Real Inclusion and Transparency in the IPA Selection Process
Posted by Comments (11)on Monday, May 4, 2009
In an effort to move the city out of the debacle of the IPA selection of Chris Constantin, the Mayor and several Councilmembers have been trading memos regarding the next attempt to hire an IPA, leading up to a potential Cinco de Mayo vote tomorrow. But rushing forward with another hiring process before a full investigation has been done on “IPA-gate” would do San Jose a disservice, and leave lingering suspicions.
While Constantin did the right thing and declined to take the job, what was really exposed, was not so much Constantin’s personal history, but rather a hiring and vetting process set up and signed off by City leaders that in the end produced the brother of a San Jose Police Officer to monitor the San Jose Police department. At best it was a poorly crafted process that allowed for the unimaginable to occur, and at worst it was an intentional deception.
Even in hindsight, it is hard to believe just due to the sheer number of people involved throughout the selection process—a high powered hiring firm, a number of councilmembers, the Mayor, and 20 community panelists. But looking back, what the last IPA hiring process exampled was the well-orchestrated illusion of transparency and inclusion, why the act can’t substitute the real thing, and why we can’t run the risk of going down that road again.
And the truth is, we still don’t know key information regarding the last hiring process. The issue of Constantin’s brother may have only been the part of the glacier that poked above dark waters. For this reason, a number of organizations concerned with police accountability issues submitted a California Public Records Act request to the City Attorney’s office.
Silicon Valley De-Bug (where I serve as director), the African-American Center, the NAACP, and the ACLU are requesting records of correspondence related to the hiring of the search firm, information about who received the background information from the search firm and records of correspondence between the Mayor, City Council, City Attorney, San Jose Police Officers Association and Police Chief regarding any aspect of the hiring process.
We are also requesting records containing selection criteria used for establishing the Community Panel and the names of those who were selected.
What these questions are getting at is that all stages of the hiring process is critical.
From the limited information our organization has gathered, the process went as follows: A private headhunting company called Bob Murray and Associates was contracted with the City of San Jose and initiated the search for the potential IPA applicants.
They received 58 applications in the form of resumes and online questionnaires. Regan Williams, the Vice President of the company, and former Sunnyvale Police Chief, supervised the next narrowing down process. The group was distilled to sixteen candidates that Williams conducted personal interviews with, which reduced the candidate pool to eight.
That group of eight finalists were then screened and interviewed by the Mayor’s staff. This vetting process than produced four candidates pre-screened by the Mayor’s staff, which were then presented to the Community Panel for interviews. Chris Constantin, despite the disapproval of several community panel members, was then chosen as the new San Jose Independent Police Auditor.
Philip Eure, President of the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE), says the hiring process is crucial to determining how useful that body will be for bringing proper and independent oversight to law enforcement. “What is needed is to have people involved who can be trusted to not bend from political influence.” Eure says. “Real accountability necessitates transparency.”
Often missed in all this is the personal journey people take to file with the IPA. All those numbers and statistics that are generated with the annual IPA reports are only made possible through real-life moments of trauma, and a faith in the possibility of justice that defies sometimes people’s own logic that police can ever be held accountable in San Jose. For each complaint filed means someone who feels their rights have been violated, have either the emotional and physical bruises to show it, and is actually taking time out their busy lives to re-live their pained moment with strangers. Indeed, there is anxiety, anger, and tears that fill those IPA sessions.
But I can tell you first hand that the tipping point that gets them to walk into that IPA office is not that there will be any immediate recourse on the officer they are filing about, but rather that by their filing, they will help spare the same injury from happening to another down the road. They are doing their civic duty.
San Jose has an obligation to honor the courage of those who are stepping forward at the most vulnerable moments of their lives. The way to receive a gesture like that is to provide an above-water, transparent, hiring process for the next IPA, that shows through action the word “independent” is a respected value. That gesture starts with the hiring process.
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