San Jose Police Academy Retention War Takes Inevitable Next Step

San Jose City Manager Debra Figone decided last week to end the suspense and remove “acting” from Larry Esquivel’s title as police chief, setting up a dramatic showdown. Not between cops and City Hall, though. An arsenal of memos over how to keep graduates of the police academy from jumping ship were fired off Tuesday. Just last week, it was widely reported that up to 17 cadets are taking their talents to different law enforcement agencies, leaving the city out about $2.9 million in training costs. On one side of the memo melee stands Sam Liccardo, armed with what he calls a “carrot and a stick.” The carrot, in the form of a retention bonus and pay increases over two consecutive years, can attract young cadets to the department, he says, while the city can also reserve the option to whack young officers who try to leave. Liccardo’s proposal would lead the city to create a nonprofit to dole out no-interest loans for training costs, with the city paying the principal balance over a three- to five-year period, as long as cadets stick in San Jose. Meanwhile, fellow mayoral contender and Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen has teamed up with Councilman Johnny Khamis to a create a “first five” initiative, which would allow the five fastest cadets to run for the hills before the hounds are unleashed. Just kidding. Nguyen and Khamis’ proposal would force cadets who leave early to pay a percentage of their training costs, with each year dropping that percentage until its reaches zero at year five. Regardless, the Police Officers Association and union president Jim Unland have vowed to continue encouraging SJPD officers to leave for greener pastures until a disability clause is changed in the city charter. So, basically, congrats on the job, Larry!

The Fly is a weekly column written by San Jose Inside staff that provides a behind-the-scenes look at local politics.

11 Comments

  1. If I was a recruit and they wanted me to sign some contract where I would have to pay back money for my training cost, should I decide to leave, I would turn around and walk the other way. How they ever come up with such asinine ideas is beyond my comprehension. The City needs to attract employees, not chase them away. This is just another one of their mistakes in dealing with the issue and it will backfire just like everything else has. Potential recruits will simply go to a department that does not make them sign a contract and who offers better salary and benefits. This council is once again failing—and once again, they are not listen.

  2. No one was able to come up with the idea that if they pay comparable wages to all the other cities that they would stay? 

    Or

    If Liccardo, Oliverio and Kahamis would quit they would stay.

    • Right? Apparently, accountability is an unfamiliar concept to this council.

      Here’s an allegory just as logical as Chuck’s approach to public safety pension reform.

      “I needed to punch some holes in a few sheets of paper as quickly as I could so I figured I’d use a gun. Many people told me not to do it this way and that I was making a poor decision seeing as how thousands of other people put holes in paper using conventional methods. I shot myself in the foot while trying to put the holes in the paper, lost my foot, and now I’m fighting a raging infection in my leg. I’m currently looking for a new foot while debating about how to save my leg.. Although time is running out. I’m wasting thousands of dollars by the day trying to fight the infection, I’m still advocating the use of bullets to put holes in paper, and I’m shopping for new shoes and bullet-proof socks. Don’t tell me I should have used a hole punch.”

  3. These Council members just dont get it. THEY created this problem and now instead of dealing with being underpaid,under benefitted and under appreciated . they want to bill possible reruits? Get a clue , the best and brightest are already NOT applying to work in San Jose. The only applicants are 2nd or 3rd tier candidates , who couldnt get hired else where. This City will only receive the Public Safety it is prepared to pay for , nothing more and maybe alot less. Lickardo , Khamis, and Nguyen ( Reeds handpuppets) are nothing more than attention seekers , with no real intention of solving this problem. The answer is simple , return their pay and stop villainizing public safety for Councils many missteps in running this city into the ground.

  4. Larry Esquivel is a good man, but the time has come for him to speak out about what the city is doing to this once great department. His well intentioned efforts behind the scenes with the mayor and council members have accomplished little to nothing, because those people truly do not care. The department needs a leader who views his obligations to the city’s residents and to the department itself as paramount; who isn’t afraid to speak the truth, even if it angers those that have placed him in his position. Chief Esquivel knows as well as anyone the damage Reed and his allies have wrought, and he also knows what is needed to begin to fix that damage. Now is the time for him to stand behind the men and women of SJPD and to tell the public, in his own credible voice, what their elected officials have done.

