Mayor Calls Cortese’s Sheriff Proposal ‘Political’ Ploy

Elected officials in San Jose and Santa Clara County have expressed diplomatic, if not cautious, public support for a proposal that would have the Sheriff’s Office assist an undermanned San Jose Police Department. But behind the scenes, the two law enforcement agencies have been at odds for more than a year over services already contracted.

Based on a review of emails, memos, public comments and interviews, it’s clear that several prominent San Jose officials have little interest in discussing county Supervisor Dave Cortese's proposal until previous disputes are resolved.

On Tuesday, the county Board of Supervisors approved a plan to study how the sheriff’s office could provide temporary staffing to help SJPD in patrol efforts. The city’s police department has been cut by almost a third in the last six years, going from more than 1,400 to less than 1,000 active officers, and recruitment efforts have also been stymied. Pension reform and changes to disability requirements have created a caustic atmosphere between City Hall and the police union.

Mayor Chuck Reed told San Jose Inside on Thursday that no discussions of the proposal penned by  Supervisor Cortese, who is currently running for mayor, occurred before Tuesday’s meeting. The proposal’s political ramifications—the perception that the county is coming to San Jose’s rescue—could also be seen as a benefit to Sheriff Laurie Smith, who is running for re-election, Reed acknowledged.

“You don’t spring things on the public like this without having some conversations ahead of time,” he said. “It’s certainly an opportunity to get some media coverage in a political campaign. That doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate the help, but there is certainly a political element in this. We have an existing relationship with the sheriff, obviously, and there are places where conversations can happen and you can have professional staff look at ideas. None of that happened. It was a surprise to (SJPD) Chief (Larry) Esquivel.”

"If Mayor Reed is not interested in our assistance, a simple 'no, thank you' would have been appropriate," Sheriff Smith told San Jose Inside. "If he wants to disagree on policy that is fine, but politics should stay out of the public safety debate."

In an email sent to Smith and two of her top staffers a day before Tuesday’s meeting, Ed Shikada, San Jose’s city manager, wrote that the city had more interest in resolving disputes that have dragged on for more than year than looking at expanded sheriff services.

“We appreciate the ongoing relationship between our agencies, and look forward to any discussion of future partnering opportunities,” Shikada wrote. “That said, in a quick review with Chief Esquivel of existing issues, I understand there are several areas where clarification of Sheriff's Office responsibility for law enforcement services would significantly enhance SJPD's ability to focus on other priorities.”

The email goes on to list areas the city believes the sheriff’s office is not currently fulfilling its obligations:

  • VTA light rail response during nighttime hours
  • VTA bus stop response throughout the city, with particular emphasis on 1st Street and Alum Rock Avenue
  • First response to county buildings
  • First response to unincorporated areas
  • Supervision of arrestees upon admittance to county hospitals

“I understand that these issues have been outstanding and under discussion for well over a year, and Chief Esquivel reviewed these issues with Undersheriff (John) Hirokawa earlier today,” Shikada continued. “We appreciate the opportunity to resolve these issues, and hope this can be communicated to the Board of Supervisors as part of their consideration tomorrow.”

These issues were not presented to the Board. Instead, vague but optimistic statements were made about a potential partnership.

SJPD spokesperson Sgt. Heather Randol sent San Jose Inside an email statement noting that discussions have centered around the same areas in Shikada’s email. “Having the Sheriff handle those calls would provide some immediate help and allow SJPD officers to focus on patrol and investigations in our neighborhoods,” Randol wrote.

Mayor Reed bristled at the timing of Cortese's proposal, especially after the county decided to withhold money over slow fire department response times.

“I think there is an issue,” Reed said. “If they can’t do these things (right now), how are they going to help us in any other way?

“The things that the sheriff used to do we now have to do, for one reason or another. We picked up these tasks and that takes our resources to do that. The county could easily pick them up and let us focus on our other areas.”

Reed added that the sheriff office’s current manpower would most likely only allow for an additional “two or three people, maybe, and I don’t see that happening. I don’t know what they have in mind—other than generating newspaper stories.”

