Santa Clara Needs an Elected Police Chief to Be Independent and Stand Up to the City Council

By Police Chief Pat Nikolai

Public safety is my priority – not any special interest group. I answer directly to the public. And more importantly, I am responsive to the public. I don’t have any agenda other than public safety.

I don’t have to worry that I may lose my position for doing the right thing for the community. A perfect example is the recent grand jury report that criticized our City Council. I sent a letter to the District Attorney asking him to investigate some of the listed allegations. Would an appointed Chief have done that? Not if they wanted to keep their job.

Today, Santa Clarans have a direct say on how to manage their community. If they don’t like how the Police Department is being run, they can change it with their vote. And you don’t need to look very far to see that this is possible and happens when necessary. Two of our neighboring counties, Alameda and San Mateo just ousted their incumbent Sheriffs. The voters are smart and know when change is needed. That’s not something you should take away from them.

Santa Clara voters want to have an elected Chief. You only need to look at the past attempts to change the charter to make the Chief an appointed position. They failed miserably. 

And the recent poll by the Santa Clara Police Officers Association shows that an overwhelming majority of current voters want to keep the Chief elected. The only people who want to make the Chief appointed are the Councilmembers who personally don’t like me.

Finally, I would like to mention the DEI task force. I was a driving force behind creating this group because I knew it was important for our community during a challenging time in our country. 

And this group thoroughly looked at our department. Their recommendation is that we should showcase that we have an elected Chief. To quote their letter to the City Council: “the Task Force seeks to formally recommend that the City preserve, reinforce, and celebrate its commitment to having an elected Chief of Police.” 

What happened with that letter? The same Councilmembers who want to make the Chief an appointed position tried to squash it. 

Fortunately, Santa Clarans know better. We know that if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.


  1. So, the traitorous 49er 5, in alphabetical order are: Raj Chahal, Karen Hardy, Kevin Park, “Suds” Jain, and Tony Becker (note 3 of the 5 end terms in December 2024).

    These 5 figuratively took the former City Manager and the former City Attorney out to into the field like Stalin’s Purge and Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Maybe they deserved it. But what ought to concern SANTA CLARANS is **how** the 49er 5 did it. And our new City Manager and City Attorney were replaced as“more friendly” stooges for the 49ers. And it is shameful, especially when their underlings just accepted the travesty to protect their own wallets.

    The City Manager and City Attorney are **political** anointments. So, the underlings of the City Manager and City Attorney chose their salaries over their own integrity and doing the right thing for Santa Clara. There is no problem from other city employees squeaking out a living other than those political animals who support Al “Jed York” Capone.

    Citizens of Santa Clara ought to have the right to vote for ASSISTANT City Managers and ASSISTANT City Attorneys, as they carry water for 49er 5!

    • Jo Warren,
      Such a great comment, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.
      I should never be put in the same sentence as these two esteemed Leaders of our City….except for this one little point in our City History.
      Turns out our City Attorney (Brian Doyle), and City Manager (Deanna Santana), along with myself, just your average run of the mill volunteer Parks and Recreation Commissioner were all removed for the very same reason…

      “No Reason”. Yes, you can’t make this up.

      Why? Don’t know for sure…. but I know it a reason that works well for the 49ers. At the end of the day, that’s all that mattered to them.
      No more “Speed Bumps”. Basically Mom and Dad are now out of town…time to party.

      What a Nightmare those following months were for our City.

      Truly the Big hurt was the firing of Mr. Brian Doyle. No disrespect to our City Manager. It’s purely a timing issue. Our City had on the dockets, two court cases. All predicted by multiple sources as going the same way as the previous 7 did. All wins for Santa Clara, all represented by Mr. Brian Doyle. Mr. Doyle was 7-0 against the 49ers, set to be 9-0.
      Maybe that’s why The 49ers didn’t like him?

      The two Law Suites were filed by the 49ers. No good reason was ever given, no surprise I guess. Turns out one of the benefits of suing someone is it can actually buy you more time.
      In this case, more time was a really good for the 49ers. In that time frame they were able to remove the attorney who was going to kick their butt again in court.
      Once Brian Doyle was removed, very quickly, the 49er Council decided it was in “Our Cities Best Interest” to then settle both cases out of court.
      As they say, “You can look it up”. Sadly it cost us more than the money. Anyone who had any doubts knew right there, the 49er Council did not represent our best interest, they represented one local companies best interest.
      By the way, not the best way to manage a City long term.
      So besides not getting the money owed us, we also lost all the money
      Yes that’s right, Millions. This included our own attorney fee’s up to that point which was just short of $275,000.

      The 49ers do not need any more help in tearing down our City.
      This is about quality of life for us.

