San Jose police auditor had drunken argument with officers ahead of retirement
San Jose's Independent former Police Auditor Shivaun Nurre.

    San Jose’s former police watchdog was allegedly set to be investigated for spouting off at a police officer while drunk at a public event, before she abruptly retired.

    Shivaun Nurre, who served as the independent police auditor from late 2018 until June this year, told San José Spotlight she “had some drinks” at the San Jose Greek Festival in early June and had a tense argument with a police officer.

    A workplace complaint was filed against Nurre for her conduct, and the complaint was going to be investigated, she was told. City officials offered her a chance to retire ahead of a June 7 special San Jose City Council closed session meeting, which she elected to do, she said.

    “The job is very stressful and I had just about had enough,” Nurre told San José Spotlight. “I showed poor judgment in behaving in that fashion. I probably showed that my objectivity about the department was impaired at that time.”

    Nurre declined to elaborate on the subject of the argument, but acknowledged it was “heated.”

    A source familiar with the situation also confirmed the incident to San José Spotlight.

    Following the hastily scheduled special meeting, City Attorney Nora Frimann announced that Nurre planned to retire, and she requested a period of paid leave, which the council granted.

    Neither Frimann nor other city officials disclosed details about the incident leading up to Nurre’s departure from the city.

    “Speaking generally, we’re fortunate that the vast majority of the city’s employees hold themselves to a very high standard of conduct. On the rare occasions when folks fall radically short of that standard, there are consequences,” Mayor Matt Mahan told San José Spotlight.

    A San Jose Police Department spokesperson declined to comment, deferring to city administration.

    Nurre said she did not think she would be fired for her behavior, but had planned to retire by year’s end to spend more time with family.

    “It just basically pushed me into it right then and there,” Nurre told San José Spotlight.

    Following Nurre’s departure, the city council unanimously voted in closed session June 27 to appoint Karyn Sinunu-Towery, a former 30-year Santa Clara County prosecutor, to helm the oversight role while a search for the next permanent auditor is underway. Sinunu-Towery started her work at the end of July.

    Turmoil at the office continued last week when the city’s assistant independent police auditor Eva Roa quit, in a story exclusively reported by San José Spotlight.

    Roa sent a scathing resignation letter to city officials Sept. 8 airing her frustrations with city management for ignoring the IPA office, with the police department as a whole, which she said seems to be “struggling to want to hold officers truly accountable,” and criticized Sinunu-Towery for being too trusting of police internal investigators.

    Nurre was appointed to her role by the San Jose City Council in December 2018, replacing former auditor Aaron Zisser, who resigned in August 2018 after less than a year on the job. In her time at the office, Nurre served as the interim auditor four times before taking on the role permanently.

    She oversaw the production of annual reports on police oversight, and highlighted concerning trends including increases in complaints against officers three years running. She called out controversial issues and policies, such as whether an officer pointing a gun at someone should be considered a use of force, and whether cops should actually be kept from working when serving out a suspension.

    She also advocated for the expansion of the IPA Office’s investigative powers, in line with a proposal supported by advocates and some city officials, including former Mayor Sam Liccardo. The proposal was opposed by the San Jose Police Officers Association. Planned discussions on the potential addition of investigators to the IPA Office were waylaid by Nurre’s departure.

    This story will be updated.

    Contact Joseph Geha at [email protected] or @josephgeha16 on Twitter. Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or follow @Jana_Kadah on Twitter. 

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