Tonight marks the start of another series of community meetings designed to garner input about a prospective Police Chief. The city of San Jose conducted a nationwide search for a police chief less than two years ago, which ultimately yielded limited interest and few qualified applicants. The city spent an exorbitant amount of money and time on this effort. I wrote about these community meetings back in August 2010.
I am not convinced that conducting another search will bring about different results this time around, or, with the upcoming holidays, quickly yield the best candidate. Keep in mind that our nationwide search for a library director is taking longer than previously anticipated—the recruitment of our Police Chief is much more complex and pivotal than a library director.
San Jose is facing many challenges with an increase in various service calls for the whole city. We have pulled officers from other areas within the department to try to assist with increases in call volume. Furthermore, and perhaps more damaging yet, is the possibility that a lack of solidarity, which is already evident, will increase within our police department by virtue of having a chief who has announced he is leaving.
At this point in time, San Jose needs a police chief who is a leader. We cannot afford to wait to see what we might find from a search. We need a person who acknowledges the need for pension reform, is not afraid to embrace and implement new ideas, and has the courage and backbone to take charge. In addition, the next chief needs the diplomacy and intellect to bring the council, management and police union (POA) on the same page in order to improve SJPD morale, strengthen the working relationship between police and management ,and provide peace of mind to residents that their police department is keeping San Jose safe. Retired SJPD Captain Gary Kirby encompasses these traits among other qualifying attributes.
Born and raised in San Jose, Gary Kirby graduated from San Jose State University before joining the SJPD, which led to 25 years of experience in municipal law enforcement field operations, criminal and administrative investigations, administration and project management.
During his tenure with the SJPD, Captain Kirby earned respect from the SJPD rank and file, POA and elected officials for his no-nonsense yet thoughtful approach in managing and overseeing sensitive, complicated and fiduciary matters. As captain, he was responsible for the human resource management of 2,200 sworn officers, non-sworn staff, the Police Academy and Police Officers Standard Testing (P.O.S.T.), as well as overseeing criminal investigations for homicide, robbery, sexual assault, child abuse, domestic violence and gang assaults. Further, Captain Kirby has experience in state and federal grant applications, management, audit compliance and promotional testing.
Captain Kirby developed innovative and nationally recognized best practices via public-private partnerships with technology firms and he has led and built relationships on complex police projects with heightened political sensitivity and budgetary constraints for the city.
For example, Captain Kirby was the project manager for the voter approved $89 million dollar public safety bond to build the 110,000 sq. ft. police substation. Kirby was also the project manager for the $6 million dollar federal grant to build Emergency Communications Digital Microwave—ECOMM microwave interoperability connecting 13 agencies. Captain Kirby also brings private sector experience from Apple Corporation, building threat assessment and security device integration.
Captain Kirby was the Keynote Speaker of the 2008 NAACP National Convention on Racial Profiling in Washington, DC; graduate of the Los Angeles Police Department West Point Leadership School (2009); the recipient of the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s award for Homicide Investigator of the Year (1996 & 1998) and he attended the US Air Force War College Academy week-long National Security Forum.
Captain Gary Kirby has a unique combination of education, experience as an officer, roots in San Jose, a private industry background and solid respect from his peers. Approximately three years, ago I shared my support of Captain Kirby in a post advocating his promotion to Assistant Police Chief.
I strongly believe hiring Captain Kirby as San Jose’s next Chief of Police is a start down the path towards reconciliation. We need to think about our rank and file, who need a leader they know, someone they can respect and count on. What we don’t need is a prolonged process that may create an exodus of police officers.
We have a leadership void that may take a year to fill. However, we have crimes being committed today that cannot wait for a perfect Chief when, in my opinion, we already have an optimal candidate that may serve if called upon. Chief Kirby would perform as Captain Kirby has always done, which is to say he would fix the situation.
The appointment of a Police Chief in San Jose ultimately requires approval from the City Council. Therefore, if the majority of the council approves of Gary Kirby, then our job is done. By truncating the standard process in this fashion, we can forgo a futile exercise that will waste money, time and cause undue fatigue on our police force.
Pierluigi Oliverio is a councilmember for San Jose’s District 6.