      The Election of 2024 will give our City the opportunity to tell the 49ers that we are done paying their bills.
      Depending on how many of the 49er Council are still around, given one of them should be going to jail soon (Maybe Owner as well?).
      And if our City decides to waste another $600K of our money to put onto the ballot the Elected Chief of Police….again.
      We will need to vote for us to keep that right again.
      We desperately need people to represent us. I think it’s been well proven that we can’t trust the powers to be to make any choices for us, at least right now.

      Burt Field

  2. Why is it a good idea to spend extra money to give this unremarkable city council, that lacks integrity, and includes a criminal, more power ? The answer is that it’s not a good idea.

    • This “the chief should not have to live in Santa Clara” is an argument rooted in stupidity. Why is it a bad idea? It seems valuable to a chief with a common interest.

      Nikolai has grown into the job. I really think he has.

  3. This stupid issue should be left for when a city council majority’s motives can be trusted. This one stinks out loud!

    • Thurston wins!!
      Oh, here is a good one

      Cpra 23-835

      Requesting videos of pat nikolai and da rosen


      It amazes me. Been an opponent of Nikolai for a decade, and he has been so stoic through all this. I am becoming a supporter.

  4. Didn’t our current Council appoint both a City Manager and a City Attorney? I don’t recall reading any news accounts on either of these two appointments saving taxpayers money (As some allude Council appointments will do). Why indirectly knock (via salary) Assistant Chiefs in the pipeline for Chief, and in what often seems like the same breath throw digs at our field of police candidate’s work experience!

  5. 1994 four candidates for chief
    Arolla got the poa enforsement one election
    I worked against arolla the first time
    With poa candidate

    Gosh a police chief not required to live in city he or she polices?

    Oh, poa backed charter change 20 years ago lost 2 to 1

    • 2016

      A dark money group poured 50 grand into a campaign that included negative pieces on suds jain. Blupac

      One group sent out a mailer defending candidates including jain

      The santa clara p.o.a

  6. Response to Buchser Alum:

    Frequent use of “all due respect” is troublesome. It is a euphemism for “eff you.” Santa Clarans ought to support the ‘Blue,’ as elected, or prepare to be the next San Fransicko.

    • There is nothing in what I wrote in tone or substance that anyone should interpret as “eff you.”

      Santa Clarans should ask for whatever is best for the city. Not enforce a seemingly unquestionable loyalty test to the police force. Our police force swears an oath to support and defend the constitution of our country and state. And has a values statement that reflects their pledge to be loyal to our city and to contribute to the wellbeing of the city and to be accountable.

      We the people of Santa Clara do not swear an oath to the police or the chief. And our holding them accountable and expressing concerns about how they do their jobs for the sake of the wellbeing of the city is in full keeping with their stated values.

  7. Chief Nikolai,

    With all due respect to you and your office and your officers I think that some of the statements you make in this letter need to be questioned.

    When you say that you only answer to the public and not to a special interest I agree that you do not answer to a corporate special interest such as the Forty Niners and so will not manage the police department in a way that benefits them to the detriment to the city.

    But it is a well known reality that the one group that historically has lent its weight most heavily in favor or against any candidate for police chief is the Santa Clara Police Officers Association that you used to be president of. It is a well known reality that the candidate that the SCPOA supports to be police chief has an overwhelming advantage in becoming police chief. To the extent that nobody else will run though the lack of candidates is as much due to the requirement that a candidate must live in Santa Clara to even run.

    Again with all due respect you must understand that there is public perception that you do answer to the SCPOA to some kind of extent. They at least have influence over whether or not they will support you in a reelection bid.

    Your job is not just to be a watchdog for crime and corruption in the city when it comes to council members but also police officers. And investigating and especially disciplining or firing police officers for criminal acts and misconduct creates conflict with the SCPOA.

    So please understand that there are Santa Clarans who have no specific quarrel with you and respect you and appreciate your service and that of your officers. But who are still concerned about the conflict of interest in being a police chief who does not tolerate misconduct in his officers while also being a police chief whose job is most easily threatened by the police officer union.

  8. Is Nikolai insinuating that he’s the only head of law enforcement whose #1 agenda is public safety? North Korea’s Kim Jong Un doesn’t have to worry about losing his position either, he and Nikolai are the only ones on each ballot.

    If the POA really thought their “poll” was structured with neutral questions and open responses from a diverse cross section of the public, they’d create a website called for the world to see both questions posed and replies like they did with the Grand Jury Report which is simply The DEI Task Force was a sham. Nikolai admitted the letter wasn’t approved by Santa Clara city staff which is likely why city management – not the City Council – put the group on indefinite hiatus.

