San Jose’s Police Watchdog to Leave for Chicago Oversight Job

San Jose’s police watchdog is on his way out after little more than a year on the job. Independent Police Auditor (IPA) Walter Katz is reportedly taking a bit of a pay cut to advise Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on law enforcement.

Before coming to San Jose, Katz worked in Los Angeles County as a public defender and then a deputy inspector general overseeing the sheriff’s office. In November of 2015, he succeeded retired judge LaDoris Cordell as San Jose’s IPA.

According to a story first reported by The Daily Line, a newsletter about Chicago politics, Katz was flown into Chicago last fall for a panel on police reform, where he talked about San Jose’s hiring process for a public safety oversight head. Though advice went unheeded, he left a positive impression.

“[W]e spoke to a lot of people to get a sense of who around the country was doing the best work on police accountability and Walter was on almost everybody’s short list,” Adam Gross, of Business and Professional People for The Public Interest, told The Daily Line.

Katz said he has reviewed several investigations in San Jose that reflect some of the problems being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice in Chicago. Like Chicago, San Jose has come under fire for policing black and Latino communities more heavily than their white and Asian counterparts. However, a wide gulf exists between the homicide rates for the two cities.

San Jose had a 25-year high of homicides in 2016 with 47. Meanwhile, Chicago led the nation with an a reported 762 murders last year, a 54 percent increase from 2015. Additionally troubling, in February 2015 The Guardian reported that Chicago police were using off-the-books interrogation compounds called “black sites.”

During his brief tenure in the South Bay, Katz launched a campaign funded by a $1 million grant from the San Francisco 49ers to improve the relationship between police and the communities they’re sworn to protect. Also during his tenure, the San Jose Police Department began using body cameras—a breakthrough that came after years of lobbying by his predecessor, Cordell.

According to the Mercury News, Katz was born and adopted in Chicago and spent the first few years of his life there before moving from Colorado to New York to Nevada and, eventually, to California.

Katz, 50, told the Chicago Sun-Times that the Windy City presented one of the biggest law enforcement challenges in the nation.

“This is the biggest policing challenge in America right now,” he said. “It’s the combination of two things happening at the same time—the significant increase in gun homicides [and] the issues identified by the Department of Justice.”

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.

11 Comments

  1. This is what carpetbaggers do, travel from one ripe-for-explotation opportunity to the next, free from accountability and ready to aim an empty promise at any situation. Mr. Katz’s departure will be accompanied by the very thing which defined his arrival and the entirety of his tenure: a load of crapola.

    No doubt a replacement with be quickly identified, as Mayor Liccardo certainly has a progressive-approved checklist at the ready and no desire to trust the actual oversight of the police department to his handpicked stooge, Eddie Garcia. And given the mayor’s propensity for making dumb decisions, I expect his first call will be to Rachel Dolezal.

    • Rachel Dolezal would be fine. After a short time on the job she could self-identify as a person who had created remarkable improvements and we’d all be obligated to believe it.
      But seriously. Your description of Mr. Katz as a “carpetbagger” is entirely accurate and his tenure here in San Jose serves as an excellent example of how our government is first about serving itself. We the People are a secondary concern.

    • I heard Katz speak and spoke to him for a bit this past January. While that is not a lot of data I was quite hopeful that he would be a vast improvement over Cordell, a divisive figure and when it came to the annual report, quite petty. I would read the annual IPA report just to see how silly their oversight recommendations could be.

      The real question, is where does SJ go from here. Do we get another Cordell, or do we get someone who looks at ways to realistically make the police better? In my experience, the SJPD is constantly trying to figure out ways to improve, but because there are competing concerns and limits, they have to be realistic. Cordell was not that kind of IPA.

      What kind of person will we get next? The complainer who has no responsibility to implement their “recommendations” or someone who takes ownership of the challenge that police agencies face when asked to fill all the roles of a police officer. Who else is expected to be be a criminal investigator, medical first responder, mental health expert, sociologist, marksman, use of force expert, constitutional law expert, and diplomat (just to name a few) each and every day.

      Put a camera on your chest and see how you do, 100% perfection? Somehow I doubt the vast majority of us could manage 95% yet the SJPD is trying each and every day to do these things. Yet, this publication or the SJMN will quote people like Mr. Jayadev whose only power in this City is when they create controversy and complain. Mr. Katz did not appear to be that kind of person and for that reason, I am saddened to see him go because I wonder who we will get.

      • Mr. Jayadev’s power is derived solely from the news media, whose power is derived solely from its ability to influence (with truth or lies) the public and subjugate (with promised promotion or threats of ruination) our elected officials. If you want to understand the relentless assault on President Trump by the news media and the cultural cancers dependent upon it, look no further than Mr. Trump’s realization that modern technology has created an alternative form of news dissemination, one with the potential to seriously erode the power of the press.

        Were the public to receive the majority of its government-related news directly from the source — from the White House all the way down to the local police department, the news media’s role would be reduced to fact checkers (as opposed to kingmakers), its ability to act as an agent of cultural destruction (on behalf of enemies foreign and domestic) severely diminished.

        GO DONALD!

    • Oh no! Do you think he’ll find racism, disparate treatment, and suggest reforms, community policing and more outreach to the (non-white) community?!!??

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