Police Chief Breaks Silence
Posted by Comments (24)on Tuesday, November 22, 2011
The day San Jose Inside readers have been patiently waiting for has arrived. The busiest guy in town finally turned in his answers to questions that were submitted back in October. After we detailed how a Q&A with the chief went wrong last Friday, Moore sprang into action with a 4,501-word email. Below are the questions and answers, preceded by an apology from Moore to readers for the delay. We’re sure all of you will understand.
Chief Moore: First, let me begin by thanking all of those whom submitted questions on this forum. I appreciate the opportunity to respond directly to those who sincerely care about the future of public safety in our city. Although my responses have been delayed due to events of the past month, I felt that the questions deserved more than a one or two line response. I apologize for the delay and look forward to answering whatever questions people have about our police department.
1. What are you doing differently from Rob Davis to make sure officers understand how to work with San Jose’s diverse population—and with mentally ill residents?
During the selection process for my position, the City Manager sought and received an unprecedented amount of community input concerning the state of the Department’s collective relationship with the community. What she found was that many segments of the community felt completely disconnected from the Police Department. Furthermore, she found that these same people wanted a stronger relationship with the Department but did not know how to accomplish that. What became abundantly clear to me was that, even though we are one of the finest police departments in the country, we had a blind spot.
We needed a mechanism to engage our broader community and to be able to receive constructive feedback about how we do business. As one of my first acts as Chief, I invited a broad group of community leaders to serve on a newly formed Community Advisory Board (CAB). The CAB, which includes both critics of the department as well as supporters, meets on a regular basis to provide feedback to the command staff and me. Most recently, they have been asked to help develop a comprehensive community policing plan for San Jose. These community leaders have been incredibly helpful in allowing us to hear and understand community concerns quickly and be able to resolve concerns more quickly than in the past.
We have also updated our racial profiling policy to reflect a more comprehensive and best practice bias-based policing policy. The new policy covers officer conduct throughout the course of the entire stop, rather than just at the point of the initial stop.
We continue to operate our Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) program, which trains our officers to safely interact with mentally ill people in the field. Our dispatchers continue to be trained in CIT as well, which assists them in assessing the need to dispatch CIT officers to calls involving the potential for a confrontation with a mentally ill person. We currently have 210 officers who have received CIT training and we have just trained an additional 39 officers and dispatchers in the past few weeks.
2. You have stripped personnel from investigations to staff patrol, creating a situation where very few reported crimes will get the necessary follow up investigation. Why didn’t you redistrict the patrol division and scale it back to 12 districts again? This would have eliminated the need for the Southern Division command structure. If part of the reason is the inability to quickly and efficiently reprogram the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system, why was this system implemented, and wasn’t this done on your watch in Bureau of Technical Services (BTS)?
It is no secret that our Department is experiencing the most difficult fiscal crisis in our 162-year history. In our last budget cycle alone, we had to eliminate 183 sworn police officer positions. When you add the cuts from the previous four years, we have seen our sworn ranks reduced from a high of 1,409 to our current level of just under 1,100. This represents a 22% reduction in our sworn strength. We cannot let this pattern continue. The safety of our community depends on having a sufficient number of well-trained officers to protect and preserve our quality of life. That said, when our $30 million budget reduction target was presented to us earlier this year, we had to identify deep cuts.
Last November, we conducted a number of town hall-style meetings within the Department to seek input on how to best structure our proposed cuts while doing our best to maintain our core service of responding to 911 calls for service. During these meetings, our staff came up some great suggestions that were included in the budget. As a result, we eliminated a number of positions within the Bureau of Investigations and consolidated several of its units.
As for redistricting, a good rule of thumb is that we should redistrict every ten years. The redistricting process allows us to even out the calls for service across all of the beats and districts in the city. This has become particularly important as the City has annexed a number of county pockets in the past few years. In an ideal world, we would have gone through this process last year. However, given the tremendous budget uncertainty, I felt that it was best for us to wait so that we could stabilize our work force and determine exactly how many sworn personnel we will have available to put into the field. We have already reduced our command staff from 52 lieutenants to 37. This effectively means that we are deploying a command staff as if we had three patrol divisions, and not the four that currently exist. It’s important to remember that regardless of how many districts we have, we still need an adequate number of officers deployed to serve a growing population and patrol the same geographic area.
