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.
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.