The Sunnyvale Public Safety Officers’ Association says it has taken a vote of no confidence in Department of Public Safety Chief Phan Ngo. The outcome of the vote has yet to be released.
But Interim City Manager Kent Steffens and Mayor Glenn Hendricks, in a statement issued by the city on Dec. 7, expressed their “unequivocal support for the public safety initiatives and reforms” pushed by Ngo and described the vote as “unfounded and uncalled for.”
Ngo, who came to Sunnyvale in January from the San Jose Police Department and took over for the retiring Frank Grugurina, has faced criticism from the association the last few months, particularly over the department’s proposed changes to its internal affairs investigations, which looks into incidents, allegations and suspicions involving law breaking or professional misconduct by officers.
The no-confidence vote came after a Nov. 4 letter from the association’s executive board urged members to take the vote. It was unknown at press time how many members voted and what the count was. The group represents police, fire, emergency medical service and emergency dispatch workers.
In the letter to members, leadership stated its main issues with Ngo were a “failure to provide clear leadership, management and policy decision,” as evidenced by “willful ignorance of DPS standards and fire safety,” “lack of transparency” and “failure of concern for officers.”
It cites a report on how to improve the internal affairs investigation process, which documented several “problem” investigations conducted by the Public Management Group and Howard Jordan, a consultant and former Oakland police chief. The letter alleges that a copy of the report provided to employees “was so heavily redacted it brought about more questions than answers,” reflecting a lack of transparency.
The union’s letter also said it was upset with the lack of input members had in the internal affairs modernization process.
“He’s refusing to allow the PSOA to be part of the project until the ‘implementation’ stage, by which time the department will be dictating to its employees how it plans to investigate them. That’s another missed opportunity and slap in the face to our members,” the letter says.
The letter also alleges a quid pro quo connection between Ngo and consulting group Hillard Heintze, which was hired to make recommendations. It notes that former San Jose police chief Rob Davis, who now is Hillard Heintze’s senior vice president, had promoted Ngo while he was with that department.
Ngo said in an interview Dec. 8 that the review of the department’s internal affairs program, with help from Hillard Heintze, would be more comprehensive than past ones and “update outdated” procedures.
“I’d like to see classification for allegations and complaints, which is something we don’t have. I’d like to see current best practices for body cameras which is new technology for the department,” Ngo said.