SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The San Jose city manager's office said Thursday it has extended the search for a new police chief indefinitely and has yet to decide who will lead the department after Chief Chris Moore's retirement a week from Saturday.
City Manager Debra Figone had said in the fall after Moore announced his retirement that she would take as long as necessary to find the right successor but had hoped to line up a new chief by the time Moore left. City spokesman David Vossbrink said that Figone thought they needed to keep looking, though leading candidates recruited in the fall remain in the running.
"We will continue to solicit applicants," Vossbrink said. "But that doesn't mean the people who've been in the pipeline are not going to be considered either. This pick as police chief is one of most important. It has such an impact on our workforce, budget and community. She wants to make sure she's comfortable."
The search extension comes a day after a daylong private evaluation at San Jose's Hayes Mansion, where finalists for the job answered questions from a variety of city, department and community representatives while Figone and her advisers observed, a process similar to the search that resulted in Moore's appointment. Participants were sworn to secrecy to protect the confidentiality of the search process.
Vossbrink would not identify the groups or individuals present, other than to say they represented a broad cross-section of
the community. Nor would he confirm the number or identity of the chief candidates. KTVU-TV identified them as former Santa Clara Police Chief Kevin Kyle, Dallas Assistant Chief Tom Lawrence and Aurora, Colo., Chief Dan Oates, which a source said was accurate. They could not be reached for comment.
Oates, however, confirmed in a note to his department that he had interviewed for the San Jose job but said, "I will not be going to San Jose" and "will remain here as chief."
Vossbrink described all the candidates as strong but perhaps not ideally suited to the role.
"It's not a matter of people being qualified or not qualified," Vossbrink said. "The community is looking for Gregory Peck, and we're getting Hugh Jackman and Daniel Day-Lewis. Debra has been gathering feedback and observations from many sources including the community panels we had yesterday, and based on that said, 'You know, we need to take more time.'"
San Jose Police Officers' Association President Sgt. Jim Unland has said that none of the department's command staff has sought the chief's job, an unprecedented situation, which Vossbrink did not dispute. Unland declined comment Thursday.
The department has been beset with low staffing and morale. The city has cut staffing to patch deficits spawned by growing pension bills. After taking pay and benefit cuts to reduce layoffs, officers are now battling City Hall over voter-approved reductions to their future pension benefits. Others are retiring and resigning.
Moore was frustrated with the ongoing battles and announced his retirement less than two years into the job after city leaders declined to put another tax on the ballot. Others interested in succeeding him are said to have withdrawn applications.
The extension of the chief search comes less than a week after the Police Department's second-in-command, Assistant Chief Rikki Goede, left to become the new chief in Piedmont. The ranking officers below her are the four deputy chiefs: David Hober, Phan Ngo, Ed Garcia and Larry Esquivel, one of whom would presumably be asked to step in as interim chief, though Vossbrink said there has been no decision.
"I don't know how she'll structure the interim command," Vossbrink said. "She's confident they have the talent and experience to mind the store during this interim period."
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