The Santa Clara Police Officers Association and its associated PAC are using the controversial grand jury report Unsportsmanlike Conduct on the Santa Clara City Council to launch a political campaign at the same time the union is in contract talks with the City.
The campaign features a website and mailers that use cherry-picked quotes from the now highly questioned grand jury report to paint Council Members Anthony Becker, Raj Chahal, Suds Jain, Karen Hardy and Kevin Park as dark — literally, with darkened faces — and corrupt.
Council Member Suds Jain doesn’t mince words.
“It’s negotiation time for the police union,” he said. “How do we know? Because the police PAC is sending out political mailers.”
“They are putting their foot on the scale in order to get a more favorable contract,” Jain continued. “With their political activity, the police have gotten candidates elected who are more than overly generous.”
It’s not a hard sell, said Gary Ferraris, president of Field Operations and Maintenance Staff union (Unit 6).
“It is very popular with voters to overfund police and shortchange other workers,” he said.
Unit 6 was on the verge of striking earlier this year after being the sole union asked to accept no increase.
The Weekly’s research has shown that before the police union got involved in City politics, not one of Santa Clara’s base police salaries were among top 25 police officer base salaries in California.
After the police union got involved in City politics in 2016, that picture changed.
In 2016, Santa Clara only accounted for 4 of the top 25 base police officer salaries. That number grew in 2017, when Santa Clara had 21 of the top 25 police base salaries. In 2018, the City had 19 of the top 25 police salaries and 17 in 2019.
This isn’t surprising. The union’s current contract stipulates that SCPD salaries will be “6% above the…average for the survey agencies as of January 1, 2021.”
Criticism of the police union’s politicking isn’t new.
In 2016, retired police chief Steve Lodge wrote to The Weekly, “In this election we see another example of the union going too far. They have raised over $70,000 from developers and other wealthy opportunists from outside Santa Clara to promote their candidate. Is that the role we want our police officers to play?”
This year, however, the police politicking has reached a new level.
“For [elected police chief] Nikolai to do what he’s doing is extremely political,” said Jain, pointing to Nikolai’s letter to District Attorney Jeff Rosen demanding a criminal investigation. “The grand jury report made no criminal allegations and did not recommend any criminal investigation.”
The union is grinding its axe over more than pay scale and benefits, says Jain.
“Why are they asking candidates to sign pledges to vote a certain way if [their actions are] not political?” asked Jain. “Why are they asking candidates to pledge to vote to keep the elected police chief before we have even had a conversation or consulted the people who live here about it? Only 15% of our police officers live in the City.
“Santa Clara is the only city in the Bay Area that still has a deficit,” Jain continued. “They all had the pandemic but they don’t have a deficit now. You can’t blame it on the 49ers because no general fund money goes to the stadium authority.”
“Of the $26 million that the City received from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, all of it went to police and fire,” he continued. “When we asked every department to cut 15%, they only cut 9%.”
Council Member Kevin Park has repeatedly pointed out the union is also lying in saying that the Council cut the police department’s budget when in fact Council gave them $1.7 million more than they asked for.
“I am not anti-police,” Jain said. “I’m not a ‘defund the police’ advocate. I care as much as the next person about safety.
“But I also care about our City finances,” he continued. “Lisa Gillmor is going to bankrupt the City. She has no idea how to get out of the deficit. What is she doing about adding more senior center hours? What is she doing about adding more library hours? She’s doing nothing. She has done nothing.”