Sheriff Smith took exception to that claim, adding that her office has provided resources in the past to nearby cities.

"This is not an unusual offer—Alameda County Sheriff's Office assisted Oakland Police and the San Mateo Sheriff's Office assisted East Palo Alto Police," Smith said. "Those in our jurisdiction and our contract entities are extremely pleased with our service and I object to any comments that we are less than exceptional."

Undersheriff Hirokawa told San Jose Inside that the sheriff’s office was “caught off guard” by the supervisor’s proposal.

“You got to remember, this is a suggestion that was coming from a supervisor,” Hirokawa said. “We didn’t know this was coming our way, so we’re reacting just like San Jose is reacting.”

Supervisor Cortese told San Jose Inside a slightly different story, noting that he has recently broached the subject with the sheriff on more than one occasion.

"Sure I checked in with the Sheriff several times over the past few months just to ask if she the department has the capacity to do more," Cortese said. "Had she said 'no' I would not have made the recommendation.

"This is a possibility that has come up at candidates forums and in other areas of the campaign. Perhaps an idea whose time has come."

Part of Reed’s concern came from public comments made at Tuesday’s meeting. When the Board discussed the proposal, Supervisor Ken Yeager asked Sheriff Smith if her office had the capacity to assist SJPD.

Despite Shikada and Reed’s emails from a day prior, Smith told the Board, “I think we do. Certainly we don’t know what the city of San Jose is interested in right now, whether they’re interested at all."

That left Reed to surmise, “Apparently, my communications and Ed Shikada’s communications did not get discussed.”

Cortese quipped, "Sounds like the mayor is under a lot of stress."

Undersheriff Hirokawa told San Jose Inside that Smith had not seen the city's emails before Tuesday's meeting, and he was “surprised” at Reed’s reaction.

“There has been some good movement, but everybody’s a little busy,” Hirokawa said in reference to the year-plus discussions between local law enforcement agencies. “VTA is a little more challenging.”

The sheriff’s office is currently contracted by VTA to patrol stations role 21 hours a day Monday through Thursday, and 18 hours a day Friday through Sunday, Asst. Sheriff Carl Neusell told San Jose Inside.

The city would prefer for the sheriff’s office to be the first responder in these areas during their contracted hours, while the sheriff’s office believes it is not the “primary” agency and instead operates in a  in a “supplemental” role.

“I’m not too sure if we’re all on the same page on that,” Hirokawa said.

Josh Koehn is the managing editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to josh@metronews.com or follow him on Twitter at @Josh_Koehn.

22 Comments

  1. Earth to Lauria–the politics here is from Cortese, not Reed..

    Earth to Cortese–the issue is that you did not check with SJPD first, not that you spoke to Laurie first. Both oif you need to get a clue. How long have you been on the BOS, Dave? You were a virtual mute until you announced your candidacy for Mayor.

  2. So which is it?

    “You don’t spring things on the public like this without having some conversations ahead of time,” he (Reed) said.

    “I understand that these issues have been outstanding and under discussion for well over a year,…….”Shikada continued

    Has Liccardo and Nguyen remained silent on this topic?

    Vote for change.

    • I think you’re missing the fact that this refers to two different things…

      a) they sprung the idea of the sheriff “helping” in this new capacity on them without conversation;
      b) they have been in discussion for over a year on outstanding issues where the sheriff is already unable to fulfill current contracts for the VTA, county buildings, etc.

      Cortese and the Sheriff are offering up something that they can not produce, they know it, so they did not approach anyone about it — not SJPD, not the Mayor’s office, not the DSA, not anyone who would be involved in making this happen. Why do you think that is?

      The Sheriff’s office is having similar personnel issues as SJPD because no one wants to work for the Sheriff and her corrupt and incompetent administration any longer. Cortese and Smith might be able to keep their blinders on to reality, but the voters are fools if they do. Both these positions need seriously new blood and real ideas for the people of the county. Right now the Mayor’s office and the Sheriff’s office are travesties and neither of these two candidates are proving to be able to provide solutions that can be applied in the real world to our very real world problems.

