Police Chief: The Job Nobody Wants

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.

Rich Robinson is an attorney and political consultant in Silicon Valley. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside.

32 Comments

  1. Rich,

    is that really you who posted this?  It made so much sense.  Inside rumors have it 5 applied, 2 pulled out and the other 3 said no thank you.  No SJPD command staff bothered to apply, i am sure Larry doesn’t even want the temp puppet position.

    How the hell Deb did not even participate in the interviews (other that an observer) and called on the public to pose questions is so much how this city operates.  Bring in community activists to sit on the panel and bash the candidates is amazing.

    I really think Deb and or the IPA should just take over the position.  Because no one else in their right mind wants to give up a good job for a lose – lose job.

  2. They were following the advice of their legal counsel, when that advice was contrived for FINANCIAL purpose. Meyers-Nave law firm orchestrated Measure B, and of course enlisted Reed to represent the idea that they could defend it, ensuring millions in current and future billable hours to this law firm. Millions.Multiple Millions.
    Too simple for the sheeple.

    • If city administrators managed the taxpayer’s money properly, this would not be an issue. The problem is they mismanage the coffer and ended up on the short stick. Get the correct people in there, who know how to manage a city and the funds won’t come up so short. They spend the tax dollar like it’s free flowing water. Do some research and find out how this city foolishly spends the taxpayer dollar. You will probably be shocked and then will have a better understanding why there is such a shortage. They mismanaged the money and then are making the employees foot the bill for their mismanagement. Find out where the money went. Track the trail.

        • I agree. $300 for a toilet seat. $15 for a screw. Nobody is watching the dollar. It is spent so foolishly and if it wasn’t, the country would not be in the financial mess that it is in.

  3. Rich,

    The sad reality of this is that those responsible for orchestrating the financial “solution” to the budget/pension problem will never be held accountable. Reed, Liccardo, Constant, Oliverio and Nguyen should all be impeached and removed from office for authorizing the squandering of city funds on this legal debacle. Figone and her deputies should also be fired for flat out refusing to bargain with the POA prior to Measure B being pushed onto the ballot (the same ballot that housed the Republican primary mind you – they knew voter turn out would be low and fiscally conservative).

    • That has always been my belief, as well…that the mayor KNEW that voter turnout be low low and that is why he was so adamant that it get on the JUNE ballot.

  4. Robinson,
      Your ranting posture is patheic.
    Granted , the City council, and it’s leader, are remiss in many ways.
    Larry Esquivel, has had many years serving the City of San Jose.
      Your negative attitude, only serves to put down a good officer. Interim Chief or not.
    You claim to be a political consultant. It’s no wonder we are in such a sorry mess. Get a real Job.
      Larry, or any one of our trusted officers, that have come up thruogh the ranks, know the drill.
      Give Larry the respect he deserves.
      Your whining like a sad loser, does not reflect
      how we will treat the good cops that remain ready to serve us, day and night.

      The Village Black Smith

    • I have nothing but respect for Mr. Esquvel and our men and women in blue.

      But the best football player in the world can’t do their job without 10 other teammates on the field, the appropriate pads and helmets, the right experience, the right support staff or if they don’t have a ball in which to play.  Throw in the team owner booing them, refusing to honor their contracts and you have a dysfunctional team—regardless of who is the coach.

  5. They should make a plaque of the above blog and nail it on a wall in the council chambers, for all current and future politicians to observe.

    Well said Mr. Robinson.

  6. Whenever it comes down to a contest between the People and the Government we can always count on the leftist voice of Rich Robinson to chime in on the side of bigger, more powerful Government. All the bloated bureaucracy and overpaying of administrators that he’s suddenly so concerned about can be traced back to the sort of sloppy, careless attitude toward spending of tax dollars that he and the sort of candidates he’s inflicted on us are so fond of.
    Whether or not the People of San Jose make the wise decision to adequately fund essential services such as police and fire should be just that- the People’s choice.
    But Robinson would rather see those choices taken out of the hands of the people.
    I’ve read these contracts. They are usually one or two year contracts. A common sense interpretation would be that the terms of any individual contract are valid for the stated life of that particular contract- not in perpetuity.
    If Measure B does wind up getting thrown out it’ll be by some judge, himself a member of a public employees union, reluctant to make himself a pariah amongst his colleagues nor to make any decision that might ultimately have negative consequences for his own pension.
    So much for ‘separation of powers’.

    • You make such idiotic statements. The judge can only follow the law. He or she cannot throw something out simply because he or she is in a union. I am not even sure if judges are in unions. Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!

      • “The judge can only follow the law.”
        I’m impressed SoSo.
        Born yesterday. Just fell off the turnip truck. Head stuck in the sand…
        Yet you’re still able to blog!

