Understanding and Evaluating the Santa Clara Police Department’s Role in our Community

By Michael J. Sellers, Chief, Santa Clara Police Department and Emmett D. Carson, CEO and President, Silicon Valley Community Foundation

The Santa Clara Police Department (SCPD) takes great pride in serving its community. As Santa Clara grows and changes, SCPD is active in its efforts to continue to meet the community’s needs. To do so, it takes community members willing to engage with local law enforcement and a department willing to understand the needs of its residents in order to create and implement a common vision.

For generations, SCPD has worked according to its motto “100 percent contact, 100 percent of the time” to gain and maintain the trust of the individuals it serves. A small, independent poll taken in the fall of 2017, shows 92.4 percent of residents find the Department either very or somewhat trustworthy. Additionally, 87.3 percent of respondents were either somewhat or very satisfied with their interactions with the police. While these are numbers we can be proud of, the SCPD wants to reach higher levels of satisfaction throughout the City, with all residents, and to maintain our continuous improvement efforts.


This becomes even more important as Santa Clara law enforcement professionals are called in to do more than prevent and solve crimes. SCPD’s mission includes taking action to improve the quality of life for all residents. This includes addressing civil and social issues (e.g. homelessness, mental health, drug and alcohol criminality, human trafficking, cyber-crime, anti-terrorism, fraud, traffic/congestion, etc.) within the capabilities of law enforcement.

Therefore, with a grant from Silicon Valley Community Foundation and the San Francisco 49ers, the Santa Clara Police Department launched a bold initiative to take the pulse of its residents, learn about public perceptions of the police department and identify areas for improvement. To do that, the SCPD has partnered with My90, an independent third-party technology platform, to initiate several efforts:

First, My90 formed a citizen advisory panel, which has been providing insightful feedback since last summer. This diverse group of community leaders was assembled purposefully, to include varying perspectives based on the members’ unique backgrounds. The group includes educators, religious leaders, students, civil servants and local businesspeople, among others. My90 has asked panel members to weigh in on local and national policing issues, evaluate the SCPD’s performance, and help the organization better understand what the panel members and their communities expect from law enforcement professionals.

Second, My90 conducted an anonymous citywide survey in September, in which 282 neighbors participated. While the survey data is not reflective of the entire City of Santa Clara, this information is particularly valuable, as residents provided quantitative results and shared detailed feedback about how the SCPD can improve in the future.

Next, My90 hosted two focus groups. The first focused on Santa Clara’s diverse community from a wide range of ethnic and racial backgrounds. The second was designed to gain feedback from small business owners in the community.

Finally, in March My90 convened residents for a Citizens Policing Workshop to gather further feedback. Community members are encouraged to add their voices by emailing contact@textmy90.com. More information about My90 is available at www.textmy90.com/santaclara.

Listening, evaluating and then acting upon what we hear is a fundamental aspect of community policing. We want the SCPD to be the best-in- class, serving its community in a way that reflects its values of trust, transparency, community and service.

My90, in partnership with the SCPD, will present a full report to the City Council later this year.