  3. A problem definitely exists in San Jose… problem is due to Mayor Reed’s failure to be a responsible elected politician and all he cares about is being Governor, which is not what California needs. Now for the other problem with this idea of a solution. Do not expect a straight answer from Sheriff Laurie Smith, she has a problem of being honest and competent as a leader. She’ll do her typical not take a stand or make a decision, have one of her administrator puppets handle and wait to either take credit or point a finger of blame depending if it comes out good or not. The County needs a new Sheriff ….. Elect Kevin Jensen for Sheriff 2014 for better Law Enforcement and a Leader to accomplish it. Mayor Reed has done his damage in San Jose so keep him out of State Politics. Elect Financial responsible and competent Mayor to fix past damage by San Jose’s past politicians.

    • Smith’s response here is typical of her… rather than address the message, attack the messenger. Probably, because for once in his career, Reed is telling the truth; Smith and Cortese did not take appropriate measures to have reasonable conversations with all parties involved before launching this at the public because they knew it would bring them both votes and that is their *only* purpose here — getting votes.

      Smith could have either respond with, “well we did it this way because…” a phrase for which she has no valid ending considering the facts of the situation.

      This is how Sheriff Smith works with others, she belittles, attacks and insults them rather than address valid points. We’ve seen her do it to most recently to Marc Klaas – http://caseythomas.wordpress.com/2014/04/11/more-stone-throwing-from-the-sheriffs-camp-and-still-no-answers/ – This is how she behaves with her own personnel, which has destroyed the morale of her office. This is why no agency in the entire county has endorsed this woman for office, she doesn’t work well with others. Even SJPD put forth a no endorsement on the Sheriff’s race, and my understanding that was done as a favor to Cortese, their chosen candidate, not because they didn’t want to endorse Jensen. I hope they’re loving that endorsement now as much as they did earlier.

    • This is a little off topic but I post where I find people talking about Sheriff Laurie Smith ~ . . . .My search for Justice started 4 years before Joshua’s death when he was 6 after being called to his school by a women from child protective services, the day he was found with bruises all down the side of his body from being kicked down the back step into the trashcans by his father Santa Clara County Sheriff Deputy KW Klaver. From this day forth we entered into a world run by the Santa Clara County Sheriff Department and the Family Courts, both of which were more concerned about finding a way to deal with the abuse without damaging his father’s career as a Sheriff Deputy, by this I mean they did nothing to help Joshua, year after year they turned a blind eye from Joshua’s pain until his death at the age of 10, Joshua died by Hanging in a barn used for Slaughtering Cattle on his Father’s property the night before Joshua was to meet with a Family Court Judge about the abuse he was forced to live with for the 1st time in the 4 years we spent in the Court System. When Joshua died the Family Court had a meeting and wondered what they could have done differently that would helped to keep Joshua’s death from happening, The Sheriff Department’s way of dealing with his death was to have Sgt Jerry Egge rudely refuse me any kind of a investigation as he made statements to the media calling me a volatile type parent fighting over Joshua in child custody case, all this from the Sheriff Department who knew that their co-worker, Sheriff Deputy KW Klaver was Joshua’s Abuser…22 month after Joshua’s Death Sheriff Gillingham and Under Sheriff Laurie Smith sent Crime Scene and Homicide Deputies out to the barn where Joshua died for the 1st time and turned the information they collected from Joshua’s father,his abuser about what happened the night Joshua died over to the Child Death Review Board . http://justice4joshua.com/

  4. Want to move up the ranks in the Sheriffs office? Just make large donations to her election campaign. Seems to have worked for Captain Rick Sung, a SJPD academy flunkee who ascended the ranks at the Sheriffs Office simply by making numerous significant cash donations to Sheriff Laurie. Other command personnel also ensure they pay to play, however some also master the art of ingratiation.

  5. cortese is the problem. Was the problem when he was on the Council and continues to be the problem. San Jose is still paying the price for his decisions on the Vojvodina cil. Don’t be fooled. Cortese is a snack jn the grass. A loser.