3. Why is the police department still handwriting reports or at minimum having to produce hard copies of each one? There has been a quest to implement a new RMS and VFR system since 1998 and not one has been implemented. What are you doing to rectify this problem, and will you hold people accountable if this system proves unworkable yet again?
While the San Jose Police Department does continue to hand-write many reports, we are currently in the process of transitioning to an Automated Field Reporting / Records Management System (AFR/RMS). After several years of applying for various grants, we have secured the necessary funds, selected the vendor (Versaterm) and have begun the implementation phase of the project.
AFR/RMS will allow officers to complete their reports on computers in their patrol vehicles and then submit them electronically, thus eliminating the need for paper reports. The automated features in the new system will also remove several steps in the routing process, which are currently being done manually by civilian records personnel. It will also allow patrol officers immediate access to crime/suspect data much faster than ever before.
We currently have a team of both civilian and sworn personnel dedicated to implementing this critical project. We anticipate that the new system will be deployed next year. This will greatly increase the efficiency of the Department. Though some specialized forms (such as those used by multiple agencies) will still be in hard copy form, our Department will finally become “paperless.”
We have also introduced a number of other new technologies in the past few years which have helped us become much more efficient. Our Mobile ID program helps us identify suspects more quickly than ever before. Our electronic citation system is faster for officers and greatly reduces the error/kickback rate. In addition, our GPS-based priority dispatch protocol has significantly reduced our priority one response times. These technology projects (and others) are crucial to ensure that we become as efficient as possible with the few officers that we have left to protect the public.
4. Chief Davis said the city of San Jose needs about 1,700 officers to stay on par with the national average. Today there are fewer than 1,100 officers. It seems possible that this number could easily get down to 800-900 officers. How do you anticipate the department will function at that level? Thanks for agreeing to answer tough questions in this column.
The short answer to your question is that with less staffing, we must prioritize how we provide services. Our main priorities now are reducing and preventing violent crime, as well as responding to 9-1-1 emergency calls. Obviously, with the bulk of our resources going toward these two priorities, many other low-level crimes/tasks may not be given the same attention they once were.
Our sworn staffing level currently sits at approximately 1,100 officers. This is extremely low for a city of our size. To go any lower than this level would be, I believe, dangerous for both the community and the Department. I have voiced this to the Mayor, City Council and the City Manager. Optimally, a city of one million residents should have at least 2,000 cops. While I know we do not have the funds to maintain a force of that size, we must ensure that we go no lower than we are today.
5. How can we everyday citizens assist our police department through community policing? Also, please give us an idea of what NOT to do when we see a crime in progress. Thank you.
Kathleen, thank you for all of your good work in the community. Now more than ever, it is important for our residents to get involved in keeping their community safe. There are a number of ways residents can help our Police Department. First and foremost—get to know your neighbors. It is amazing how many of our residents have never met their neighbors. Second, keep an eye on your neighborhood and report crime and suspicious activity. Often times, when residents see something they think is out of the ordinary or suspicious, their instincts are right! Though we realize that not everyone has the time to organize a formal neighborhood watch group, we do encourage communicating with your neighbors and even meeting periodically to discuss neighborhood issues. We also encourage you to invite the officer who patrols your beat.
Lastly, if you see a crime in progress, dial 9-1-1 and report it to the police. We ask that you be a good witness and supply details to responding officers. Providing good, descriptive information such as license plate numbers can go a long way in helping us solve crimes and taking criminals off the streets.
6. What percentage of police officers live more than 50 miles from San Jose? San Jose has reduced its police officers to a level that barely covers the city during normal times. In the event of an major disaster or emergency that affects thousands of residents, how many of the officers living beyond 50 miles, with roads blocked/airports closed, will be able to respond for duty within four hours to a major emergency like a earthquake, explosion, chemical/toxic spill, etc.? What are the city’s emergency plans, if any, to supplement city police force now that we have significantly reduced police force if other police department/mutual aid are also engaged in disaster or emergency work in their cities and are unable to assist San Jose?
