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San José City Council Appoints New Independent Police Auditor

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City Hall in San José, California, on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023. (Juliana Yamada/KQED)

This story was updated on April 16, 2024 at 4:45 p.m.

San José leaders appointed a former police officer as the city’s new independent police auditor on Tuesday, less than a year after the previous auditor retired abruptly.

Eddie Aubrey, who currently investigates police misconduct as the civilian manager in the office of professional accountability for the Richmond Police Department, will take over as San José’s IPA on May 6, the city announced in a statement.

Aubrey served more than a decade as a police officer in Southern California in the 1980s and 1990s, including for the Los Angeles Police Department, according to the city and his LinkedIn profile.

Eddie Aubrey, who currently investigates police misconduct as the civilian manager for the Richmond Police Department, will take over as San José’s IPA on May 6. (Joseph Geha/KQED)

His other law enforcement and police oversight experience includes stints as the chief prosecuting attorney for Renton, Washington, the Independent Reviewer in charge of civilian oversight of police in Fresno and seven years as a pro tem judge in Washington. He has also run a law firm and headed up a college public safety department and risk management department in Tacoma, Washington.

“I am honored and privileged to assume the role of your next independent police auditor,” Aubrey said in the city statement. “I look forward to the opportunity to engage with the diverse communities in San José, advancing police accountability and enhancing police services.”

Aubrey, during a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, addressed potential concern over a former police officer taking the lead role in police oversight in San José. He said his commitment is to fair and unbiased oversight.

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“My demonstrated history shows that I have held officers accountable. Officers have been terminated; they have been suspended,” he said. He also noted officers in other cases he worked on were exonerated. “So they have a 15-year track record to look at.”

San José Mayor Matt Mahan said in a statement that Aubrey will help maintain trust between residents and the Police Department.

“We’re incredibly fortunate to have a new independent police auditor with extensive experience both working within and overseeing the conduct of law enforcement agencies,” he said.

Aubrey said he grew up with an African American father and a Korean mother in South Central Los Angeles and was on the police force during the violence and civil unrest taking place after the police beating of Rodney King.

“I’m looking at my neighborhood burned down, shots being fired, in the middle of the night, cars [are being] overturned,” he said. “And I asked myself, ‘Am I doing enough in the role of police officer?’ I said, ‘I’m doing a lot, but I can do a lot more.’ And that’s what made me decide that I wanted to change and be a lawyer.”

Aubrey will replace interim Independent Police Auditor Karyn Sinunu-Towery, who has held the position since last summer, a time of turmoil for the office.

Sinunu-Towery, a former 30-year prosecutor in Santa Clara County, was appointed to the temporary role following former IPA Shivaun Nurre’s unexpected retirement in June after nearly five years in the role.

It was later revealed that just before she retired, Nurre got into a heated verbal argument with a San José police officer at a public event while she was drunk.

A few months later, the assistant IPA, Eva Roa, resigned and wrote a letter lambasting city management and officials for largely ignoring the IPA’s office and criticizing Sinunu-Towery for being too trusting of police department investigators.

Before Nurre’s retirement, she advocated for the city to grant expanded powers to the IPA’s office, including the right to directly conduct civilian investigations into alleged police misconduct instead of only auditing internal police investigations.

Former Mayor Sam Liccardo backed the proposal but later stalled without enough support.

In November last year, the City Council voted 8–2 against expanding the IPA’s powers. Sinunu-Towery, when she first took on the role, said she supported the idea of more power for the office but later reversed course, saying the office needed to take better advantage of the powers it already has.

Aubrey said Tuesday that he thinks San José’s oversight program is a “really excellent model,” though he left open the possibility of change.

“Right now, what I’m looking at is what do we have, what can we use and how effectively can we use that model in the things that we’re doing there,” he said. “And then, we’re always open to entertaining other options there.”

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