Mayor Reed Should Have Accepted Help
When your house is on fire and somebody offers their water to help, it is wise to accept. No reasonable person would reject such assistance. But that is exactly what Mayor Chuck Reed did to Supervisor Dave Cortese’s proposal to help stem the crime rate in San Jose using Sheriff’s deputies to temporarily augment an understaffed and demoralized San Jose Police Department. Reed didn’t just refuse the help; he maligned the offer. It is this myopic failure to work together that has caused such a division in the City of San Jose.
The Mayor doesn’t have to like Dave Cortese, but both have an interest in seeing their constituents protected. The Mayor said the offer was “political”. Even if he believes that, so what? Take the help!
There is no question that the San Jose Police Department is in disarray. Crime is up, recruitment is down, and San Jose needs officers on the street. The Sheriff’s Office already patrols some areas right next door to the City of San Jose; why not allow them to respond to calls in San Jose if they are close? When Oakland needed help, Alameda County provided some public safety services. When East Palo Alto needed help, San Mateo County provided a hand, nobody called it a political ploy.
The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office is recognized as one of the premier law enforcement agencies in the nation. They could have helped. Sheriff Laurie Smith supervises two of the safest cities in California she has under contract. She has saved taxpayers over $10 million a year by taking over the jails. The per capita cost for public safety in Saratoga is $137.73. To put this in perspective, residents in Los Gatos whose city is similar in population pay $447.63 per individual for their public safety. This is not to cast any aspersions on the officers in Los Gatos, as the difference in price is really borne in administrative costs. More importantly, the Sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer in the County, and residents in San Jose pay for the Sheriff’s services too because San Jose is part of that County.
Fundamentally, law enforcement experts say it will take at least 5 years to turn the San Jose Police Department into an effective organization. That assumes that the City will be able to attract and retain sufficient and competent talent to remedy their current deficiencies. In the meantime the Mayor should stop using his ax on his perceived political opponents and work together to save the house, that is currently San Jose, from burning down–even if he doesn’t like the person who offered to help.
Rich Robinson is a political consultant and communications specialist.