— Concerned D6 Neighbor
While we do have many officers that live within the City of San Jose, there are also many who live in outside jurisdictions. There are a number of factors that go into an officer’s decision on where to settle down. These factors include the cost of living, the housing market, and other family considerations. While we do not actively track exactly how many officers live outside the city at any given time, the percentage is close to 50%. Regardless of their residence location, all of our employees are expected to adhere to a Department policy which subjects them to call back during a major emergency or natural disaster. As a side note, I have recently spoken to a few officers that have moved back to San Jose from outside of the city. With housing prices dropping in San Jose and the increased costs associated with long commutes, it has become more cost-effective for them to live in San Jose.
To address your question regarding how we would supplement our forces if they were severely depleted in the event of an emergency, there are several options available to us. These options include mutual aid requests from other local agencies, as well as State and Federal emergency management assistance. For example, the National Guard is capable of airlifting emergency personnel to trouble spots during emergencies as they did following the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. I vividly remember boarding a California Air Guard helicopter that transported my unit to Santa Cruz to assist in their disaster response. As in any emergency situation, our first responder community will be there when needed.
7. You ordered ICE agents to go home. You stated the reason was because the ICE agents did their job and stopped gang homicides “completely” (no gang-related homicides since June, the same time the ICE partnership began). How many “gangbangers” did ICE deport to achieve this milestone?
— Where to Start?
I am sincerely thankful for the service of the two Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents that worked with our gang investigators this past summer. While working at SJPD, these two agents were not involved in administrative deportations. Their work was largely analytical in that they helped identify patterns and provided “another set of eyes” on our violent gang cases. However, the bulk of the heavy lifting in our gang suppression efforts this year was done by our Special Operations METRO Unit. Between early June and late August, the METRO Unit was responsible for over 300 arrests, the majority of which were gang related. Additionally, our Patrol Division gang cars made some excellent arrests that helped keep the violence down. As a result of these collective efforts, we did not have a single gang-related homicide from June 14th through the beginning of the school year.
8. A couple of weeks ago, on at least two different occasions, you told officers that if the sick time buyout was lost/taken away you were going to retire because you could not afford the loss of $200,000.00+ dollars (the value of your sick time). In light of the POA’s recent pension proposal to the city—it does away with the sick time buyout—are you going to retire if the city accepts the POA’s proposal?
— Where to Start?
I, along with all other City employees, am paying close attention to the pension reform negotiations currently underway at City Hall. Every one of our city employees will be facing some tough decisions as the presumed ballot measure takes its final form. Many senior staff throughout the city are waiting to see what the final ballot language says before they make any retirement decisions. As for me, I am proud to have served in the San Jose Police Department for over 26 years. Although I am eligible to retire, I enjoy my job very much and I hope to stay for several more years.
9. Can you tell me how many supervisor/command staff positions have been demoted a step in rank and pay as a result of officers being laid off? How many detective positions have been cut as a result of officers being sent back to patrol in order to meet minimum staffing levels?
As part of the FY 2011-12 budget, we had to demote 15 Sergeants and lay off 63 officers. As a result of recent retirements and officers leaving to work for other agencies, we have been able to re-promote 6 sergeants, and have offered reinstatement to all but 16 of the laid-off officers. Unfortunately, many of those offered their old positions back have declined because of the potential for being laid off once again.
As for the detective positions, we eliminated 61 investigative positions in order to maintain patrol staffing levels. This shift in resources allows us to keep our response times closer to our targets. However, with 61 fewer investigators, our focus will be on following up on violent crimes and we will have to triage property crime cases and investigate only those that have significant solvability factors. Unfortunately, as I have stated publicly, some low-level crimes may not get investigated at all.
10. Many voters and residents do not understand the working relationship between police chief and your boss, the city manager. Please explain how much or little the city manager affects police department policy, budget, police procedures, salary/benefits or administrative issue.
Under our City Charter, the City Manager is an appointee of the Mayor and City Council. I, along with all of the other department heads, report to the City Manager, Debra Figone. I enjoy a good working relationship with her and, contrary to the belief of some, she has been very supportive of the Police Department. She allows all of her department heads tremendous autonomy, but like all those who are ultimately held accountable, she needs to be kept informed of significant events occurring in our city. With respect to employee discipline, the Director of Employee Relations has been delegated the final authority for suspensions, demotions, and dismissals. As for pay and benefits, these items are negotiated with the various bargaining units through the Office of Employee Relations.
Thanks again for your patience,
Chief of Police
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