Dear Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force Members:
First, I want to commend you on deferring the topic of an Elected Police Chief until the public had an opportunity to weigh in. Public input is very important as most city employees who strongly oppose change in the City of Santa Clara have never lived in the city and likely never will.
Before I offer Scope, Accountability, and Risk opinion as to why the position of police chief should be appointed in the future and not elected, I’m curious as to why a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (D.E.I.) Task Force would even be involved in the matter? Here are the foundations of my curiosity…
Scope of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion VS. Police Accountability
- D.E.I. and Police Accountability are two separate topics: Workplace diversity training first emerged in the 1960’s whereas what we know today as Diversity, Equity and Inclusion has only been around for about a decade gaining momentum as a corporate/public-policy initiative along with the #MeToo Movement, George Floyd Protests, and Stop AAPI Hate campaigns. The City of Santa Clara’s D.E.I. Task Force charter is to provide “considerations in developing policy and strategy recommendations to achieve racial equity” and should not be confused or blurred with (b) Police Accountability which creates mechanisms for community control over law enforcement.
Through LinkedIn profiles, I see two of you have undergraduate degrees from Santa Clara University and law degrees from Duke University and University of San Francisco; another has a Master’s in Global Leadership from the University of San Diego. If the D.E.I. Task Force have been provided misaligned direction from the city’s mayor, Lisa Gillmor, or police chief, Patrick Nikolai, regarding the role and scope of the D.E.I. Task Force’s charter, you should consider educating them that D.E.I. and Police Accountability are separate topics. You’ll notice below that your own alma mater’s separate the two topics.
- Santa Clara University: DEI; Police Accountability
- Duke University: DEI; Police Accountability
- University of San Francisco: DEI; Police Accountability
- University of San Diego: DEI; Police Accountability
- Police Accountability is largely described as the high expectation placed upon law enforcement agencies and individual officers to act in a responsible and legal manner while upholding the law and controlling crime. This requirement does not provide exclusion or immunity to any officer of a particular race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic status, language, (dis)ability, age, religious commitment, or political perspective. In the case of Santa Clara, current discussion of police accountability is whether the police chief should be (a) a departmental manager constantly and immediately accountable to the City Council and/or City Manager without omission of facts and investigation or (b) an elected politician only up for review once every four years if matters are actually publicly disclosed.
I believe the above resources clearly define what is, and what is not, a D.E.I. task force’s scope of responsibility.
Who Should the Police Chief Be Accountable To?
In the 1973 movie “Serpico”, honest New York City cop Frank Serpico reveals to character Captain Inspector McClain his witnessing of endemic corruption in the department to which the captain proclaims, “Holy mother of God, Frank, we wash our own laundry around here!” Serpico replies, “we do not wash our own laundry, it just gets dirtier!” The testimony and subsequent movie was based on the real-life accounts of former NYC cop, Frank Serpico, who was finally recognized last month (Feb 2022) with the NYPD Medal of Honor – some 50 years after his 1971 testimony.
- Over the past couple decades, the City of Santa Clara’s police department had had the highest number/percentage of peace officers, in the Bay Area, arrested and convicted of crimes. (Rodriguez, Seadler, Rojas, Nguyen, Leipelt, Burde, Henderson, Green, Cooke, Gilbert, and others)
- On June 11, 2020, Patrick Nikolai stated, “the union is there to ensure that any discipline is done fair and through a judicious process.” He continued, “there are rules that we as management need to follow; would the union insist that we follow the rules? Yes, they would, that’s what their job is.” (Minute 41, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ePwreCsEWQ&t=693s). Nikolai is stating that his office relies on subordinate officers for advice instead of the City of Santa Clara’s Human Resources, City Attorney, and City Manager’s Office.
- According to a 2018 Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury report, City of Santa Clara peace officers had the lowest hours of Critical Incident Training per officer and the highest percentage of Officer Involved Shootings (per officer employment population) in Santa Clara County to include Jesus Geney-Montes who had not committed a crime, was unarmed, and was wearing nothing but swim trunks.
The State of California and our nation typically associates elected chiefs of police with the position of Sheriff, not a city police chief. That’s because of all the cities in the state of California, the City of Santa Clara’s police chief is the only one who is elected. Every other city hires and appoints their police chief who reports directly to either the mayor or city manager. Public CEO
In fact, over the years many legal and public policy think tanks have questioned why entities across the U.S. still elect a sheriff when there are plenty of great examples of how county supervisors, much like a city, can oversee the hiring and management of a county police chief.
- 2016 U.S. News: Running for a Badge: Why Does the U.S. Still Elect Sheriffs?
- 2020 NPR: Do Elected Sheriffs Have Outsized Power In The U.S.?
- 2020 L.A. Times: Sheriffs should not be elected
The City of Santa Clara’s election criteria for police chief instructs that a candidate must reside within the City of Santa Clara. According to a cursory comparison of current Command Staff Biographies to publicly available addresses, only Patrick Nikolai resides within the City of Santa Clara. This leaves very few future qualified candidates for Santa Clara voters to consider. With a change to the charter, the City of Santa Clara’s elected officials can open a wide search hiring the best candidate available for the job and, if needed, fire a police manager for incompetence, corruption, or failing to meet expectations of the city and community at large.
In considering an amendment to the police chief charter, I expect the City Council to independently take up the matter and leave the D.E.I. Task Force to focus on its own charter.
Thanks for your time, Gary Bondaug