The recent appointment of Larry Esquivel to “interim” San Jose Police Chief, and the “indefinite” time extension given to name a new police chief, is a stark admission of governmental failure for the city of San Jose.
To be named “interim” chief of police in this city is tantamount to being named “interim” coach of the lowly Kansas City Chiefs. You are inheriting a losing organization with very limited prospects for future success, and your “part-time” status makes it unrealistic that you’ll have the tools to turn it around. At least the Chiefs get a first-round draft pick; the city of San Jose has no such prospects on the horizon.
The morale in the once highly esteemed law enforcement organization is at an all-time low. A city that once billed itself as “the safest big city in the nation” is no longer in contention for an honorable mention. The murder rate is up, violent crime is up and property crimes are up—with the added indignity that if your home or business is burglarized, the police might not even show up to investigate.
In short, San Jose is an open city to crime with no leadership and no plan for the future. The political posturing that blames our men and women in blue for a budget problem that is actually caused by hopelessly sycophantic city administrators and, ironically, cynical political leaders has brought San Jose to the lame and unmentioned reality that no qualified individual would want to be police chief.
Esquivel, like every other in-house administrator, did not apply for the job. The lackluster “nationwide” talent search has produced no star, and those who were interviewed weren’t qualified or rejected any offers that came their way. Meanwhile, our leaders continue to fiddle while San Jose burns—but I digress, we are not talking about the disintegration of the fire department.
Since January of 2011, San Jose has lost 139 sworn officers—30 of those in the last two months; 65 since Measure B passed; and 50 officers are currently undergoing background checks for other agencies.
San Jose had 46 murders in 2012, up from 39 in 2011 and a twenty-year high. The Violent Crimes Enforcement Team that used to have 18 officers and three sergeants has been disbanded. This team was responsible for over 1,000 gang arrests annually. The Burglary Investigation Unit was disbanded and the rise in residential crime has soared.
Political posturing has scapegoated the police department for the budget problems. The solution—imposed by Mayor Chuck Reed and majority of the City Council and, admittedly, ratified by the people of San Jose—has caused an unnecessary crisis, while other cities and entities have worked with their employees in a respectful way to solve budget problems.
In the meantime, we still have a bloated San Jose bureaucracy that overpays and over-employs top administrators, while leaving the city vulnerable to crime and failing to implement basic services for residents, from libraries and community centers to park and street maintenance.
Decisions have consequences. Winning a political battle at the expense of the residents who depend on accurate information and reasonable decision making from their leaders is a profile in cowardice, not courage.
When the courts ultimately toss out Measure B, the body politic who knowingly sought its passage will disingenuously blame everyone else on the planet for the result. Many of them, especially on the City Council, are good enough lawyers to know better.
They will attempt to say they were following the advice of their legal counsel, when that advice was contrived for their own political purpose. When that happens, it is important for the people of San Jose to recognize where the blame truly lies and hold these folks accountable.
Rich Robinson is a political consultant in Silicon Valley.