San Jose police fail to fill vacant racial equity role
The San Jose Police Department has not been able to find a qualified candidate to fill its senior analyst position to advance its racial equity goals. File photo.

The San Jose Police Department has not hired a senior analyst to advance its racial equity goals, despite holding the position open for nearly five months.

The role was created last year to help the police force advance its relationships with communities of color by analyzing use of force and traffic stop data, getting more resident feedback and ensuring diversity in hiring efforts, among other initiatives.

While similar positions are already filled in other departments across the city, the police department said it has struggled to find qualified candidates and is now faced with potential funding issues for the role as the city’s budget is being finalized.

SJPD spokesperson Steven Aponte told San José Spotlight the analyst role was advertised on LinkedIn and posted on the city website, a standard practice for civilian roles, from mid-September through November 2022, but interest in the position was underwhelming.

“We had an extended recruitment period because of little response to the recruitment,” Aponte said in an email. “Unfortunately, we did not find a candidate to fill the position and we reopened the recruitment in February.”

The second round of recruitment ran from Feb. 10 through April 12, and again no one was hired, Aponte said. Out of 13 applicants over both periods of recruitment, he said only three met the minimum requirements, and those interviews are on pause until funding for the position is secured.

The position, like several other racial equity analyst roles in city departments, is set to expire at the end of the current fiscal year in June.

LaDoris Cordell, a retired judge and former independent police auditor in San Jose, said the department needed to do more to find a diverse pool of qualified candidates, such as reaching out to organizations such as the NAACP, La Raza Roundtable de California and other organizations in San Jose run by people of color, to help spread the word about the job opening.

Cordell added that SJPD leadership should have done more to directly promote the job.

“This cannot be business as usual where you just post in two places,” she told San José Spotlight. “Right there in the title it says racial equity, which means we need to find people, preferably someone of color, who has background, who has perspective on issues that someone who is not of color might not have.”

Others say filling the role wouldn’t likely make any difference in the lives of people who are more likely to face police brutality and harassment, or in the lives of family members of victims of police violence.

“I don’t think if they fill that position, it’s going to eliminate the inherent racism in the police department,” Raj Jayadev, founder of the community organization Silicon Valley De-Bug, told San José Spotlight.

Impetus for the position

The city launched the Office of Racial Equity in 2020 in the wake of protests following the police murder of George Floyd to provide training, resources and support across the city’s 18 departments.

The city then opened up racial equity analyst positions in several departments last year, including Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement; Transportation; Parks, Recreation, and Neighborhood Services; Library; and Police to build on the work of the citywide office, city officials said. Parks and recreation is in process of hiring for its role, but has not filled the position yet, while the other departments filled them last year, officials said.

City departments also have racial equity action plans, which focus on increasing an understanding about what racial equity means in each sector of government. Carolina Camarena, a spokesperson for the city manager’s office, said the newly hired analysts can help design strategies to engage with hard-to-reach groups in the city and reevaluate policies that may have impacts on historically underserved communities, among other work.

Problems filling vacant positions is not a new hurdle the police are facing. Aponte said SJPD has had trouble recruiting for a “multitude” of jobs for various reasons, and noted the department doesn’t have the staffing or budget to “actively recruit” for all its roles.

Jim Shannon, the city’s budget director, told San José Spotlight all the racial equity analysts, except for the one working in the library department, were brought into the 2022-23 fiscal year budget with one-time funding.

But with “carryover” funding from the city’s unspent general funds, the roles are intended to be renewed for another year, including the police position, and will be reevaluated next year, Shannon said. Still, there are no guarantees.

Jayadev said he isn’t surprised the police department hasn’t seen an overwhelming response to the position, because the role feels like a contradiction from the start.

“It’s like having someone on the Titanic that’s in charge of boat integrity,” Jayadev said. “Racial inequity is built into the structural DNA of the police department, so I think just based on a common sense litmus test, it’s probably why people are not rushing to fill the job.”

Contact Joseph Geha at [email protected] or @josephgeha16 on Twitter.

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