The Disappearance of Transparency in Local Government

Council again snubs citizens with dismissal of Independent Police Auditor.

Let me take a stab at the job description for the next San Jose Independent Police Auditor. I think I’ve got it.

Qualifications are as follows:
• Must have flexible definition of “independent.”
• Must be willing to satisfactorily explain any police activity as “the norm,” regardless of glaring empirical evidence to the contrary.
• The successful applicant can multitask—listening to and tracking problems with police practices from the public, while also refraining from offering any logical policy recommendations.
• Applicants who properly fit in city council and police union pockets are encouraged to apply.

Note: This is a temporary position, contingent upon applicant’s ability to never initiate, affect, or be rumored to be in the vicinity of law enforcement oversight.

The City Council’s decision to discontinue the current IPA’s contract was not about Barbara Attard. It was about a false promise of transparency in government. It was ultimately a bold repudiation of public participation in local governance.

For anyone who witnessed Attard’s attempt to expand the office’s powers into a properly functioning office of oversight, and the Council’s reaction, her removal is hardly a surprise.

Last year, after the IPA annual report was analyzed, Attard proposed several policy recommendations. Among the proposals was an attempt to close a nonsensical loophole in critical officer-involved incidents.

She asked that the city manager “direct the SJPD to conduct administrative investigations in all critical incidents in which an officer’s use of force or any other department action results in death or serious bodily injury.” At the time, only officer-involved shootings mandated an investigation and an IPA review. But the number of non-shooting fatalities had increased due to the introduction of Tasers, to which were attributed five deaths, two of which are currently in civil litigation.

The city manager responded by saying that such changes would mean a “fundamental paradigm shift in the City’s current oversight model.” Any time anyone uses the words “paradigm shift” to respond to a city policy recommendation, you know there’s some exaggeration. The council followed suit by not only denying Attard’s recommendations, but actually gutting the office even more by removing any investigative powers from the IPA.

The lesson there was a pre-cursor to an eventual removal. San Jose City Council was saying, “Don’t ask for more than what you have, ’cause if you do, we’ll take what you’ve already got.”

But the message was not directed to Attard—she was merely responding to the mounting calls by the public to increase police oversight. The steady rise in the number of complaints—from 329 in 2003 to 547 in 2007—mandated policy improvements for police oversight.

On the evening of the city council meeting to discuss police issues, the Council chambers in the new City Hall was more packed with members of the public than ever before. These community members, in comment after comment, all but begged for more oversight. The council looked them dead in the eye and steamrolled through their collective request.

To the hundreds that were at those council meetings, and attended the previous community forums, it was an admission that important matters of the public’s well-being can be decided with no regard for public input, and in fact, to the contrary of their opinion. Democratic governance turned out to be a conditional.
And the cornerstone of healthy democratic process in local government, transparency—the key issue that helped Chuck Reed win his seat as Mayor—was also exposed as more talk then action.

Reed told the media and dozens of community members at a recent press conference regarding the suspiciously large number of drunk-in-public arrests that the decision to suddenly dismiss Attard “was not a public discussion.” Why not? Why wasn’t the vote done through a process that built in the public’s point of view, or even during an open city council meeting? The answer is in the council’s actions the previous year—because the public’s opinion has proven to be irrelevant in the decision-making process, particularly when it comes to police oversight in San Jose.

The council’s actions against Attard have left us all in a stuck position.  If the public had concerns that the Independent Police Auditor was ineffective, they certainly know now that whomever comes in next will be coming into a powerless office. Yet given the constant barrage of police misconduct issues hitting the news, the City must have some mechanism in place for oversight to occur.

The answer might not be in getting a new IPA, but creating a new system altogether, one where civilian oversight and public concerns are built in to the process and protected, and can lead to improvements in police and community relations. Who knows what that system may be, but for now, we can call it a paradigm shift.

 

16 Comments

  1. Why so many SJPD officers downtown? Why are we so short of SJPD officers in the neighborhoods across the city?
          They tell us at meetings they are having budget problems but, they are adding more.Seems they are adding more for downtown. How about the neighborhoods?

