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Activists Try to Derail New CA Police Chief Pick

Activists Try to Derail New CA Police Chief Pick

San Jose's acting Police Chief, Chris Moore, has reportedly been selected as San Jose's next top cop. He's seen here making his rounds in an Oct. 26, 2010, file photo.

San Jose Mercury News via YellowBrix

January 29, 2011

SAN JOSE – Community activists on Friday demanded that the San Jose City Council block the appointment of Chris Moore as the next police chief, but the city’s elected leaders indicated they would back City Manager Debra Figone’s choice for the city’s top cop.

About two dozen members of the Coalition for Justice and Accountability gathered Friday afternoon to argue that Moore, 49, a department veteran and acting chief since former chief Rob Davis’s October retirement, would not bring the sweeping change needed to restore trust among minorities and immigrants.

Some activists even called on the council to bring both Moore and the runner-up, Oakland police Chief Anthony Batts, before the council at an open meeting Tuesday.

But Mayor Chuck Reed and other council members showed no interest in airing the group’s grievances.

“This is not a political campaign or a popularity contest,” Reed said. “We have a process consistent with our city charter. This is not a process in which results are determined by who has the loudest voice.”

Councilman Kansen Chu said he was uncomfortable with talking about a personnel matter in public. The city manager, he said, should have a chance to explain her decision privately.

“We’ll be able to get to the bottom line more comfortably versus doing it in the open,” Chu said. “There may be something she knows about either candidate that she doesn’t want to disclose in open session, some reasoning behind her choice that she doesn’t want to make into a public debate.”

Figone is expected to introduce Moore to the council in a closed meeting on Tuesday. After Moore responds to questions, council members will vote to either confirm or deny Figone’s selection.

“I want to keep an open mind to whatever information I learn in Tuesday’s session,” Councilman Sam Liccardo said. “But, generally speaking, I have a lot of confidence in the city manager’s judgment.”

Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio said Moore seemed both “smart” and “qualified.”

And Pete Constant, the only former cop on the council, said that while the coalition’s preferences are welcome, it’s ultimately not up to them.

“The fact is, the city manager sets the criteria and makes the selection, not a community group,” Constant said. “We value their input, but we didn’t appoint them to make decisions for the City Council.”

Councilmen Ash Kalra and Don Rocha had no comment. Other council members did not respond to questions about the activists’ concerns.

The activists feel that Davis had not done enough to address concerns about selective enforcement or excessive force against blacks, Latinos, Asian Americans and those suffering mental illness. And they fear that Moore will offer more of the same.

“Chief Moore has come from a command staff culture that has not communicated well with ethnic communities,” said Richard Konda, executive director of the Asian Law Alliance and the coalition’s chairman. “He will have to carry the legacy of broken trust that was created under Chief Davis’s tenure.”

Raj Jayadev, an activist with Silicon Valley De-Bug, said the coalition’s decision to favor Batts was based on 3,000 multilingual surveys from residents. The coalition also sized up the two finalists’ record of acknowledging issues such as racial profiling, dealing with immigrant communities and work force diversity.

“This is not only the perspective and thoughts of a handful of residents, but thousands and thousands of San Jose residents,” Jayadev said.

Though activists would not say so directly, the fact that Batts is black and Moore white also seemed to influence their preference.

Sam Ho, a city resident, said he felt Batts would “know what racial profiling means” from “personal experiences.”

Tom Manheim, a spokesman for the city manager’s office, said Figone had never promised to bring both finalists before the council. She said she would only do that if she didn’t have a clear favorite.

“She felt strongly,’’ Manheim said, “that there was one candidate that stood out.”

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