        • In California the Judges Retirement System offers a “defined benefit” plan based on a percentage of current salary of the last judicial office held.
          (Wow! That’s a percentage of the CURRENT salary for the last job he held- never mind what HIS salary was when he held it.) The percentage is based on the member’s years of service and age at retirement. (Sounds similar to police and fire. Nothing like anybody in the private sector gets but commonplace in government jobs)
          I certainly wouldn’t expect any judge to make a ruling that would jeopardize his own sweet deal. We’ve seen how Rich Robinson can twist and contort the language of the 2nd Amendment to get it to mean what he wants it to mean. In the same way a judge will once again twist and contort the meaning of a fairly straightforward contract to get it to say something other than what it says. Judges aren’t machines. They’re human beings- and mostly liberal human beings at that.

          Nope. There’s no question about it. The game is rigged. The fix is in. You public employees have got us over a barrel and there’s nothing we can do about it- other than continue to remind you just how good you’ve got it. Until you start electing people who want to twist and contort the 1st Amendment too. Then I’ll have to shut up. Just like you want.

        • Yeah, John I twisted the meaning of the 2nd Amendment by quoting it verbatim.  In addition, that pesky U.S. Constitution continues to inflame because it establishes the right of contract. 

          Most of the Judges are lawyers, I am sure the pension plan was a conspiracy among those who know the law. 

          Finally, many public employees argue that they are under-compensated and can make more in the privates sector.  An oft heard refrain especially coming from public sector executives who are paid more than the Governor of California as public entitites “compete” for the qualified talent available.

          It is horse manure, of course.  But for many years public employees gave up or took less in salary compensation for a guaranteed retirement package.  Those over-paid executives—many now living in Hawaii—were only too happy to save money then, knowing they would not be around when the real bill came through.

          The public employees were victims of a scam—perpetrated by many of the same people trying to renege on their promises today.   

          The key to fiscal health is not violating constitutional principles but seeking a reasoned approach that all sides agree to for the benefit of the many.

          Believe it or not, I still believe negotiation can work in most situations—though your ilk is testing that theory at an alarming rate.  wink

        • Meyer Weed I appreciate your positive attitude and pride for your job and your professionalism- neither of which you will allow to be diminished by any budget decisions.

          You may have been unfairly used Rich. I was trying to make the point to the genius ‘so so interesting’ that it’s not as simple as “just follow the law”. Different people can read the same words and come away with different meanings. I believe the pension formulas expressed in employee contracts are meant to be valid for the term of that contract. A judge may interpret it differently. But I doubt it since his own contract is similarly structured and ruling in favor of the City would create a precedent that could ultimately come back to decrease his own pension.
          No, I don’t believe there’s any “conspiracy”. Just the natural tendency for Government to expand it’s own size and scope. I believe this natural tendency, when left unchecked, constitutes a threat to our freedom and must be guarded against with eternal vigilance. I think very few people are vigilant when it comes to watching their own government. They’re too busy being hyper-vigilant for the sorts of boogeymen they’re more comfortable with, like racism, discrimination, and inequality. So focused are they on these trendy, popular, politically correct threats that they don’t even notice what’s sneaking up behind and is about to kick them in the ass.
          The key to fiscal health is recognizing the warning signs when your elected officials make promises that can’t be met by us but instead must be deferred to our children and grandchildren. What would it take to truly pay a 30 year veteran firefighter in full? How many millions would we need to cut a check for to be enough for him to get $120 K/year off the amortization of the principle and interest? About 5 million dollars. We don’t have the kind of money that it would take to fulfill the promises made by irresponsible politicians. Not even close.
          You of all people Rich. Claiming to be on the side of cops and firefighters. Supporting spending San Jose’s money to help Reed and billionaire Lew Wolfe build a baseball stadium.

  7. We have read now many times about SJPD’s disintegration, our incompetent and complacent city council, and San Jose’s ineffective administration. 

    What is needed is a discussion of solutions.  The city council is incapable of formulating any plan for rebuilding SJPD.  Residents must not allow San Jose to continue to decline.

  8. Rich,

    This department is in a complete free fall and no less. Officers both current and past, gave their careers, blood, sacrifice and part of their soul to keep the good people of San Jose safe from those who prey upon the good and decent folk. We have a dysfunctional and delusional Mayor, City Manager, and members of our city council including Constant, Oliverio, Herrera, Liccardo and Khammis who cater to the IPA, and don’t give a damn about the officers safety or crime in their communities, though they play it great lip service. If measure B is implemented and officers lose yet another 6% this year, there could easily be another 250 officers lost in the next year alone to more competitive cities. Chuck Reed has run this department like a dictatorship, but this house of cards is falling down. Officers can no longer financially survive here. Last raise we got was 6 years ago and we have in fact taken a cumulative 20% paycut, not counting for inflation. Chuck Reed has committed robbery against the officers who have protected this city.
    Anybody would be insane to want to be permanent chief of this city right now.