  2. Wait a minute. I thought SJPD was the finest, most highly trained and professional police department in the land. They have a multi-ethnic, multi-sexual preference, multi-gender makeup that reflects the diversity that is the strength of our great city.
    Why do we need an independent auditor to tell these godly and saintlike beings how to do their job.
    After all, they are *Government* employees for crying out loud. We know that ALL *Government* employees repay the taxpayers many times over with their unswerving diligence and dedication to we, the public to whom they so unselfishly devote themselves.
    Thank God for Government employees and Thank God that Barack Obama will soon be President so we can have twice as many Government employees.

  3. The job of the police auditor is, not surprisingly, to audit and report—not oversee and amend. Barbara Attard was not hired to run the police department—that job is the chief’s. She was not hired to oversee the police chief—that job belongs to the city manager. Ms. Attard has no credentials as a police supervisor, administrator, instructor, or criminal investigator. She was put in her position to examine the job the police department does in policing itself, but instead of confining herself to that role she sought the authority to conduct her own investigations, dictate policy, solicit complaints against the department, and change investigative procedures. In other words, she tried to do exactly what the anti-police creeps wanted her to do, which was to generate politically exploitable public controversy.

    The position of police auditor, a bit of appeasement for society’s perennial malcontents and losers, has accomplished nothing but trouble for the city. Neither auditor has ever discovered a single case of an internal affairs coverup—reason enough to abolish the position. The evidence suggests that of all departments in need of auditing, the police auditor tops the list.

    Not content to do no harm, the previous auditor single-handedly created the policing nightmare in the downtown with her successful campaign against the long-successful practice of having club owners select, contract, and pay for the officers they thought best-suited to keep the peace in their establishments. That bit of headline grabbing—which got her the judgeship she desired, took crowd management out of the hands of the familiar cops at the door and put it into the hands of a tactical police squad.

    Barbara Attard has, from the outset, made it clear that she had no interest in confining her duties to the job description, quite an irony for someone who is supposed to audit how well others adhere to their job descriptions. I hope prospective employers take heed and keep her unemployed. Anti-police activists don’t belong on the public payroll.

    This has been quite a pathetic week for SJI. Raj’s lame post makes a fitting bookend to The Fly’s lame police video. No wonder The Metro is free.

  4. November First! Wow where did this year go? Last night as the steam of little children came calling to my front porch, I was taken back to the many years prior.
      I forgot about the meltdown of the past 8 years in Washington and the equally disturbing 8 years in San Jose.
      My son Paul make chicken soup and my daughters and family came to be a part of their old neighborhood scene. They reconected with old friends and exchanged stories of their recent past.
      It was a time only children can produce and make real. we played scrabble, and just enjoyed the moment.
      Then reality struck, as I sat and read SJI this morning.
      I have learned much about myself reading Frustrted Finfan. Lesson #1 Be tolerant of others and express what feeling come to the surface. Say what you mean, mean what You say, but don’t say it mean.
      As a Mexican, I have had my share of roustings by cheap thrill cops. I have seen and reported horrific treatment to men young and old.
      As a catholic and raised to respect my church, I no longer tolerate what these men hidden inside the religious cloth have done to our state of safety within the walls of our churchs. Perhaps the same can be said of our police officers. Left in the hands of God as the judge, there will always be abuse.
      I sence a very heavy hand at work dealing with the demographics in the down town. Down Town has become synonomous with young adults, lost in a world of greed and deception. The redevelopment agency focused on this group of our population 2 decades ago. They proudly paraded our group thru the bars and clubs made possible to make our down town vibrant. We saw then the tragedy of such a path. We as a city groomed our children to a life that we now do not want.
      High rise condos, are the next wave. Huge waves are generated by hugh storms.
      The forces working in the core of down town are split and in disrepair.
      As a young guy we had teen centers. We could pay a small fee and mingle and dance with our favorite girl friend.
      The down town is about money, large sums of money. Made by the land lords and the people that have the control of the night scene. That is where the issue is.
      I see a very simple solution here, as the sun has just peeked out behind that dark cloud and the wind is showing it’s self in the leafy trees.
      This might be lesson #2 Fin Fan. When ants would appear in my kitchen, I would run to the hardware store and buy ant poisons. I found a simple solution. Clean my kitchen. Where do ants go when they are not visiting my kitchen? Ants are like young adults. They are smart and while independent,work as a colony. Take a ride down town tonight about 9pm and witness the lines of young adults at Sabor. Expensive cover charges and pricey drinks. I took my friend there one evening and saw Jerry Rice enjoying the ambience. What is the benifit to the land lord? Are the cops waiting out side like voracios sharks? Of course! That is the name of the down town game.
      The club knows when a customer has had too much to drink. At that point the club should shoulder the responcibility for that patron’s safety. The 24 hour mentality gurus should also have a responcbility to get the visiting customers out of harms way after they have locked their cash in the vault.
      Clean your kitchen San Jose. Council folk. get out of Sam’s Licardo’s world and start neighborhood locations of your own for young adults to socialize. Nora, you have a 30 million dollar facility that is ripe for becomming such a venue.
      What is the alcohol consumption at a single Shark’s game, include the bars and resturants that fans frequent that evening? The city has those figures. That would be interesting to hear.
              The Village Black Smith

