Real Inclusion and Transparency in the IPA Selection Process

In an effort to move the city out of the debacle of the IPA selection of Chris Constantin, the Mayor and several Councilmembers have been trading memos regarding the next attempt to hire an IPA, leading up to a potential Cinco de Mayo vote tomorrow. But rushing forward with another hiring process before a full investigation has been done on “IPA-gate” would do San Jose a disservice, and leave lingering suspicions.

While Constantin did the right thing and declined to take the job, what was really exposed, was not so much Constantin’s personal history, but rather a hiring and vetting process set up and signed off by City leaders that in the end produced the brother of a San Jose Police Officer to monitor the San Jose Police department. At best it was a poorly crafted process that allowed for the unimaginable to occur, and at worst it was an intentional deception.

Even in hindsight, it is hard to believe just due to the sheer number of people involved throughout the selection process—a high powered hiring firm, a number of councilmembers, the Mayor, and 20 community panelists. But looking back, what the last IPA hiring process exampled was the well-orchestrated illusion of transparency and inclusion, why the act can’t substitute the real thing, and why we can’t run the risk of going down that road again.

And the truth is, we still don’t know key information regarding the last hiring process. The issue of Constantin’s brother may have only been the part of the glacier that poked above dark waters.  For this reason, a number of organizations concerned with police accountability issues submitted a California Public Records Act request to the City Attorney’s office.

Silicon Valley De-Bug (where I serve as director), the African-American Center, the NAACP, and the ACLU are requesting records of correspondence related to the hiring of the search firm, information about who received the background information from the search firm and records of correspondence between the Mayor, City Council, City Attorney, San Jose Police Officers Association and Police Chief regarding any aspect of the hiring process.

We are also requesting records containing selection criteria used for establishing the Community Panel and the names of those who were selected.

What these questions are getting at is that all stages of the hiring process is critical.

Flawed Process

From the limited information our organization has gathered, the process went as follows: A private headhunting company called Bob Murray and Associates was contracted with the City of San Jose and initiated the search for the potential IPA applicants.

They received 58 applications in the form of resumes and online questionnaires. Regan Williams, the Vice President of the company, and former Sunnyvale Police Chief, supervised the next narrowing down process. The group was distilled to sixteen candidates that Williams conducted personal interviews with, which reduced the candidate pool to eight.

That group of eight finalists were then screened and interviewed by the Mayor’s staff. This vetting process than produced four candidates pre-screened by the Mayor’s staff, which were then presented to the Community Panel for interviews. Chris Constantin, despite the disapproval of several community panel members, was then chosen as the new San Jose Independent Police Auditor.

Philip Eure, President of the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE), says the hiring process is crucial to determining how useful that body will be for bringing proper and independent oversight to law enforcement. “What is needed is to have people involved who can be trusted to not bend from political influence.” Eure says. “Real accountability necessitates transparency.”

Civic Duty

Often missed in all this is the personal journey people take to file with the IPA. All those numbers and statistics that are generated with the annual IPA reports are only made possible through real-life moments of trauma, and a faith in the possibility of justice that defies sometimes people’s own logic that police can ever be held accountable in San Jose. For each complaint filed means someone who feels their rights have been violated, have either the emotional and physical bruises to show it, and is actually taking time out their busy lives to re-live their pained moment with strangers. Indeed, there is anxiety, anger, and tears that fill those IPA sessions.

But I can tell you first hand that the tipping point that gets them to walk into that IPA office is not that there will be any immediate recourse on the officer they are filing about, but rather that by their filing, they will help spare the same injury from happening to another down the road. They are doing their civic duty.

San Jose has an obligation to honor the courage of those who are stepping forward at the most vulnerable moments of their lives. The way to receive a gesture like that is to provide an above-water, transparent, hiring process for the next IPA, that shows through action the word “independent” is a respected value. That gesture starts with the hiring process.

 

 

11 Comments

  1. In reading the article, I am left wondering two things:

    1) Where can I buy stock in document shredding companies used by the city?

    2) Do the city’s mayor, police chief, manager, attorney and council recognize that they are lacking in legitimacy?

    If they do recognize that they have been looking like fools, then they might change course and begin to show a little of that sunshine and openness they have all said would be nice.

    If they can’t recognize that the public has little confidence in the city’s decision making, especially around police issues, then they will continue to deny that their responsibility for arbitrary and disproportionately racist arrest patterns or even that it is a problem.

    Lets see what the city public relations team can get together before the city attorney goes to court to stop the public records request.

  2. Real Inclusion and Transparency in the IPA Selection Process?

    Transparency I can buy into; but inclusion bothers me.

    We elect leaders to lead.  If they don’t, we should not re-elect them.  But to have every Tom, Dick & Harriet with an interest in a particular issue (this part of the world is chock full of one trick ponies) included in every decision—I DON’T THINK SO!