  5. Hiring the very best men and women for a police department is a good business decision, not a luxury. Hiring top-tier police recruits makes it possible for a city to employ fewer officers yet still provide its citizens with top quality policing. At a time when top-tier police applicants perceive San Jose as the least attractive agency in the state the city council is determined to spread that perception to second and third tier applicants. This is unintended consequences squared. It will prove a bonanza for dozens of new hires who would’ve otherwise made their careers driving armored cars or guarding parking lots; a nightmare to a department that will be deprived of the smart, tech-capable employees it needs; a disaster to a city unaccustomed to the crippling cost of an incompetent and inefficient police force.

  6. At one time, not that long ago, the San Jose Police Department was a beacon for potential police officers, both rookies and experienced lateral officers from other departments. Experienced officers were lured here from other police departments, often taking paycuts, in return for working one of the most proactive and progressive police departments in the world, offering a great variety of assignments. The mayors, city councilmembers, and the city managers were extremely supportive and appreciative of the officers. In short, IT WAS A RARITY THAT A SJPD OFFICER EVER LEFT HERE FOR ANOTHER POLICE DEPARTMENT. Often, lateral officers were willing to take paycuts to come to SJPD from other jurisdictions. NO OFFICER HAS LATERELED FROM ANOTHER CITY TO SJPD IN YEARS. Amongst the network of officers in this state, it is common knowledge how this mayor and city council have vilified, demonized, and stolen from its police officers. Now, there is an epidemic, a tidal wave of officers leaving the SJPD. This is not merely recruit officers leaving, but officers that have 20-25 years of experience. The SJPD is on life support, yet Sam Liccardo, Nguyen, and Khamis, amongst others on the council, have utterly and completely failed, or are just too petrified to face the disaster they have created, and the toxic working conditions that are an absolute direct result of their failed policies in taking care of its police officers. Officers are leaving here because this city council and mayor have eliminated disability benefits to take care of injured officers. That is the tip of the iceberg in how Sam Liccardo, Nguyen, Khamis, et al, have demonstrated what they think of our police officers, despite what comes out of their collective public mouths. If the mayor and city council really give a shit about keeping officers from leaving, then examine WHY they are leaving, and quit making another hostile threat towards them. What quality police applicant would ever come to the SJPD, knowing how poorly they are treated, their very below average take home pay, a lack of a workers compensation safety net, the highest gross retirement deduction (25%) employee retirement contribution in the country, and now have the specter of being in debt thousands of dollars to this city if they accept employment here? It is ironic that Liccardo, who fashions himself as such a progressive, has taken the most regressive and oppressive measures in dealing with the police officers of San Jose. If only this mayor and city council had treated the police officers,  who serve this community with a great deal of pride and honor,  with some respect and dignity, and had some grasp of the economic realities of their worth on the free market, recruits and long time officers alike would not be fleeing this city.

  7. Oakland and LA PDs have academy training cost clawbacks too. Many large employers have tuition clawbacks to discourage employees from departing immediately after graduating from company-paid degree programs.

    San Jose can easily save over $90 million per year by more outsourcing and implementing recommendations from the City Auditor, Civil Grand Jury, and those in the IBM study.

    The Fire Department alone could easily trim $50 million by having the County handle EMS. SJFD has no legal obligation to, but the County does.

    San Jose citizens are subsidizing the County’s duty to the tune of millions dollars per year.

    These savings would allow us to reinstate salaries and benefits. They far exceed the gain from a 1/2 cent sales tax increase that’s being considered.

    The tax increase, BTW, *won’t* be used for employee compensation.

    • Nice plan , Rural metro is Bankrupt and is attempting to restructure its deal with the County. It would be the stupidest thing to do , accepting anything that Rural Metro could promise . As we Speak they are under investigation for wrongfully terminating Employees.  6 within the last month and a half. all senior Medics with no history of issues ( medical/clerical) . The one thing they all have in common is that they are seasoned, and experienced medics making top dollar. it looks like they are following Reeds plan of getting rid of the senior personnel , and attempting to hire , new employees making much less.

  8. Arhat:
    The County choice of EMS agency is Bankrupt….thats the service you want?  Wait for another 4 years….i wont be living here…and you can have it.