  5. Raj asks: “Why wasn’t the vote done through a process that built in the public’s point of view, or even during an open city council meeting?”

    Because if they had aired a personnel matter in an open session Attard could sue the socks off the city!

    Come on, Raj. You seem like a bright guy who knows the circumstances under which the city council must, by law, go into executive session. You might not like the requirement, but to suggest an ulterior motive is BS.

  6. Raj is correct to criticize the way this decision was made. It wasn’t just about personnel, it was fundamentally about policy questions and it exposed Reed’s covert commitment to opaque processes.

    Because Reed was protected for years by a relative at the Mercury News, the record of his behind-the-scenes machinations in Berryessa and on a variety of commissions has never been reported. However, the many Reed-watchers in Berryessa find this episode just one more illustration of his continuous commitment to secret operations.

    Notwithstanding Reed’s campaign blather about transparency, I doubt he can even say the word without breaking into a cold sweat.

  7. Raj,

    Your hard-left NAACP leaning really showed in that article. Where is your impartiality? Did you check that at the door??

    Mike B.

  8. So, now that the city has shed its only oversight of policing outside the SJPD chain of command, I’m sure that trust and integrity will be restored, just like in the deregulation of the financial sector. And, like the 700 billion dollar bailout for the divinely self-regulating financial market, the payouts in wrongful death and racial discrimination lawsuits will be a small sacrifice at the altar of freedom for the wealthy and white.

    Pork-pals, you can wash your hands of the whole issue now and go back to counting your money. You are safe once again to not have to look at the racist violence done in the name of your comfort and security.

  9. Raj,
    I saw you on the news defending Attard. I found something you said very disturbing. You said something to the effect of “She has been a very strong advocate for people in our community…”
    The reason I find this so concerning is that an Independent Police Auditor is NOT supposed to be an advocate of ANY KIND. As a matter of fact they are supposed to be nothing more than a neutral person appointed by the Mayor and Council to go out and “listen to,” and bring back information on a topic they are hired to over see. They are supposed to remain free of the influence of ANY group, or organization. Attard did not remain “independent,” nor did she listen and remain neutral at any time during her contract with the City. 

    The true definition of “independent”

    http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/independent
    Noun
    Singularindependent   Pluralindependents
    independent (plural independents)
    1.A candidate or voter not affiliated with any political party, a free thinker, free of a party platform.
    2.A neutral or uncommitted person.

    Auditor means:
    Noun
    Singularauditor   Pluralauditors
    auditor (plural auditors)
    1.One who audits bookkeeping accounts.
    2.In many jurisdictions, an elected or appointed public official in charge of the public accounts; a comptroller.
    3.(rare) One who audits an academic course; who attends the lectures but does not earn academic credit.
    4.(Scientology) One trained to perform spiritual guidance procedures.
    Noun
    audītor (genitive audītōris); m, third declension
    1.A hearer.
    2.An auditor
    3.A pupil, disciple; a person who listens to teachings.
    4.(by metonymy) A reader of a book. (Books were read aloud.)

