SJ Police Chief Finalists Named—But Some Say It’s Too Fast

San Jose city officials announced the four final candidates for police chief on Monday, raising questions from at least one influential community leader about the fast pace in hiring—and whether local groups are being heard.

“I have a real fear that this was just a Howdy Doody show, that nothing’s going to change,” said San Jose-Silicon Valley NAACP President Rev. Jethroe Moore, who participated in a panel last week to interview the initial selection of candidates.

Larry Scirotto, a recently retired police chief of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was the only external candidate to make it to the final round. The remaining finalists include Assistant Chief Anthony Mata, Deputy Chief Heather Randol and interim Chief David Tindall—all from the San Jose Police Department.

The city convened panels over the course of two days last week to interview the first round of seven candidates. More than 50 participants drawn from multiple community groups, including Sacred Heart Community Service, SOMOS Mayfair, Black Kitchen Cabinet and La Raza Roundtable were asked to weigh in via a ranked choice voting system. Each selected their first, second and third choices for police chief.

While Moore cast his votes with everyone else on the panel, he said the speed the city is moving in the hiring process does not fill him with confidence that the community’s preferences are being weighed heavily.

City officials declined to say how community groups voted on the candidates last week, citing California law requiring confidentiality in personnel matters. In addition, those who participated in last week’s panels were required to sign non-disclosure agreements preventing them from revealing their participation to the press.

Moore decided to speak up anyway, he said, because of what he views as a lack of transparency in the process, participants and vote tallies. In his view, that makes the city’s community outreach amount to little more than “trickery,” he said.

“If we’re not allowed to see the rankings, you gave us a false idea of hope,” Moore said. “It just shows that we have a dishonest system… This is what we talk about when we talk about structural or systemic racism.”

Vice Mayor Chappie Jones, however, said in an interview Monday he thinks the process has been transparent enough, though he agreed the city could share how community members’ opinions will weigh in the decision.

The Candidates

But for the most part, those at San Jose City Hall who spoke to San Jose Inside say they’ve been happy with the candidates in line for consideration. Those city officials are the one who will ultimately decide who will get the top job at SJPD.

Though City Manager David Sykes will recommend who should get the job, council members will cast the final “yes” or “no” vote on that recommendation.

Jones estimates, however, that the council is unlikely to vote against Sykes’ pick.

Downtown Councilman Raul Peralez, a reserve San Jose PD officer, said the candidates—particularly those from outside of the department—expressed some important new ideas during the interview process.

“There’s a mentality in San Jose that we’re sort of ahead of the curve on so many things, but at the same time, there’s a lot of things we may not be progressive on,” he said.

Many of those ideas were hashed out on Valentine’s Day, when all of the candidates hopped online for a lengthy public discussion about residents’ concerns. The forum came after two candidates—including Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo—withdrew their applications for the position.

The hourslong hearing drew more than 500 questions from residents.

“We are looking for someone who is open-minded and ready to engage in a dialogue that challenges conventional wisdom,” Sykes said.

The focus of the forum returned often to racial equity and systemic racism in policing.

According to California’s police scorecard, San Jose police arrest, injure and kill Black and Latino residents at significantly higher rates relative to their share of the population. Black people constitute 12 percent of SJPD arrests while being only about 4 percent of the population. Latinos constitute 76 percent of people injured or killed by police, despite making up only 33 percent of the population.

Those statistics are under particular scrutiny following a summer of nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis by a white police officer.

During one of those protests last year, San Jose police shot one of the department’s anti-bias trainers, Derrick Sanderlin, with a rubber bullet in the groin. Sanderlin, who is Black, filed a lawsuit against the city along with six other plaintiffs alleging that the department’s police training enabled indiscriminate brutality against protestors.

Garnering Trust

Though the candidates differed in some areas, each said they agreed with community calls to lean more heavily on community-based groups for certain situations, and that the SJPD—along with other police departments around the country—needed to make strides in regaining some residents’ trust.

Tindall, who was born in Scotland, acknowledged that it may be awkward for him to assert himself as the best person to address racism at SJPD. He said the racist history of police departments in the U.S. has built reasonable distrust of police among people of color. “We have a role in history,” he said during the livestreamed forum. “We can’t garner trust without first admitting to prior mistakes.”

He said he wants police to divert more calls to community organizations, which he said could lower racial disparities and improve response times for more serious crimes.

“Good intentions can create unintended results,” Tindall told meeting attendees. “An arrest or citation is not a solution to every single problem we have.”

Mata agreed the city must acknowledge the racism in society as well as in policing. If chosen to be the next chief, he’d expand on the race and equity training currently offered in the department, which he said would help reduce bias.

“It creates division and [an] us-versus-them mentality,” Mata said during the forum earlier this month. “We must have these candid conversations and listen.”

