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Measure B would end police chief elections in Santa Clara

Santa Clara Measure B would end voter selection of city's top cop
Santa Clara Measure B would end voter selection of city's top cop 03:55

Santa Clara is unique when it comes to law enforcement and how they choose their top cop. 

Currently, it's the only city in the state of California that still elects their police chief, but that could soon change with Measure B on the March 5th primary ballot.

Council members Suds Jains, Kathy Hardy and Raj Chahal are behind the Yes on Measure B campaign to change the city charter and make the Chief of Police an appointed position.

"I think it is time for us to evolve and adopt a procedure that seems to work for over 470 other cities in the state," said Jains. "We are the only city that is hanging onto this archaic system."

Under the current city charter, only a resident of Santa Clara can run for Chief of Police. And Jain says that limits the pool of talent.

"Only ten officers from the Santa Clara PD live in the city out of 153 sworn officers," explained Jains.

Yes on Measure B would allow the city to promote a candidate within the police department who may live in a neighboring city, or allow the city to search for chief across the Bay Area, state or even the country.

But Mayor Lisa Gillmor opposes the Measure B. She says she takes pride being chosen by the residents of Santa Clara, and wants her Chief of Police to have the same accountability to voters.

"The chief lives here, the chief works here, the chief engages with the community on a regular basis," said Gillmor.

No on Measure B also has the support of the Santa Clara Police Union, who erected a giant billboard along a busy stretch of El Camino Real.

The Mayor and Police Union also have history on their side. There have been several attempts since 1971 to change the position of Chief of Police from an elected position to and appointed position, and all have failed.

"I'm proud of the fact that we are the only city that elect our police chief that we have 55-thousand residents that vote for a police chief," said Gillmor.

If the measure does pass, current Santa Clara Police Chief Pat Nikolai could go down in history as the last elected chief in the state of California.

He has publicly stated his opposition to Measure B, but regardless of the outcome on election day, his job will not be impacted. Chief Nikolai plans to retire at the end of his term.

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