    By mere viture of your own statement, and the statements of other groups like yours, you are proving that Attard’s dismissal was more than over due and most certainly proper.

    I have personally seen Attard violate the guidelines of her title by collaberating with the NAACP, the ACLU, and other groups in public meetings. I’ve watched her pass out instructions to audience members with directions on what to say to the Mayor and Council to increase her powers and request a Charter change, while in these “public” meetings.

    I have attended brown bag lunches designed to educate the public on diversity in our community, at the Office of Human Relations, and I’ve heard Attard or her staff pushing for people to come and file a report with them against the Police, even if the situation wasn’t serious enough to do so. I’ve heard people tell her repeaditly they didn’t want to file a report, and watched as she or her staff keep pushing them to do so.
    I’ve seen her sideline the Chief of Police in news interviews, and in Council Meetings. What kind of “Independent Police Auditor” collaberates with anti Police groups to pack a Council Meeting?  What kind of “Independent Police Auditor” uses groups like yours Raj to get Charter changes to increase powers she isn’t trained in, or experienced in, and is NOT legally entitled to? And what kind of “Independent Police Auditor” is supposed to repeadily ignore the Mayor and Council’s instructions to work more closely, and more collaberatively with the Police Chief?
     
    Attard’s dismissal is completelty warrented, and has been long over due. No one from her office should be considered for the job either, as they have blindly followed her lead. A neuteral, professional, independent person should be hired to the position. One who will honor and serve the public WITHOUT involving themselves in controversy, and power seeking endeavors.  And one who strives to make positive changes in collaberation with ALL parties involved, including our Police Chief by giving the Mayor and Council both factual and impartial recomendations.

  10. #8,
    You refer sarcastically to the “divinely self regulating financial markets”.

    2 points;
    – The financial markets were never given the opportunity of being self regulating. Congress saw to that. Fannie and Freddie were not subject to risk. If they had been subject to the consequences of their own risky behavior they wouldn’t have bought all those bad mortgages.

    -Who are these divinely infallible, incorruptible regulators that you imagine?

    This whole modern notion of hiring more and more public servants and then, not trusting our own judgment and backing them up with yet another army of public servants to watch over them, is wasteful, timid, and destructive of initiative and morale.

    In short, the cure is worse than the disease.

  11. Poster # 8’s sarcastic comment about “trust and integrity” being restored to SJPD is based on an assumption for which there exists no evidence. To the best of my recollection, no significant percentage of San Joseans has ever expressed distrust of the police department, nor demonstrated a reluctance to summon them for help, nor failed to support them at the ballot box (which is why local candidates vie for the police endorsement). Clearly, the majority of residents here are fair enough to understand that the police department has a tough job to do, and smart enough to recognize that it is a job not possible to accomplish flawlessly.

    Poster #8, besides being fundamentally wrong, is also obviously not interested in fairness, as evidenced by his referring to police supporters as “pork-pals.” Clearly he belongs to that small minority of citizens who hate the police, find racism in their own cherry-picked statistics, and equate every use of force by the police as an assault on the free world. This minority, one with a capacity for frenzy matched only by its incapacity for reason, exists not because of any real threat to our liberty, but because its membership is made up of cartoon anarchists, political opportunists, and psychologically-challenged outcasts still simmering over high school. Listen to them, as the idiots in the press would have us do, and you wind up with politically compromised law enforcement, where the good and honest majority must surrender entire neighborhoods to politically empowered law breakers.

    When examining our local cop-haters I have to marvel how these clowns can stir themselves up over nothing but a lame video of cops standing around, a sissy interpretation about them “looking menacing,” and a Chicken Little report about a city employee’s contract not being renewed. I find it incredible that cop-haters almost always consider themselves political progressives, yet they practice the art of much-ado-about-nothing in exactly the same way that George Bush did for the invasion of Iraq. Forrest was right: stupid is as stupid does.