When it comes to crimes such as theft and vandalism, Randol—who holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology—said data show such misdeeds are often committed by a handful of “repeat offenders,” and that zeroing in on the causes and the motivation of those individuals can help prevent future transgression.

“We know that one person is usually responsible for a whole bunch of crime,” she said during the public forum last week. “Root causes of crime can be addressed … it’s important that we don’t ignore those things.”

Roughly 1,150 police officers serve the Bay Area’s largest city—home to a population of more than 1 million residents—and violent crimes take priority over property offenses. That’s part of why Randol said some types of quality-of-life crimes could be better handled by community groups.

Vice Mayor Jones told San Jose Inside that Scirotto stands out to him because he provided detailed answers during the public forum on Valentine’s Day.

“[Scirotto] had a lot of detailed data to back up his comments and initiatives,” Jones said. “That's probably a big reason why he was one of the external candidates.”

Indeed, Scirotto, the only remaining candidate from outside of the SJPD, referenced studies on how police spend 35 percent of their time responding to less-urgent crimes, including traffic violations and burglar alarms. He said his department in Pittsburgh took those calls out of police response and created a “Quality of Life patrol” directed in part by neighborhood groups. “It’s very different from me telling [residents] what should be their priority,” Scirotto said. “We involved them from the beginning.”

17 Comments

  1. I didn’t hear anything (in this article) about taking the criminal element off the street. Something the former chief mentioned a lot.

    I see postings everyday on social media and the news about some criminal act.

    Oh well I guess it is all about equality and felony citations.

  2. “More than 50 participants drawn from multiple community groups, including Sacred Heart Community Service, SOMOS Mayfair, Black Kitchen Cabinet and La Raza Roundtable were asked to weigh in via a ranked choice voting system. Each selected their first, second and third choices for police chief.”

    The aforementioned cry-babies will never be happy. They actually support structural and systemic racism by singling themselves out for preferential treatment.

    Promote from within-they know San Jose best.

    Personally, I hire the Scotsman.

    David S. Wall

  3. Seriously SJ? You call this diverse? Why is there not a black man or woman in the final four? Does San Jose need a lesson in Diversity, Equality and Inclusion? Only way to end injustice and systemic racism within SJPD is to have a black police chief. Period!

  4. Sheesh. This is just San Jose. I feel lucky that we have candidates at all for police chief in these difficult times. No police chief hired that satisfies all of the so called community groups’ “wants” will ultimately succeed in his or her role and experience any longevity in that role. Name one city where that has worked. Oakland? Seattle? San Francisco? Minneapolis?

  5. The Black candidate, Minneapolis Police Chief Arradondo, was disqualified for being Derek Chauvin’s boss before firing him. Or for abandoning the 3rd precinct or something.

  6. “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” ~From the “I have a dream” speech. MLK

  7. I am concerned that disabled residents continue to be an afterthought and our community was not considered a valued and necessary voice on the panel. I listened to the public candidate Q and A, not a single disability related question made the list from the 500 questions submitted. And our community did submit questions.
    Puzzling, as an estimated 80% of incarcerated adults are illiterate. In Santa Clara County detained youth test 3 to 7 grade levels behind peers.

    San Jose does not have an Office for Disability Affairs, the only major city in America without one, San Jose eliminated the ADA position in 2013, San Jose has a preschool to prison, poverty, and park bench pipeline, yet does not acknowledge or address it. The residents of San Jose do not have the mentality that we our leaders are progressive. The Santa Clara County Juvenile Justice Annual Reports describes dyslexia as an “other achievement problem, along with lack of interest. That is not a progressive or an accurate description of dyslexia, a neurologically based specific learning disability.
    “School Adjustment: Over half of the male youth stated having issues with schoolwork (60 percent). For 23 percent of the boys, the problems were related to lack of intellectual capacity (i.e., needing special education services) while 37 percent was due to other achievement problems (i.e., lack of interest, dyslexia, dropouts)”
    https://probation.sccgov1.acsitefactory.com/sites/g/files/exjcpb721/files/Juvenile%20Justice%20Annual%20Report_2019.pdf
    The school-to-prison pipeline (STPP) describes a series of mechanisms that increase the risk of negative police interactions and the risk of unnecessary criminalization. Children with disabilities are at an elevated risk for being drawn into this pipeline at a younger age and have a heightened risk of future juvenile justice involvement. While over the past 10 years there has been a decline in juvenile crime, youth with disabilities are being incarcerated at rates of more than four times higher than youth without disabilities. The National Coalition for Juvenile Justice has called the current levels of incarcerated youth with disabilities in the U.S. “an epidemic.” The Pedagogy of Pathologization explores the construction of criminal identities in schools via the intersections of race, disability, and gender. amid the prevalence of targeted mass incarceration.
    We need leaders in all sectors of the community private and public to engage in conversations that seek to understand and address the role of systemic ableism in perpetuating the school to prison, poverty, and park bench pipeline. The reality is that individuals with invisible or unrecognized learning disabilities are most likely to encounter law enforcement. Wake Up San Jose.
    “Disabled individuals make up a third to half of all people killed by law enforcement officers. Disabled individuals make up the majority of those killed in use-of-force cases that attract widespread attention. This is true both for cases deemed illegal or against policy and for those in which officers are ultimately fully exonerated. The media is ignoring the disability component of these stories, or, worse, is telling them in ways that intensify stigma and ableism.” https://rudermanfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/MediaStudy-PoliceDisability_final-final.pdf

