According to the City of Santa Clara’s hiring description for entry level Fire Fighter 1 and Recruit Police Officer, applicants must provide proof of professional license, certifications, associate or higher-level college degree, and other documentation before they can even be considered for the job advising: “Meeting the minimum qualifications does not guarantee admittance into the examination process. Only the most qualified candidates who demonstrate the best combination of qualifications in relation to the requirements and duties of the position will be invited to test.”
The benefit of city managed qualification and hiring processes was evident in May 2019 when Ruben Torres was formally appointed as Santa Clara’s new Fire Chief. To participate in a highly competitive interview process, Torres offered proof of his Public Administration Bachelor’s Degree from National University and evidence of 33 years senior leadership experience in San Jose’s and Pleasanton’s fire departments.
Most cities in California require a bachelor’s degree plus advanced law enforcement leadership training and certification to be considered an applicant for police chief. The image below are all the current appointed Police Chiefs in Santa Clara County, their verified academic accomplishments, and advanced law enforcement training certifications.
Like Fire Chief Torres, police and fire chiefs in all cities bordering the City of Santa Clara submitted proof of their higher academic degrees and leadership academy certifications before they were recruited, interviewed, and appointed to their respective executive roles.
Suspiciously, Santa Clara’s Pat Nikolai is the only police chief in the county refusing to provide proof that he has a college degree.
On November 14, 2023, Public Records Act request #23-977 was submitted to Santa Clara Police Department inquiring which university Nikolai received his bachelor’s degree from. The very next day, Nikolai’s office closed PRA #23-977 without confirming. A similar PRA Request (#23-1195) was filed with the City of Santa Clara, who provided a document titled “Sworn Statement for Chief of Police Candidates to Meet Requirement of Government Code Section 24004.3.”
Under penalty of perjury, Nikolai signed this document on August 4, 2020, which was five months after he was the only candidate that appeared on the March 3, 2020 Primary Election Ballot. How was Nikolai allowed to be on a ballot for Police Chief before providing evidence that he was qualified to do so?
Nikolai’s sworn requirement statement did not identify which category of qualifications he met to be Chief of Police. The City of Santa Clara does not have its own requirements outlining minimum candidate credentials to be police chief. Instead, the current elected system relies on an old and very basic requirement at the State level for County Sheriffs.
Just one of these five requirements is needed to be elected a County Sheriff or Santa Clara’s Police Chief.
- An active or inactive advanced certificate issued by the Commission on POST or
- 1 year basic level law enforcement experience + Masters Degree or
- 2 years basic level law enforcement experience + Bachelors Degree or
- 3 years basic level law enforcement experience + Associates Degree or equivalent or
- 4 years basic level law enforcement experience + G.E.D./H.S. Diploma
It doesn’t make sense that the City of Santa Clara seeks “only the most qualified candidates who demonstrate the best combination of qualifications” for entry level police officers but has a far lower requirement to be Police Chief. Even if Nikolai were to produce evidence of which university conferred on him a college degree, Santa Clara would likely still have the least educated and lowest professionally certified police chief in the county.
Additional doubts of transparency and accountability continue to encircle Nikolai as some of his most vocal political campaign supporters have intentionally misrepresented themselves as being a 501(c)(3) charitable non-profit and recently it was revealed Nikolai didn’t speak out against multiple police friends after allegations of racism and other crimes were sustained and documented within SCPD.
This likely wouldn’t be tolerated in other cities where a police chief reports to the City Manager. But unlike all other cities in California, Santa Clara is the only one that currently elects a police chief who doesn’t report to anyone regularly.
The lack of transparency, accountability, and qualifications in Santa Clara can be changed on March 5, 2024. Your YES vote on Measure B will ensure the City of Santa Clara seeks, qualifies, interviews, and hires a highly credentialed and experienced Police Chief. Without your YES vote, we could be stuck with the lowest qualified, non-transparent politician acting as police chief for the foreseeable future.
Please VOTE YES on Measure B!