  12. Raj,
    The IPA is not a political position. Is it Council appointed, and it is an “at will” position. An auditor’s report is supposed to be completely unbiased. Those factual findings are then supposed to be reported to the Mayor and Council for their review and consideration of whatever action they deem appropriate to take. You don’t seem to understand that. You seem to think the position calls for an “advocate.”

    You then say you think the IPA’s contract renewal should have been one that allowed public input. I disagree. Again, the IPA’s position is an appointed one, not one that is elected. The Mayor and Council did not fire the IPA as reported in the news. They are allowing her to finish out her contract, and have simply and wisely decided not to renew it again because she did not follow the guidelines of her position. She chose instead to align herself with groups like yours and blatantly disregard directives given her by the Mayor and Council. I think any employer would find rogue and politically motivated behaviors like hers to be a good enough cause for not wanting to renew her contract.

  13. Everyone needs to realize both why the Police Auditor was fired and why so many people have recieved drunk in public violations. 

    It is because the city wants to get rid of the nightlife we have at this time.  The drunk in public citations have been used to revoke the license of one club (Angels) and are being used to revoke the licenses of at least three other clubs. 

    Basically, the police arrest as many patrons as possible then submit the long list of violations to the ABC; and the ABC can then revoke the licenses.

    The police auditor made the mistake of standing up for the victims who recieved unfair treatment and citations and for standing up for the night life venues.

    It comes down to condos or clubs.  The city and council are choosing clubs.

  14. Since when was holding cops accountable “cop-hating”?  Barbara Attard did what she could within the limits of her position to be able to advocate for those who were truly being victimized by SJPD.  She saw the boundaries of her office and tried to change it so that SJPD can be held accountable, and she got slapped back by the City Council, Manager, and Chief of Police. I agree with Raj that the only opening in this issue is the chance to be able to talk about real police oversight—because we can’t trust Chuck Reed or the City Council to do it.

  15. #14, #15,
    Attard was not fired. Her contract was up for renewal and the Mayor and Council decided NOT to renew it, it is as simple as that. The whys of the Mayor and Council deciding not to renew her contract remain obvious to all of us who understand what her real duties and responsibilities to the Mayor and Council are and where.

    As Read the Charter, #13, so aptly pointed out, the City did NOT hire a Community Activist, they hired an Independent Police Auditor. What they got in Attard was a politician, a community activist, and a drama queen who used a trusted position to try and further her own personal agenda.  She has tried to turn this pass on renewing her contract into the usual theater she always has. Rather than reflecting on what she should have done differently, she has chosen to turn this into a public “turn of the screw of the Mayor.” By misleading people into thinking she is being fired, and was treated unfairly because she was supposedly exposing such horrific Police abuses, she has only proven to the Mayor and Council that they made the right decision in not renewing her contract. Any future employer watching her behavior through this will probably certainly pass on hiring her for their City as well. 

    And #15, you asked, “Since when was holding cops accountable “cop-hating”?” It isn’t. I agree that any person placed in a position of trust whom abuses that trust needs to be held accountable, that includes employees like Attard. She went on a witch-hunt and skewed the facts and stats to further her own agenda, and that agenda was completely self-serving. So now she’s being held accountable, a sword that cuts two ways.

  16. Read the City of San Jose Charter.

    The IPA was NOT fired. Her contract was not discontinued.

    She was appointed for a 4 year term. That term is up at the end of this year. There is no obligation to her whatsoever.

    The council decided to recruit for the position and find the BEST person for all of San Jose. NOT the best person for the ACLU – NOT the best person for the NAACP.

    We need someone who is Independent and an Auditor. Attard is neither!

    When we need a city paid Community Activist to make the police chief look bad no matter what he does, I’m sure the council will call her first – for that she is very qualified!

    When we need a city paid Community Activist to make the honest cops look corrupt look bad no matter what they do, I’m sure the council will call her first – for that she is very qualified!

    We need to analyse if we even need the position. After all the IPA was created to root out Internal Affairs coverups. To date, after 16 years, not one coverup has been found!