Walter Katz Named San Jose’s Next Independent Police Auditor

A police oversight attorney who has spent most of his career as a watchdog for Los Angeles County law enforcement will become San Jose’s next Independent Police Auditor.

Walter Katz, 49, takes over as the city’s fifth police auditor Jan. 5, the city announced Tuesday. The former public defender will replace LaDoris Cordell, who stepped down this past summer after five years at the post.

“I’m honored and privileged to be appointed as San Jose's next Independent Police Auditor,” Katz said in a statement. “I look forward to working with the diverse community that this office serves and making it more accessible to all San Jose residents.”

Katz, who earned a law degree from McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific, spent 15 years as an attorney for L.A. County’s alternative public defender’s office and four years monitoring law enforcement for its Office of Independent Review.

For the past year-and-a-half, he has kept an eye on the L.A. Sheriff’s Department and played a key role in improving the agency’s policies on use of force as second in command of the county Office of the Inspector General.

“Walter is a remarkable individual with an impressive record in law enforcement oversight,” Mayor Sam Liccardo said in a statement. “The council, community interview panelists and I were extremely impressed by his experience with complex use of force issues and his desire to innovate. Walter is going to be a tremendous asset to the city and San Jose residents”

As independent police auditor in San Jose, Katz will review complaints against the San Jose Police Department, to make sure the investigations are thorough and objective. He will make recommendations on how to improve policy and educate the public about the role of civilian oversight.

San Jose’s police auditor—a role the city created in 1993—can recommend but not enforce policy changes. Despite that limitation, Cordell managed to convince the SJPD to adopt more progressive policies, such as collecting more detailed data on traffic stops to analyze racial bias and equipping officers with body cameras.

Paul Kelly, head of San Jose's Police Officers' Association, said police want to improve accountability and plan to work collaboratively with their new watchdog. 

"We are always willing to work on improving transparency and building upon the great relationship we have with the residents of San Jose," Kelly said. "[We] look forward to a fair and honest collaboration with newly appointed IPA Walter Katz on programs and initiatives that keep police officers and the public safe."

Like his predecessor, Katz has written and spoken extensively about improving trust between law enforcement and the community by way of transparency and accountability. In a recent column for the Harvard Law Review Forum, Katz wrote about the need for independent agencies to investigate police-related deaths and rebuild the public’s trust, particularly for communities of color.

“Where the public has trust, it will sanction law enforcement with legitimacy; and when it does so, it is signaling that the public’s moral values of right and wrong are aligned with those of its police agencies,” he wrote in the April op-ed. “Conversely, legitimacy crumbles when civilians are treated unfairly and the public is left with the conclusion that police agencies are not accountable.”

In New York Times column that same month, Katz called for reforms to combat the disproportionate impact of police violence on African Americans.

“There is a phenomenon in the United States which most of the public is unwilling or unable to fully acknowledge,” he wrote. “The killings by police of unarmed black men and boys is akin to climate change—for many, seemingly no evidence will convince them that there is a relationship between race and police violence.”

Law enforcement agencies, he continued, must collect more data on use of force, emphasize de-escalation tactics, address implicit bias through training and thoroughly investigate police-involved killings.  

Jennifer Wadsworth is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

2 Comments

  1. Marvelous. Another race activist, suffering from “Sharpton-Farrakhan disease” whose past and present public comments have already revealed his race agenda and who will now undoubtedly cloak that bias under the mantle of “independent watchdog” while he cherry picks and misrepresents his facts to support his preconceived notions of police misconduct. Wonderful. Being from LA, he probably still thinks O.J. is innocent.

    Mr. Katz is fond of referring to the (circa 1996) LAPD “Rampart Scandal” (where officers reportedly shot a suspect then planted a gun) as a typical case of police corruption with impunity. Katz ignores the fact that the progenitor of the scandal, the (non-Caucasian) officer Rafael Perez, was hired, due to “racial diversity” politics, over the objection of LAPD, after they discovered certain affiliations, with African-American street-gangs, in his pre-employment background investigation.

    Mr. Katz ignores that after Rafael Perez was discovered to be stealing drugs out of a police evidence locker, he then, as is common among those in the gang subculture, decided to turn informant in an effort to get his sentence reduced. Perez also did what every other informant does; he tried to blame everything on others in order to get the onus off of himself. He began making accusations against other cops. However, instead of treating Perez’s statements like those of any other informant, Perez’s word was immediately taken as gospel truth by the LA district attorney looking to score political points; by weak police administrators unwilling to stand up to the gleeful screeching of the usual LA community cop-hater “watch dogs” like Mr. Katz, whose anti-police bigotry made them all too willing to accept what Perez had to say without question because it fit their preconceived anticop-bigotry and impugned the integrity of cops everywhere.
    Mr. Katz ignores that despite 3 separate (political scapegoating) jury trials (were all 3 of these juries made up of police-acquitting klansman, Mr. Katz?), the only person who was convicted of anything was Perez himself.

    Although the Rampart Scandal itself created big headlines for the newspapers and instant outrage from the race-baiting blowhards, like (independent, objective?) Mr. Katz, in the Rampart Scandal, our old friend, the truth, was all but ignored and no one in the media nor any bloviating activist, “watch dog” was ever held accountable. Good work Mr. Katz; Nice job.

    Mr. Katz, since you seem confused about the process, let me explain to you what the police use of force review layers are. A police use of force review process goes like this: The officer’s actions (an unscripted, split second decision that an officer is forced to make in a violent, no-rules, often life threatening situation) are reviewed by his immediate supervisor; his chain of command; the Internal Affairs Unit; with a parallel investigation by the District Attorney’s office; and potentially a county Grand Jury; a Federal Grand Jury; the State and the Federal Departments of Justice; a state criminal court; a Federal criminal court; and the FBI (civil rights division).

    Even if cleared or exonerated in all these reviews, an officer can still be tried for a Federal civil rights violation, using the same facts in a trial proceeding which would arguably be “double jeopardy” in any other case. The officer can also be sued in civil court. He will often be tried in the court of public opinion as well, the latter being the most unaccountable and potentially violent proceeding of them all. After all this, we have you, Mr. Katz, and your already obviously unbiased, independent perspective. Welcome aboard and thanks in advance for all your help.

  2. “The killings by police of unarmed black men and boys is akin to climate change—for many, seemingly no evidence will convince them that there is a relationship between race and police violence.” How can someone so biased and racist possibly conduct an investigation that is objective and impartial in its findings? This guy is Ladoris Cordell with a beard. He will conduct witch hunts and the city council and mayor will heap praise on this phony. San Jose is soon going to have 500 officers for a city which should have 2,000 officers, and the new IPA will do nothing but hasten officers leaving for other departments and retiring. Who in God’s name would want to be a police officer anywhere anymore with the Walter Katz’s of the world.