    Reed and the council completely screwed up this deal with Mr. Constantin.  But Mr. Constantin himself played a large role (perhaps due to ambition, but I don’t know) by not disclosing from the git-go the fact that his brother was an employee of SJPD.  The ham-handed way Chuckie dealt with the issue is even more disconcerting.  And Nora, who alleges she didn’t hear what the other folks heard—I ain’t buyin’ that rap.

    S-Jay is constantly, and forever will be, in the shadow of SF. There are now a million residents of S-Jay, per Mr. Oliverio; but this burg is SOOO SMALL TOWN.  That’s one of the things I like about it.

  3. This ridiculous process shows that the real issue behind the drunk in public arrests, attitude arrests, etc…wasn’t just about the police power but the lack of will on the part of City Council and the Mayor to hold their own employees AND more so, themselves, accountable to the larger community. 

    San Jose—we were fooled.  This is the mayor that ran on the transparency platform, promising a different government than Ron Gonzales.  At a time when on a national level Obama is opening records on the secrecy of the last eight years, Chuck Reed takes a step back and maneuvers deals behind closed doors, and at whose expense—community members who already have little or no faith in a “checks and balances” system of police accountability, and a new hire (Chris Constantin) who fell on the sword.

  4. Mayor Reed I owe you a big apology! Yesterday’s Council meeting was a real eye opener for me, and it should be for you too.

    SJI Readers,
    If any of you get the chance you might want to go on line and view yesterday’s Council meeting. It was certainly enlightening. Our Mayor’s attempts to bring sunshine to the entire IPA hiring situation was blocked by Campos, Kalra, Herrera, Pyle, Nguyen, and Chu. These six voted to go back to closed session to discuss what “we the public” are allowed know. One interesting point the Mayor did get to bring out was that he voted against Constantin as his first choice, in the first vote taken.

    I have to wonder why he is being accused of putting in Constantin, when he didn’t even vote for the guy, and why he is being accused of not telling the Council about Constantin’s brother, when the majority of the Council ran for the hills when asked to allow the Mayor to disclose what happened behind closed doors….

    I also found it extremely odd that most of the 6 Council members who voted against Reed wanting to bring sunshine to this issue, actually said they didn’t have a problem telling the public where they stood, but voted to continue to conceal facts from the public. I also think it is rather weird to continue meeting in closed session without taping it! I don’t think we’ll ever really have sunshine at the City of San Jose.

    And finally, Nguyen throwing the Mayor under the bus blew my mind! After all he has done for her, she ran for the hills leaving Reed to stand alone in whirl wind of false accusations, and media scrutiny.  She was more concerned about the possible public embarrassment she and her fellow Council members would suffer, if Reed were allowed to disclosed discussions they had in closed session on the hiring of the IPA. So she made a little speech about sorry Reed you’ll suffer alone, and then she made a motion to shelve the discussion, go to another closed-door session to plan exactly what “we members of the public” get to know.  With friends like her, who needs enemies!

    Doesn’t anyone think it is odd that Reed is being accused of putting Constantin in the IPA position, when he has been battling with the POA? Yet no one has considered the close ties that Campos, Pyle, Nguyen, Kalra, Herrera, and Chu have to the Police/POA. Is it possible that they might be the reason why Constantin actually got the job, and not Mayor Reed? Does the next Mayoral election have anything to do with the timing of all of this? Interesting to sit back and watch the strategy and players in this political drama! Dinner and a movie anyone?

  5. Raj,
    What do you think about this? Do you think these six Council Members did the right thing? During the Council Meeting, Kalra went so far as to say your group, and the others on the PIR don’t necessarily have a right to know what happened. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this since you’ve been holding the Mayor responsible for things he didn’t do.

    “Mayor Chuck Reed pushed for a motion to talk openly about what was said and voted upon in the legally private session.”

    “But the council voted 6-4 — on a motion by Madison Nguyen — to hold another closed session to discuss what should be revealed.”

    http://www.mercurynews.com/news/ci_12303167?nclick_check=1

  6. Kathleen # 5 wrote:“One interesting point the Mayor did get to bring out was that he voted against Constantin as his first choice, in the first vote taken.”

    Kathleen—did he tell us why he voted against Mr. Constantin the first time, and did he tell us why he changed his mind?  I really don’t want to have to listen to the entire discussion.  Is there a link to a short version of the meeting?

    Thanks

  7. Kathleen,
    I haven’t seen the video yet, from what I read and heard, the IPA discussion was all bad. I was planning on being there, but was at the rally outside and missed all the action inside.

    I think another closed door session to discuss another closed door session is going in the opposite direction of what it needed—an open public review of the process, and disclosure of who knew what. Ima watch the video, but ya, Im disappointed in Councilmember Nguyen’s motion, and the vote by the rest of those who supported it.  Below is a letter we sent to Council about the IPA yesterday morning:

    To: San Jose City Council

    From: Silicon Valley De-Bug, ACLU, NAACP, African-American Center, Independent Police Auditor Advisory Committee member

    Re: Independent Police Auditor Hiring Process

    Dear Mayor and City Council,

    We are writing this letter to ask that all action to begin the next hiring process of the Independent Police Auditor be postponed until all necessary discussions and documents from the last hiring process have been made public.

