Is San Jose making a play for the valley’s other large police organization? Already in control of the SJPD, San Jose’s political leadership appears to be aligned with an effort to challenge Sheriff Laurie Smith’s re-election. So much so that the 18th floor is beginning to look like a safe house for a government-in-exile. Ex-SJPDers already head up police departments in Los Altos and Los Gatos/Monte Sereno, but those departments don’t even have helicopters.
Mayor Chuck Reed’s campaign strategy chief, Victor Ajlouny, has been working with retired police Capt. Richard Calderon to take on the three-term incumbent. Camp Calderon has been conducting polls that suggest they’ll be making an issue out of the De Anza rape case investigation and county liability settlements related to conduct by sheriff’s deputies. Ajlouny previously worked with former Deputy Sheriff’s Association president Jose Salcido, a Smith adversary, SJPOA ally and one-time candidate for sheriff who’s now Reed’s law enforcement adviser.
Not all Reed staffers are in Calderon’s corner. Reed’s budget director, Armando Gomez, is supporting Smith, though his endorsement hasn’t hit Smith’s website yet. Reedsters say all this extracurricular political activity occurs on private time, not on the taxpayers’ nickel. Still, it could make it tougher for Reed to call SJPD use-of-force complainers “weapons of mass exaggeration” and take critics to task for making a lot of hay over “a tiny percentage of cases”—as he did in his State of the City speech—when some of his closest advisers will be doing just that with another law enforcement agency.
The likelihood that Reed will publicly involve himself in the race is slim, knowledgeable parties say, given his view that there’s more to lose than gain with endorsements. Just ask Sheriff Smith, who made the mistake of endorsing Cindy Chavez for mayor when Reed ran in 2006.