  6. Reed is the fool who created the mess in San Jose , and now the Residents are the ones paying for his Arrogance . the suggestion by Cortese might be a Political ploy , but at least he trying to think of a solution , and that is something that this Mayor and Council have failed to do . Is Sheriff Laurie Smith the answer ? No S.O. has its own issues . She might possibly be as hated as Reed is. With any luck both will ride off into the sunset , never to be heard from again

  7. I think the most amazing thing about this story is the fact that Josh Koehn names his sources. Has someone been taking an intro to journalism class finally?

  8. Reed complains, “… there is certainly a political element in this.”

    You have to hand it to Reed for his keen senses, after all, who else could’ve sniffed out the politics in an idea proposed by a mayoral candidate, approved by a political board, and exploited by a sheriff up for reelection?

    These are people who don’t pass gas without checking the political winds.

    But notice this about Transparent Chuck’s conduct: rather than allowing the chief (who earns a handsome salary to manage the policing of this city) respond to the county’s offer, he chooses himself — an elected official with a huge stake in the mayor’s race, to be the city’s point man on the issue. Now why is that? Doesn’t he have enough on his plate, what with his tantrum lawsuits aimed in every direction, his political disciples turning on each other, and his city’s reputation as a “no apply zone” in management hiring circles? Why didn’t he allow Chief Yo No Sé Nada the chance to do his job?

    Because Chuck Reed doesn’t know how to just say no to a political opportunity. Given the chance to attack the only mayoral candidate who would dare expose the empty-headed, disrespectful opportunism that is the Reed legacy, the mayor had to jump into the fray. Keeping Dave Cortese out of city hall is his only chance of keeping his gross incompetence hidden from the public. That he tossed in a few shots at Laurie Smith was also politically motivated, she being the longtime foe of Reed’s paid political bedbug, Jose Salcido.

    The real issue here is not the merit of Reed’s charges but his fouling them with his political stink. Getting the S/O to police the county’s unincorporated pockets and fulfill its contractual obligations with the VTA are issues that directly impact the safety of starved-for-services San Jose citizens. Do they not deserve to have their public servants, in this case the police chief and city manager, represent their interests in a professional, apolitical manner? If Sheriff Smith really has acted with disregard for their well-being, don’t San Joseans deserve to learn it — loudly — through the objective channels of their government? Aren’t the citizens entitled to something unspoiled, or is it the case that, in the wake of two rotten-to-the-core mayors running City Hall, honesty and objectivity have left the building?

  9. Why this plan is brilliance.

    We’ve had to do without several units within the SJPD being shut down over the last few years. Burglary, graffiti and gang suppression to name a few. Officers from these units had to take jobs in patrol and other departments just to stay employed.

    With the Sheriff’s department taking over patrol duties, the SJPD can free up resources by promoting patrol officers that were once unit cops, back into their old units.

    Dave has actually come up, with, a solution here.

    It takes a long time and a lot of work to repair a reputation, but Dave came up with a plan to hold us over in the short term. It is much, much, more than a political stunt, this is a plan to move things in the right direction.

    • Sure it’s a solution. It’s not a viable solution and if David knew anything about his own job, he would realize the sheriff’s office is understaffed. I went back and listened to the last two Public Safety meetings (involving Chavez and Wasserman) and it’s been no secret that Hirokawa and Jeff Smith have been letting the supervisors know there are staffing issues. Yet they all appear unaware of this situation as Cortese and Sheriff Smith (who should know better than anyone) go on about assigning personnel over to SJPD jurisdictions. Chavez and Wasserman not sharing this information? Clearly they did not share it in the BoS meeting as Sheriff Smith and Supervisor Cortese laid out their plan. The entire conversation, beginning to end, engages so much intellectual curiosity that it took a whole 8 minutes out of a 4+ hour meeting.

      If the Sheriff’s Office can’t staff current contracts, if the Sheriff’s Office clearly isn’t even communicating amongst themselves (really, Hirokawa was “surprised as San Jose” by this proposal?) Why should SJPD considering giving more of their money to the SO who isn’t doing the job they’re already being paid to do?