    A public examination of a process that produced a controversial result before proceeding on the next process is only proper diligence.

    While we all agree that it is important to hire our new Independent Police Auditor, the integrity of the next hiring process, and thus the newly selected IPA, will have been compromised if questions regarding the process that ultimately put forward a candidate with an insurmountable conflict of interest remain unanswered.

    And what little information the public does know about the process has revealed more reasons why a thorough investigation is required. Having the search process being lead by a former Sunnyvale Police Chief, Vice President of the hiring firm “Bob Murray and Associates,” certainly gives credence to suspicions that the hiring process was laden with problems from top to bottom.

    In an effort to bring transparency to the process, several of our organizations (Silicon Valley De-Bug, NAACP, African-American Center, ACLU) submitted a California Public Records Act request with the following requests on April 28, 2009:

    1. Please provide any and all correspondence related to the hiring of a search firm for the position of Independent Police Auditor, including but not limited to the list of vendors the city of San Jose reviewed before awarding the contract with Bob Murray and Associates and the actual contract with said search firm.

        2. Please provide any and all records containing background information assembled by the search team for each of the finalists.

        3. Please provide any and all records containing information about who received the background information from the search firm and when.

        4. Please provide any and all records of correspondence between the Mayor, City Council, City Attorney, San Jose Police Officers Association and Police Chief regarding any aspect of the hiring process including note taking, evaluations and oral recordings.

          5. Please provide any and all records containing information regarding the selection criteria used for establishing the Community Panel and the names of those who were selected.

    6. Please provide any and all records containing information regarding the deliberations of the Community Panel and the City Council Panel relating to the rankings of candidates, including any and all note taking, evaluations and oral recordings.

    These requests, on top of the efforts being made to disclose the conversations of the “closed door session” with council regarding Constantin’s selection, need to be honored and shared with the public. We collectively need to understand the last hiring process in order to ensure that the next process will not be vulnerable to the same missteps.

    We – City leadership, community members, advocacy organizations – will then be making informed recommendations as to the best hiring process.

    Bypassing this needed step would only leave lingering suspicions, and foster more distrust within the public for the integrity and independence of the IPA office. 

    Thank You,

    Raj Jayadev—Silicon Valley De-Bug

    Reverend Jeff Moore II—NAACP

    Skyler Porras—ACLU

    Walter Wilson—African-American Center

    Soccoro McCord—IPAAC member // Former San Jose Human Rights Commission member

  8. #7-JMO,
    I understand. It was a long meeting. The Mayor couldn’t get the “elusive six” to allow him to say anything more than what the first and second vote was. They basically gagged him, and pinned him to the wall allowing only one thing, HIS vote in both meetings. The Mayor made it clear that when the first vote was taken, it was between Constantin, and someone else. Reed voted for the other person.  (The “elusive six” wouldn’t let him disclose who the other person was.) The Mayor said the majority of the Council out voted him, so I guess the second vote was to allow Constantin to become IPA. (I’m not real clear on that part regarding the second vote because the “elusive six” kept hammering a way at him, and Constant to basically shut up, and wait for a closed session discussion.)

    The whole thing really stunk badly. After hearing the little bit of truth about what really happened, I was really P.O.ed that Mayor’s part in the hiring of the IPA was so misreported, and misrepresented by the media. They really should be ashamed for once again misleading the public.  And the “elusive six,” should never be voted into office again because they are allowing our Mayor, who is clearly innocent of the charges in the press, to take the fall because they don’t have enough integrity to be a person of their own convictions, or choices.

    By the way JohnMichael, all you have to do is go to the Council agenda, find the item number, and click on it. That way you don’t have to watch the entire meeting. You might want to watch the portion on the Consortium, and the Open Forum too. Our friend Raj makes several appearances! Lots of yelling from protestors at Chief Davis, and threats about citizens taking over Police oversight. It makes for a good popcorn eating, and Pepsi drinking night. wink

  9. Raj said,
    “I think another closed door session to discuss another closed door session is going in the opposite direction of what it needed—an open public review of the process, and disclosure of who knew what. Ima watch the video, but ya, Im disappointed in Councilmember Nguyen’s motion, and the vote by the rest of those who supported it.”

    I agree with you 100%. The whole thing stinks, and Mayor Reed is being scapegoated here. Just remember the six Council Members who voted to keep things in closed session the next time you vote.

  10. If the process is to be transparent, four things ought to happen: (1) criteria for what are the best skills for the position should be clearly defined (2)all candidates should be willing to make their resumes available to public scrutiny (3)all interviews, at any time of the process, should be conducted in the public eye and (4) the deliberations among decision-makers should be also public. This is the only way to bring transparency into process at this point and make sure the next IPA is the best fit.