  8. Whoever gets the job there’s no doubt we’ll be saddled with yet another SJPD police chief pension within a few years as he/she decides they really don’t give a damn about San Jose after all, deciding instead that it’s in their own ambitious public employee career path best interest to keep moving along the NPCGPCT (National Police Chief Golden Parachute Collection Tour).

  9. This is wrong and the community should not remain silent….

    I would have thought the City Manager would have “Gotten the Memo” and shopped around outside of the current upper brass at SJPD. The Muppets in charge at SJPD all need to kick rocks for running that place like a Ponzi Scheme. The community is not happy.

    I watched the Police Chief Forum and it just made me sick. These people are full of it and they have started to believe their own lies.

    Reverend Jeff Moore knocked it out of the park with his comments in this article. He is 100% correct…. Nothing has and nothing will change…..

    Well…. I think it is time to rallying the troops to start daily protest at SJPD. Its better to do this at the main station on Mission Street since we have so many other government agencies in that immediate vicinity. This will make it a lot harder for the public to be used as target practice when they stick the “Free Speech Suppression Merge Team” on the crowd just for exercising their democratic values.

    If the public remains silent, and allows this SCAM to play out, we will have another 5 years of Chief Pumpkin Head 2.0….

    FYI…. Did the police department ever take responsibly for using protesters as target practice during the Civil Unrest after the death of George Floyd?? NOPE….. Excuse after excuse….Knopf, Dwyer, Troy, Chief Pumpkin Head, and many of the other top brass that ordered these attacks have all jumped ship from the PD over the last 6 months.

    Rather then weed out the bad apples during these protests (Minimal Amount) the upper brass gave the green light to just start mowing people down on May 29th 2020…. I really feel bad for all the college students and youth that were chased like dogs all over downtown just for speaking up for our community. Oh…. We also arrested most of them and dumped them in another city with no bus service to get back to San Jose…. dick move….

  10. Given this is a personnel matter, why in the world is Chappie talking about it in public saying the guy from outside “stands out to him”? This man should not be speaking about this and giving interviews. Seems pretty biased.

  11. “The community is not happy.” The community? The “community” is those who live in all of SJ, not just an area OF San Jose.

  12. Those quality of life crimes that could better be handled by community groups, why not divert some of the budget from the PD and beef up these “community groups”? We should have social workers responding to many calls that instead bring out armed agents of the state. They won’t be so offended if their suggestions are not immediately taken up by those in need, unlike law enforcement types.

  13. Police chiefs have nothing to do with law enforcement, not anymore. Police chiefs are only about two things: Identity politics, and appeasing loudmouth activists. In light of that reality, lets pick the next police chief of San Jose PD.

    Tindall: Although competent and credible, he’s male and white. Not a chance in hell.

    Mata: Decent street cop but since San Jose PD has already had a Hispanic police chief, poor Mata won’t be a “first” so he’s highly doubtful.

    Scirotto: He talks a great game and masterfully regurgitates what cringing politicians want to hear, i.e., irrelevant, easily manipulated statistics and political platitudes. This makes him a political darling but a nightmare for the working street cop who he would throw under the bus or cut on the leg and swim away from at the slightest hint of controversy, A horrible pick but one who cannot be completely ruled out, due to the aforementioned criteria. At first glance, Scirotto appears to be white, although there seems little doubt he would be capable of changing his ethnicity as political expediency demands.

    Randol: Although she is white, she is still female and since San Jose PD is still looking for it’s “First” female Chief, competent or not, Randol is, to my mind, the odds-on favorite.

    God help us all!

  14. SCC Resident,
    Name the types of calls that would be better handled by social workers? Social workers handout gov’t checks, hugs and referrals to social services. What type of crime would they be better suited to handling?, Seriously, some wino setting fire to a dumpster? A gang-bangers spray painting gang graffiti on a sound wall? Some mentally ill homeless guy taking a dump on the sidewalk? Please, share your wisdom.

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