      Courts are so short staffed they have literally had Assistant Sheriffs in there helping. Patrol is so short staffed they literally made the CASU unit to follow up on released AB109 deputies out of correctional staff that doesn’t have near the training a fully trained peace officer has in the event one of these people goes sideways.

      This is a solution when you have at least one functioning, fully staffed agency in the equation. Pretending that the SO is functioning and fully staffed is a lie.

      David runs on caring about law enforcement and public safety issues in San Jose even as he proves he’s absolutely unaware of the current problems in law enforcement and public safety in his current job and throws the agency he’s currently responsible for under the bus so he can get a new job.

      Unbelievable.

      • I look at it from, “Which agency can get more money, CSJ or SCC.” SCC does have more access to funds that San Jose otherwise wouldn’t.

        He leaves behind him a BOS that will give him his full support, and I’m sure Cindy is going to levy the charge. Some areas in the meantime will probably get less SCCSO policing. Hopefully it will be the areas not woefully crime ridden like Saratoga, Monte Sereno, Cupertino.

        This plan will work, won’t matter if it’s Jensen or Smith leading the SCCSO when it happens. I’ve heard other politicians talk about restoring units, but none with a plan.

        You gotta admit, it’s a bit better than anything else you’ve heard. At least it’s not a promise without a plan.

        • The SCCSO has been cutting special units for ages…. SCOPE, Vice, the list goes on. Where are these extra resources you expect them to draw from? Courts are low, patrol is being supplemented by untrained corrections people… they’re down to the bones…

          And now we’re supposed to throw the county that relies on patrol under the bus too to save San Jose from itself?

          Have I heard a better plan? Yes, it’s actually suggested in the article — the Sheriff’s office honor the contracts for the VTA, county buildings, etc. that they’re already committed too. How about we start there. If she can’t staff those contracts, why on Earth would anyone think adding another contract to the mix is a solution?

          The fact that Cortese indicates here that he’s unaware of staffing shortages in the SO, is downright disturbing in an of itself to me. This is not an unknown and unaddressed issue to the county supervisors. To me, this either indicates deliberate indifference to an ongoing problem to gain political traction or sheer ignorance of what is going around him. Neither situation impresses me.

          • Maybe if the Sheriff’s department is in the condition you say it is, perhaps then instead of using the SCCSO we could use the CHP. CHP did offer us the same services a year or two back.

  10. Robert, it looks like we capped out the thread….

    If CHP has available resources why were they not considered in this plan at all? Oh, I know why… because San Jose wasn’t a part of this conversation to suggest they visit all potential resources in creating a plan…the idea of expanding the load to as many agencies as possible so no one was overloaded never crossed the mind of the two people seeking votes out of this plan. It was just Dave and Laurie, creating their own plan without really even having the city involved, who knows exactly what they need and where they need, involved in the conversation.

    If SJPD is looking for temporary supplementation, CHP should certainly be an option considered.

    Like I said in our other conversation, Robert, it’s not that the plan is a bad one over all and under different circumstances, it would be a good idea. My biggest problem is the lack of knowledge about the SO resources by the very person who is at the top of that food chain along with a council member who is supposed to be aware — was made aware some time ago to the best of my knowledge — that there are problems. That two people running for offices directly involved with the plan hodged this together without so much as a whisper to anyone else who might be involved in the decision or that they may need information from. That this was literally put out to the public on Friday, dropped on the floor of the council for a vote on Tuesday and everyone else is standing around still trying to figure out what just happened.

    This is not how you work together. This is Cortese acting like Reed grabbing a number of the top of some guys head and running to the public with it – who cares about the veracity of the information, it fits my needs. This is a sheriff who is either so out of touch or so negligent in her responsibilities that the condition of her office resources isn’t even in her line of sight. Something the deputies have been saying for nearly a year now — do people think they’re lying and putting their careers on the line if she wins for fun?!

    There are so many problems with the way this was put together and then presented to the public and the board and the involved departments/agencies/offices that I can’t begin to list them. It’s like dealing either with political neophytes or people who think voters are so incredibly stupid that they think this kind of behavior from their politicians — having things rammed down their throats with half-baked information — is acceptable.