accountability.

Therefore, you don’t need to vote…unless…you think accountability and responsibility are important.

And congratulations to the SF 49ers, who won the NFC championship Sunday and will return to the Super Bowl to confront the Kansas City Chiefs on February 11th.

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10 Comments
  1. John Haggerty 5 months ago
    Reply

    I very much share your concerns about having a police chief who has such a heavy union background (and backing) because there are two sides to the bargaining table–the employer side and the employee side. However, a better, more democratic option would be to expand the candidate pool (i.e., expand the residency requirement), recruit a non-union candidate, and win by convincing we, the People of your choice. ALL of our other categories of law enforcement officials — district attorneys, sheriffs, the Attorney General, and even judges (via retention elections) — are elected throughout our state. This has resulted in much better relations between the community and law enforcement than exist in the cities of Oakland, San Jose, and San Francisco all of whom appoint their police chiefs. In addition, unlike our current City Charter, Measure B sets forth no minimum qualifications whatsoever for Police Chief. Moreover, at no time did our City Council or the Charter Review Committee ever ask our recently appointed City Manager (who is also uniquely charged with supervising a power company and a major league stadium) if his office can handle the additional burdens of supervising our police department (nor has he ever volunteered a response in this regard). How can the voters of our city hand over their authority to a politically City-Council-appointed manager when he has not even answered that question?

    • CSC 5 months ago
      Reply

      John, your assertions are wrong. There are a wide array of criteria to choose from and both the City Manager and City Attorney are familiar with minimum qualifications for a police chief. Chula Vista, San Bruno, and Berkeley appoint their police chiefs, that’s where Googins and Grogan came from.
      .
      There are plenty of resources to leverage as well. One example is Lexipol which is a law enforcement industry company that currently provides the Santa Clara Police Department with its Policy Manual and can also provide Police Executive search services. https://www.santaclaraca.gov/our-city/departments-g-z/police-department/about-us/santa-clara-police-department-policy-manual
      .
      On or about September 21, 2023 the Charter Review Committee were presented with a digital copy of “Selecting a Police Chief: A Handbook for Local Government” which is published jointly by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and Police Executive Research Forum (PERF).
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      This past December, City Manager Grogan hired Chuck Baker as Assistant City Manager to oversee Stadium Authority and Convention Center operations. https://www.linkedin.com/in/chuckbakeris/
      .
      With a YES Vote on Measure B Santa Claran’s won’t be relinquishing any authority. Only about half of the residents vote and Nikolai will be retiring soon, so a November 2024 ballot would – again – have only one lacky candidate that the police union has already picked. Spoiler Alert: the person they’ve picked doesn’t have any law enforcement executive leadership experience. Vote YES on Measure B and help everyone obtain a highly credentialed, highly educated, and highly experienced police chief this year!

      • John Haggerty 5 months ago
        Reply

        Thank you, CSC, for your thoughtful and informative response to my above comment. However, you have not disputed the following points which I made in my comment: (a) appointed police chiefs have not worked out well for San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland; (b) Measure B, itself, does not set forth any qualifications for the appointed police chief (while it is true that the City Manager can consult the resources which you list, he is not required to do so nor does Measure B require him to comply with what those resources suggest); (c) the City Manager has not stated whether or not his office has the resources to supervise our normal city functions, the stadium, the power company, and the police department–a tall order; (d) to enable the citizens of our city to make an informed decision on Measure B, the City Manager needs to directly answer this basic, highly relevant question; and (e) those, who want a police chief who is less union-connected (or one with a different approach to the 49ers), could recruit and support such a candidate for the November 2024 election (rather than expending all of the enormous efforts which they have expended in support of Measure B–a measure which essentially asks the citizens of our city to hand over their longstanding right to directly elect their Police Chief to the appointee of a highly political and union-influenced City Council).