    • Make up what you want, he only said HIS #1 priority was safety. And he pointed out that an elected Police Chief answers to the voters, not the City Council. It turns out that can be a big difference if the City Council has corrupt members; ask someone about “the indictment”…

  9. We have experience with this Chief. I feel he’s doing a good job. Unfortunately better than most of our elected officials. I would still rather leave the election up to the people.

  10. All,
    I was at the meeting again last night.
    The really sad part was having to listen to a number of people basically ganging up on our Police Chief. Saying some rude and unproven statements. Sadly, no one was slowing them down, or asking them to give at least one example of what they were talking about.
    Basically have some respect, show some decorum. You have a right to Free Speech, please don’t abuse it.
    I sat there with my mouth shut. You all would be so proud of me. I did this for as long as I could. As the meeting was winding down, I stood up and asked if I could address the Commission one more time? Sit for 2.5 hours… you should get a second shot if you ask in a nice manner.
    My goal was simple. I just wanted to draw some attention to the way some of these people who were online freely disrespecting our Elected Police Chief. And at the same time putting down our Police Dept.
    I was appalled at how much leeway they were given during their time to speak.

    I felt good getting a chance to at least stand up for our Police Chief, but I also brought out two other points.
    1. I don’t mind putting on the ballot, the opportunity for residents to either agree to keep the Elected Police Chief, or to then go with the Appointed Police Chief.
    2. As much as I disagree with that process, if you want to put it on a ballot, wait until next year. That’s a Presidential Election, and the cost to put it on the ballot will be $0.00 dollars.
    You want to rush it, and get it on this year’s ballot, the cost goes up to about $600K.

    So what’s the rush?
    Who is pushing this?
    Who’s agenda are we trying to appease?

    Those questions were the “Elephant in the room”.
    Why would the residents agree to allocate over $600K to force something onto a “Non Presidential” Election?
    If we did, why are we asking the residents to foot that bill? Why not ask the 49ers to come up with the $600K. Or is that too obvious.
    All they want is everything at this point. Right down to the Part Time Elected City Clerk. I already know they wanted a Volunteer Parks and Recreation Commisioner fired.
    It’s so bad, it’s actually funny / sad all at the same time.

    So If it is so important, and worthy of our attention, I think we can wait until next year, it only 14 months to Nov 24. Last time this was on the ballot was almost 30 years ago.
    Why would we push it now, virtually overnight just to get on the ballot, which I feel very confident the residents would still win, yet at the same time we would lose of $600K!!!!
    So NO, not this year…. if you really still want it next year, have it put on the Presidential Election Ballot.
    Cost is $0.00 —–
    Again, sounds like a reasonable request.

    Final thought(s), give the $600k to the International Swim Center, or at least do something that will benefit the residents.

    Burt Field

    • Burt,

      I personally feel that the position of police chief should not be an elected one and certainly not with the requirement of being a Santa Clara resident just to run for election.

      But I do agree that there is no need for a special election just for this matter if it ends up going to the public vote.

      I do not believe that a special election is being proposed for this matter. The charter review commission has a goal of providing it’s recommendation to the city council in early November.

      I believe that this is in order to meet deadlines to have this on the ballot of the primary election next March. And this is an election that will be run even if this does not go to a vote.

      I think the money that has been set aside to support ballot or election costs are for supporting public outreach and perhaps staff hours in crafting the ballot item and its language.

      It is a lot of money but amending a city charter and having a public vote on it is not a cheap endeavor. But I do not take it that the cost is your main objection. I do not find it to be objectionable.

      Especially since chief Nikolai and his two assistant chiefs I think are all among the top ten highest paid chiefs or assistant chiefs in the state. Not even big cities like San Francisco or Los Angeles have three chiefs in the top ten.

      The three of them make about 1 million dollars in just salary and total compensation of over 1.5 million dollars per year. One of the concerns I have with the state of our police department is why we have a chief and assistant chiefs making so much money. The cost of these three top officers in our department is unparalleled across the entire state of California.

      We have the stadium but other cities have stadiums to deal with and most others have bigger fundamental risk of crime and other issues that require more police administration.

  11. Chief
    My late parents would have agreed with you.

    I agree with you.

    I think you have proved me wrong as you have shown since you election that you are qualified.

    I believe in 2024 i will support you.

  12. All very good points, and well made. Just more examples why Santa Clara needs an independent Police Chief.
    Some ask, why is Santa Clara different from other cities? Until the recent corruption that might have been a good argument, but now we are different, and not in a good way. If our city government, having been taken over by big 49er bucks, isn’t already a case study in business schools, it soon will be. Remember the ethics expert that suggested we had some real conflicts of interest on the council? He wasn’t wrong. Let’s keep the law out of this ethical quagmire.

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