  9. John Galt…thanks for your legal opinion on contract law.  Unfortunately, California law in this area differs from your no doubt scholarly view and will result in most or all of Measure B being thrown out.  SteveO wants a discussion of solutions.  That would be great, but there can be no discussion of solutions until the legal fate of Measure B is finally decided, because its now the law in San Jose.  If it ever starts to be implemented…it’s going to fall under the category of you ain’t seen nothing yet.

    Real solutions will come when when Measure B is tossed and the City Government has to deal with reality.  Reed will likely be gone by then and will be responsible for having wasted years and cost the City millions by arrogantly refusing to negotiate a solution.  The City isn’t “going under”, but a once great Police Department is struggling to keep treading water until the storm passes.  Once it does, it will take years to rebuild what has been lost.

    • The problem is reed, his stubborness and his arrogance. He needs to be booted out of office so the city can get back on track and start healing. Until then, it’s like a big, raw, open wound that will not heal until the obstruction is removed. This city will not start to come back until he is gone and the wound will continue to bleed until he is gone. Bottom line.

  10. I take great exception to your statement that “You (Esquivel) are inheriting a losing organization with very limited prospects for future success…”

    The SJPD was , is and will continue to be an outstanding orgaization. for no other reason that there is a insitutional pride that part of of every employee from the sworn officers and the non-sworn staff including the dispatchers, records and clerical support, the staff at Jane’s Cafe that serve high quality food at a resonable price, the mechanics in the garage and the janitorial staff and anyone else i am forgetting. 

    If anyone here is “loosing” it is the residents of San Jose who (as we so often hear) “voted overwhelmingly” for V, W and B.  As time marches on Mayor Reed , Madison Nguyen , Pete Constant , Sam Liccardo,  Rose Herrera and Pierluigi Oliverio will emerge as the “losers” who foisted this “loosing” strategy on us. May they suffer greatly!

    SJPD will endure because the employees who remain through the “Reed Era” will keep the ideals and traditions of the department alive. There are many talented, committed career employees at all levels who know this: They will be here long after those term-limited politicians are returned to private life wondering why they can’t get an officer to their house in a timely manner…

    Our memories are long, we will never forget, we will take care of business because that it who we are.

    • The Alamo had a lot of great people too.  But if you don’t have enough the results are not going to be good regardless of institutional pride.

  11. San Jose voters need to understand they get what they pay for.  They want to pay for a substandard security service rather than a premier law enforcement agency, that’s what they get.  What is so difficult to understand about that?

    • That is exactly correct. No different than when you want a fine home…you pay the fine home price. You want to live in a fine neighborhood? You pay the price. You want great city services…you pay for it. If you want cut rate and you pay for cut rate…you get cut rate. Simple as that.

  12. For anyone considering a career at SJPD, here is a quick breakdown of working conditions, as outlined by Chuck Reed and his faithful fools.

    Salary: You will receive a paycheck that is, consistent with private workplace norms, a reflection of what management decides is fair, but not, as in the private workplace, competitive with neighboring employers or consistent with the cost-of-living.

    Benefits: You will, consistent with private workplace standards, receive job benefits based on management’s willingness to provide them, however none should be considered guaranteed beyond the end of each fiscal year. However, in contrast to private workplace standards—where the norm is safety and civility, you cannot expect to conclude the year without experiencing physical and/or psychological depreciation, as you will have been exposed to danger on a regular basis, confronted with: physical assault, crippling injury, death, defamation of character, gender and race-based insults, communicable disease, exposure to toxins, malicious lawsuits, and political-based prosecution.

    Responsibilities: You will, consistent with private sector norms, fulfill your duties as described by law and policy, however, contrary to private sector norms, your job performance—as well as your perceived attitude, perceptions, and personal values—will additionally be subjected to the career aims and political whims of your appointed and elected leaders, as well as the circulation and ratings needs of the local media. Fair treatment should not be expected. You will perform your duties in a manner consistent with the highest standards of American policing, while serving a department that is staffed at half that standard, and policing a population that is, to an alarmingly increasing degree, incapable of even the lowest standards of American civility.

    Retirement: Upon survival of the required forty years of service, a newly separated employee will be entitled to pension benefits based on private sector standards (absent bonuses, stock options, and social security). Assuming (caution!) that one’s 401k contributions are blessed with regular market growth and the thorough dismantling of Congress, a proud retiree should have more than enough to pay for pain pills and psych meds, as well as the rent on a Tonopah, Nevada single-wide.

    Warning: Expressing interest in so insulting a compensation package will result in a significant drop in an applicant’s perceived value in the police job market, a devaluation akin to a POST academy graduate applying to Tijuana PD, or a San Jose Police assistant chief taking the chief’s job in Piedmont, California.

  13. Anyone that disagrees with this well stated article should ask why then are the police leaving. THis is the biggest exodus of police officers leaving a city in American History. The Cops have no desire to stay here.  And know one want to run an organization that is micro managed by the mayor himself … Remember the Taxpayers pay a consultant named Salcido to tell the Mayor what is going on. So the Mayor does not even talk to his own police department.  The mayor destroyed the police department and it will take decades to fix it.