City Council Review: Council Cuts Santa Clara Police Services Instead of Using Rainy Day Funds Despite Increases in Major Crimes

By Robert Haugh

Last night, the big budget fight was over the Santa Clara Police Department. On a 4-3 vote, the Council decided to cut the department budget.

That means about 8 fewer police officers on Santa Clara streets and 15 total positions that will be frozen now and could be cut later from the police department. 

The Council had a good alternative. They could have taken about $1.6 million in funds from a “rainy day” budget stabilization fund to avoid the cuts, but the majority decided not to. 

The fund still has over $57 million in it after the Council decision.

Councilwoman Karen Hardy made the motion to cut. It was seconded by Vice Mayor Raj Chahal. Councilmembers Kevin Park and Suds Jain supported the police cuts.

Mayor Lisa Gillmor, Councilmembers Kathy Watanabe and Anthony Becker voted against the police cuts.

Watanabe and Gillmor were passionate in their opposition. Becker told stories about his recent personal experience with crime in his neighborhood, as well as his prior experiences with the D.A.R.E. program.

“I have yet to hear one resident say that they want the police department defunded,” Watanabe said. 

“When I have my residents contact me and say ‘where are the police, how come they’re not coming to the neighborhood, how come they’re not responding?’ I will be able to tell them because the (majority of) the city council did not listen to you.”

Police Chief Pat Nikolai responded to Council questions about crime stats with information from a chart. It shows major increases in rape, robbery, and burglary. And there’s a huge increase in vehicle thefts.

“You can see the direction we’re going in with crime. It’s horrendous what is happening, the things I’m getting complaints about, the things I’m reading about” said Gillmor. And we want to reduce?”

Santa Clara Police Officers Association (POA) President Alex Torke made a strong argument to avoid the police department cuts. He said the City’s “rainy day” or budget stabilization fund should be used now, during the pandemic since that’s why it was established.

But Hardy, Chahal, Park and Jain were not willing to use $1.6 million of the $57 million “rainy day” fund to keep from cutting police services.

Interestingly, Torke said the POA has filed an official complaint with the Public Employees Relation Board because Councilmembers have stated that they are cutting the police budget to punish the POA for their actions during negotiations. This could be interesting. 

Last week, Hardy and Chahal made it clear that was part of their motivation. This week, Park suggested the same thing.

We’ll be following this complaint.

NOTE: We’ll write about the rest of the Council meeting and other actions tomorrow.

19 comments

  1. Chahal lied at a neighborhood watch meeting a few weeks ago. He said the exact opposite about police and crime when the Police were putting on this presentation.

    Hardy is a teacher at Wilcox and she made the comment that schools might not even be in session in-person next year. Is she talking on behalf of the school district? I think I will ask the superintendent, school board and her boss to see if she is right or was authorized to talk on behalf of the school district and Wilcox. She cut officers who are in the School unit and all the positive community school events. She clearly doesn’t care for any police, her students or her community.

    • Look at Chahal next meeting and see how his
      nose is growing!
      scUnified should take a look at Hardy’s contract
      and while they are at it end the Caserta debacle!
      Time for cleansing.

  2. I would like to hear the reason the 4 members of the council gave for not filling the budget gap.

    We have already seen Sacramento release people from jails due to Covid and we have seen various local arrests were the police gave a ticket to someone that didn’t show up to court. This isn’t just about fewer police.

    What’s going on?

  3. We do not need to wait for the next election. Can we recall them right now? What do we need to do. Last thing we need is less police. Why they hell have we not cut some of the employees making over $300k per year.

  4. It’s a tough decision to make but I’m actually okay with the concessions that were made and appreciate the council members who stood up. As a resident of District 2 our neighborhood has numerous issues and the SCPD haven’t made a significant impact in the last 10 years. Ask anyone in our neighborhood about the petty theft, side shows and other issues. Furthermore I urge folks to look up what “defund the police” actually means. Spoiler alert it’s not actually what you think it is. Santa Clarans with a conscious should work to redirect funds to alternatives that actually benefit our community and address the deeper structural issues.

    • Nice try Sarah.

      Why don’t you ask your councilman Chahal to work with police to improve your district 2.

      Oh wait I forgot he voted to defund police.

  5. It is ironic that the amount needed to keep the police at full force was half the amount of the three to four million dollars the 49ers used to buy most of the candidates who voted to cut police funding, with Becker being the exception. One can’t help to think this was retribution by candidates not endorsed by the police department, as we can see now, for good reason.

  6. I didn’t watch the meeting but I thought the vote was to cut funding for the police sub-station in Rivermark? Why would they take police officers off the streets?

  7. I cant wait for the next election so I and my neighbors can vote these 4 anti police council members out of office. They are threatening the lives and property of our residents!!

    • I spoke to 2 out of the 4, at that time, candidates if they would vote to cut police staffing, and both lied, with only Becker having some backbone. The other 3 sure don’t represent me. Our great public safety record is why people flock here.

      • Chahal lied on the Neighborhood watch meeting he joined a few weeks ago.

        Hardy is a teacher at Wilcox High and literally voted to get rid of the officers who teach DARE and do positive community school functions.

        I might go ask the teachers Union, her coworkers and School board to see if they know one of their employees is making these decisions. She even commented on behalf of the school district stating that school might not even be in-person session next year.

  8. It’s unfortunate the council members that voted to reduce the police and fire budget aren’t in touch with not only the residents that voted them in but the crime statistics. Every department in every company can find some efficiencies to reduce cost effectively. What they’re asking for is over the top.

    Karen Hardy being a school teacher, was very surprising that she led the effort. Once again not in touch with her constituents or PTA.

    My hat is off to Anthony Becker, thanks for doing to do the right thing.

  9. Howard worse than that. Punish the City, punish the residents, the very same ones who voted for them and gave them a seat at the table so to speak. They were voted in to represent us, not punish us.
    Shameful, just shameful. I’m embarrassed for them because they will not be able to hide from this action.
    I’m 60, my family has been in the same house, for just under 58 years.
    Never, not once have I heard any of my neighbors mention that they wished to have a smaller Police Force.
    You would think that discussion might have come up at some point, somewhere, sometime in 58 years.
    I hope that when they walk their District’s, they get the warm welcome they now have coming their way.
    Hey Kevin, you say you are so smart, your actions are showing me otherwise.
    Thanks Neighbor!
    If and when you ever come out of your house, feel free to stop by mine. Love to have a little chat with you.
    Dry sarcastic humor is sometimes not understood.
    Let me be more direct.
    Having this Clown represent me makes me wish we had Old Dominic back.
    Teresa where are you!!!
    Burt Field

  10. Recall.
    This is a travesty.
    My neighborhood has
    seen a big increase in crime in the last
    year. These council don’t represent me.
    Get off
    their thrones or give a crap for police.
    Shame.
    Recall these idiots.

  11. Okay, maybe I slept through it, but what happened? “…punish the POA for their actions during negotiations.”

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