Robert Salonga| San Jose Mercury News| Link to Article
Shivaun Nurre, veteran No. 2 in office, appointed to finish Aaron Zisser’s term that ends in 2020
SAN JOSE — Shivaun Nurre — the longtime second-in-command in San Jose’s Office of the Independent Police Auditor — has been appointed to head the law-enforcement watchdog and finish out the term of her predecessor, who resigned this past summeramid heavy pressure from the city and police union.
Nurre has worked in the IPA office since 2006, much of that as assistant auditor, and served four stints as interim IPA, most recently after the departure of Aaron Zisser who had been in that role for about a year. The appointment of Nurre by the City Council means she will finish out Zisser’s term that was to run through 2020.
No outside search was conducted for a new auditor after Zisser resigned in August because city officials deemed they “had the best candidate in-house,” according to the mayor’s office.
“Shivaun Nurre has a lot of experience here in the city of San Jose, she’s held the position before,” Mayor Sam Liccardo said. “She has a lot of respect, I think, from all sides, whether it’s from civil-liberties advocates or from the police union, so everybody holds her in very high regard, and I’m confident she’s going to do an excellent job.”
Nurre was grateful to be appointed to be the full-time head of the office where she has worked the past 12 years, serving as the constant link between four auditors.
“I felt that the office would be good to have stability right now,” Nurre said. “I provide some continuity and stability for at least the next two years, moving forward with what we want to do.”
Police Chief Eddie Garcia and the San Jose Police Officers’ Association both gave a nod to the appointment, as did local civil-rights groups, who lauded Nurre’s vast institutional knowledge but also voiced concern about the political cloud over the office given the circumstances of Zisser’s departure.
“She brings experience to the position and understanding of what my men and women face on a daily basis, and wants to make sure the community is being treated fairly,” Garcia said. “That’s all we ever asked for, and that’s what we’re getting with Shivaun.”
The union echoed the sentiment: “Shivaun has a demonstrated record of collaboration, respect for the facts and a commitment to fairness. San Jose’s police officers and the residents will be getting an experienced and dedicated public servant to oversee the police department.”
Zisser resigned after clashing with the police union and police department, which took issue with his handling of an annual IPA audit report that used a handful of examples to suggest stark racial disparities in certain use-of-force cases. The union escalated their opposition when Zisser’s office did not promptly alert SJPD about a man who allegedly threatened to shoot officers while making a police complaint, and hounded him for meeting with demonstrators before they rallied against police over fatal officer-involved shootings.
Civil-rights advocates saw the campaign to oust Zisser as an attack on the integrity of the IPA office and called for an overhaul of the oversight model to give the office more power to institute reforms in the police department. Police said their objections were specific to Zisser, not the office, and days after his resignation, accelerated plans to expand the purview of the IPA office, including new access to internal misconduct complaint investigations and officer-involved shooting probes, as well as aggregate data about use-of-force cases that did not elicit formal complaints.
“Shivaun has an incredible knowledge of the work of the IPA office and her steady dedication is a gift,” said Rev. Jennifer Goto, a leader for the faith-based social-justice coalition People Acting in Community Together. “We hope there can also be greater accountability when the IPA makes policy recommendations so they don’t take years to be considered and put into action.”
Nurre said she has every intention to exert the independence of her position and staff.
“I really believe in civilian oversight,” she said. “These are voices in the community that want to be heard.”
Still, some questioned why the city did not conduct a robust search and community interviews as they had in previous selections.
“It’s no reflection on Shivaun, but I wonder if there’s political fatigue, indicative of the fallout of what happened with Aaron,” said Raj Jayadev, director of Silicon Valley De-Bug. “It allows them to avoid the more complex issues that came up which are still open wounds.”
Prior to joining the IPA office, Nurre was a deputy county counsel for Santa Clara County for more than a decade. She has a law degree from UC Davis School of Law and a Bachelor’s degree in history from UC Riverside.
Despite the turmoil that has surrounded the office, Nurre is taking it all in stride, noting that she has witnessed an array of controversies in the office, ranging from political clashes and unexpected resignations to the shocking discovery in 2010 of a reputed staffer in the office thought to be leaking confidential information to the police union.
“What I have learned from being in this office, is you have ups and downs, crises and better times,” she said. “I try to be open and pragmatic, and that’s how I weathered that in the past. I’ve always been so firmly grounded in the independence of the office. I feel pretty confident I can speak my mind and be heard.”
Staff writer Emily DeRuy contributed to this report.