An elite San Jose police specialist unit trained to use military-style assault carbines designed T-shirts for themselves to foster camaraderie among the 80 officers who had completed the difficult training. A fine idea in a beleaguered department beset with low morale amid a pension fight with City Hall.
But the T-shirt design struck a sour note with the city's Independent Police Auditor LaDoris Cordell.
The T-shirt has the words "San Jose P.D." and "Usus Ferocitas," which in Latin roughly translates to "skill" and "courage." But the typeface adorns a depiction of a skull backed by two assault rifles forming an apex.
Cordell said it looks like something biker gangs would wear and could send a questionable message to the public.
When we asked the brass about it, they agreed it could be misread. Sgt. Jason Dwyer said the shirts are a long-standing tradition and are meant to be worn under their tactical uniforms but not in public. A police-sanctioned specialist pin is already distributed to these officers to display their achievement.
But Chief Chris Moore understood the auditor's concern and the risk, however remote, of citizens seeing the shirt.
"He said we can do better, and have another emblem not subject to misinterpretation," Dwyer said.
The chief asked the officer who designed the shirt to go back to the drawing board, and Cordell commended the swift response, saying: "I hope that as a result they will be more careful."
Moore has since ordered up a policy requiring items and apparel bearing the department's name or badge image to be first reviewed by the chief's office. Score one for police accountability! Perhaps the new T-shirt design will have daisies sprouting from the carbine barrels and a peace sign on the skull.
San Jose city manager
tells council to butt out
We all know San Jose police Chief Chris Moore is on his way out the door, and that his boss, City Manager Debra Figone, is scouring the country for a suitable replacement. Plenty of others have offered help with very public suggestions.
Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio in his weekly blog suggested retired SJPD Capt. Gary Kirby, arguing that "we need a person who acknowledges the need for pension reform, is not afraid to embrace and implement new ideas, and has the courage and backbone to take charge."
And TV news reports, as the city hosted community meetings on the chief selection last week, speculated on possible contenders now leading departments from Sacramento to Fresno.
Figone, at last week's council meeting, insisted "there's no list and anyone who says they know who we're considering is not telling the truth." She also sent a snippy memo to the mayor and council reminding them that the charter says the chief is hers to pick, and that while the council ratifies the choice, meddling is unhelpful.
"Rumors, speculation, or premature disclosure of our city's interest in possible candidates could cause them difficulties in their current positions, or could discourage them or others from actually applying," Figone wrote. "It is both inappropriate and counterproductive to our principal goal to be discussing or speculating about specific candidates outside of the recruitment process."
Lofgren staffer moves on
to lead Swalwell's staff
Eric Swalwell, the Democratic congressman-elect from the East Bay who unseated longtime incumbent Pete Stark, is turning southward for talent. He announced last week that his chief of staff would be Ricky Le, 36, now the deputy chief of staff for Rep Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose. Born in Da Nang, Vietnam, Le grew up in the Evergreen section of San Jose and attended Silver Creek High School before moving with his family to Sonoma. He is a graduate of UC Santa Cruz and Santa Clara University Law School.
Le has formidable credentials, serving as the former director of the California Democratic Congressional Delegation. The new top staffer told us he interviewed with a clutch of incoming representatives before taking the job with Swalwell. He says it didn't hurt that one of his old friends from law school is a prosecutor with Swalwell in the Alameda County District Attorney's Office. Le, who became a U.S. citizen in 2002, will be based in Washington, D.C.
Shirakawa's troubles prompt talk of successor
The corpse is not cold. It's not even a corpse. But given Supervisor George Shirakawa Jr.'s mounting problems and an investigation by the Santa Clara County DA's office, speculation is already bubbling in the political firmament about who might succeed him if he ever steps down. Because of the arithmetic, the strong betting is that the replacement -- if it comes to that -- will be Hispanic and female. With the addition of Joe Simitian, the other four supervisors, who have the right to make an interim appointment, will be all white and male. Picking another white man would be political folly.
So who fits the right category? One obvious potential candidate is labor leader Cindy Chavez, who was mentioned as a possible candidate in 2008, when Shirakawa was first elected. Chavez declined to run then, and has come into her own as a powerful leader of labor. Put her down as very doubtful. A second possibility is Darcie Green, who was just elected to the county board of education. A longer shot is Andrea Flores Shelton, a former Shirakawa aide who was just appointed to the Alum Rock school board.
Perhaps the name that has ignited the most speculation is that of Teresa Alvarado, who now occupies a high-level communications job with the Santa Clara Valley Water District. Alvarado, the daughter of former supe Blanca Alvarado, ran for supervisor unsuccessfully in 2010 against Mike Wasserman, and she would have to move to represent Shirakawa's district. She has given no clues that she really wants to return to the hurly-burly of a political career. "We should allow due process to take its course," she said in a statement to friends and supporters. "Any speculation about potential successors is irrelevant at this point in time."
Ex-Chief McNamara's book contains a familiar name
The Spanish motto has it that revenge is a dish best served cold. Perhaps the most elegant way of preparing the meal is through literature. In his new police thriller, "Love and Death in Silicon Valley," ex-San Jose police Chief Joseph McNamara kills off a physician character named Bill Hoffman.
Veterans of law enforcement will recognize that as the name of the former No. 2 in the District Attorney's Office under Lou Bergna. The famed prosecutor, who died in 2010, was a towering figure, a man with a huge impact on the day-to-day administration of justice in the county for a quarter-century.
McNamara smiled when we asked him whether the name of his character was a coincidence. And he conceded that he had clashed with Hoffman over the issue of cops working off-duty jobs at church bingo parlors. Seems Hoffman wanted McNamara to crack down on his troops for what most of us would see as fairly benign work.
Summoning support from church and community leaders, the chief beat back the effort. He even has admiring words about Hoffman today. It's just that the namesake of his old adversary died in a hail of gunfire near the start of the book. Hey, stuff happens.
Internal Affairs is an offbeat look at state and local politics. This week's items were written by Robert Salonga, John Woolfolk, Scott Herhold and Paul Rogers. Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 408-975-9346.