        • CSC 5 months ago
          Reply

          John…
          (a) The Bay Area has 101 municipalities in 9 counties. The National Center for Education Statistics categorized urban area cities as Large 250k+, Midsize 100k-249k, Small <100k and the FBI has 6 groups for Uniform Crime Reporting based on populations and socio-economic conditions. San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland are considered Large, Group 1 cities. Santa Clara is considered Midsize, Group 2. Sunnyvale (pop. 155k) and Mountain View (80k) would be closer comparisons. Appointed Police Chiefs in both those, and all other Santa Clara County cities, appear to be working very well.
          .
          (b) Measure B is an effort to amend part of the City Charter to make it consistent with every other city in the State. Every other city were capable of determining their own Police Chief criteria based on need, Santa Clara will do the same.
          .
          (c) No “taller” than in the cities of Inglewood with SoFi Stadium or Anaheim that has both Angel Stadium & Honda Center.
          .
          (d) By relevant question, I take it you mean “has resources to supervise”? The City Manager currently manages all but one police officer in Santa Clara. “Police Officer” includes both Assistant Police Chiefs (Rush/Kazem), all captains, all lieutenants, all sergeants, and all police officers – about 150 total.
          .
          (e) Every Santa Clara police officer is union connected. Both assistant police chiefs (Rush/Kazem) were once sergeants and active participants in the employee union. The cost of putting Measure B on the ballot is a lot less expensive than having to blow $300k every four years just to have one police chief candidate on the ballot – which takes only one voter to elect. In 2020, it cost the City $300k just to have Nikolai as the only candidate on the ballot and if Measure B doesn’t pass, it will cost the City $400k this November to have only one candidate on the ballot and we don’t even know who that will be.
          .
          Vote Yes on Measure B. This way we’ll save more than $1,000,000 over the next 10 years and we’ll know a highly educated and highly credentialed Police Chief will lead Santa Clara’s Police Department.

          • John Kerry Haggerty 5 months ago

            CSC,
            I am intrigued by your point (d) where you state that “[t]he City Manager currently manages all but one police officer in Santa Clara.” Your point here (which may be accurate) prompts the question, “If he is already supervising the department, then why do we need a Measure B?” Indeed, why would we need a Police Chief at all?
            More importantly, it is not clear to me that the City Manager has the authority to (or should) supervise our police department. Nothing in Section 802 of the City Charter (re the City Manager’s powers and duties) expressly states that he is in charge of the police department whereas Section 906 of our Charter states that “[t]he Chief of Police shall have power and be required to: (a) “Preserve the public peace; . . . (c) Exercise all the powers that are now or may hereafter be conferred upon sheriffs and other police officers by the laws of the State. ” Surely, our Police Chief must supervise our police department (and whom it hires) if he or she is to accomplish these duties which we have assigned to the Police Chief in our Charter.
            This brings me back to an earlier point of mine which is that our entire state elects all 58 of our county sheriffs and district attorneys to supervise their law enforcement agencies, not some appointed manager whom a politicized and union-influenced City Council can terminate as it deems fit (as recently happened with respect to both our city’s prior City Manager and its prior City Attorney).

  2. MMW 5 months ago
    Reply

    From what I am reading about the City Council and the problems it is having, I am much more comfortable with the citizens electing their Chief of Police rather than the Chief being appointed by Council members who are, or even may be, instruments of the 49’er cabal (and I believe they constitute the majority). Better the citizens elect than the 49ers appoint.

    • SC Voter 4 months ago
      Reply

      A YES vote on Measure B will make the City Manager responsible for appointing the Police Chief, NOT the City Council. They City Manager will also work with the Police Chief to set annual performance goals and provide regular evaluations of the Chief’s work. That does NOT happen now.

      Santa Clara deserves the best qualified Police Chief we can find. We have one of the highest paid Police Chiefs in the state–we should be able to attract one of the highest qualified Chiefs. The current system limits us to police officers who live in Santa Clara, and the POA limits our choice to the ONE candidate they support.

  3. ve ga 5 months ago
    Reply

    From my understanding of the police chief election, it is a setup that favors existing police candidates favored by the police association.

    Thinking about it. Who is going to come from outside Santa Clara to compete in an election against a union supported candidate? That effectively eliminates possibly better candidates. By having an appointed chief, we have a chance of finding better candidates.

    • SC Voter 4 months ago
      Reply

      EXACTLY right Ve Ga!!

  4. Santa Clara Voter 4 months ago
    Reply

    You have to wonder why the Police Union is spending SO much money trying to convince Santa Clara voters to not do what every other city in California does–appoint a police chief.

    Could it be that then the Union will lose its power to select a candidate from among its ranks knowing that no other officer will run against the chosen candidate?

    The is usually NO choice when the chief is elected in Santa Clara because the Union selects the only candidate they want.

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