EXCLUSIVE: Acting SJPD chief talks about future

August 8, 2013 6:11:55 PM PDT
For years San Jose called itself the "Safest Big City in America," but with a growing crime rate and more officers leaving its ranks -- that title is now in question. San Jose's interim police chief is now addressing those concerns in an exclusive interview with ABC7 News.

The police department is hiring and there are 87 recruits either in the academy or getting training in the field. However, officers are continuing to leave the ranks at unprecedented levels. So far this year, there have been 41 resignations and 23 retirements. Last year there were 69 resignations and 37 retirements.

San Jose Police Chief Larry Esquivel acknowledged that morale is low and that he needs to work with city leaders to find a way to keep officers from leaving.

The San Jose Police Department needs to fill a lot of positions from the top down. Right now, there are 908 street ready officers patrolling a city of a million people.

"A few years ago we used to have 1,300 sworn and our authorized strength if we can get up to 1,109, but even at that, if we could get a few hundred more. I would say if we could get up to 1,300 to 1,400 officers," said Esquivel.

As the number of officers has declined the past few years, so has morale within the ranks as officers have endured layoffs, pay cuts and a fight over pension reform.

Esquivel hopes the city council will move forward with some incentives to keep officers in San Jose. He said, "I am hoping there's some give back to keep our people. whatever that percentage plays out, I mean, that's important to get money back into their pockets to keep them so they can not only afford to stay and live here, but to work here."

The chief's position is unresolved. Esquivel still wears his deputy chief badge even though he was appointed acting police chief back in January. He did not apply for the chief's job when it opened up and was appointed by the city manager in the interim. He said personal reasons and a desire to retire in 2 1/2 years when he reaches 30 years of service kept him from seeking the permanent job. Esquivel also said when the job opened up he was under the impression that the city wanted someone for at least five years, but seven months in, he appears to be open to the possibility.

"If they offered you the job, would you take it?" ABC7's Matt Keller asked Esquivel.

"Well that is a decision that I would need to have with the city manager in terms of not only my limitations I guess, but also what they wanted in terms of maybe there is something that we can work out. I haven't had that conversation, but again, until then, we are going to continue to keep pushing forward," said Esquivel.

A city spokesperson said the search for a permanent chief is in a holding pattern, about 11 months after the last chief said he was retiring. The spokesperson also said that city officials are happy with Esquivel's performance. Many officers in the field told ABC7 News that Esquivel is more than qualified for the permanent job and are pleased with his recent crime suppression plan.

Esquivel has put much of his energy into a new crime suppression plan, focusing on gangs, and it appears to be working with violent gang crime down this year compared to last year. He said he still believes that San Jose is still one of the "Safest Big City in America."


Load Comments