VANGUARD: So I see you have two badge numbers, Carm. How's that?
GRANDE: When I was hired in '66, I was given Badge #81. In those days, when a person retired, they just recycled the number. When Chief MacNamara came in 1976, he computerized the numbers to 4-digit numbers and they were not recycled, so once you were issued a number, it was yours for life. Mine was #1264.
VANGUARD: So did you retire with both badge numbers then?
GRANDE: The #81 just got discontinued. As you mentioned in your interview with Bill Leavy, everyone got a new number assigned in the thousands. At that time, the numbers indicated where you were in the department relative to seniority.
VANGUARD: How many years did you have with the PD when you retired?
GRANDE: I had 32 years in with the PD, and five years in police and fire communications prior to that.
VANGUARD: Tell me about how that worked out.
GRANDE: I came back to San José to go to school at SJSU, and I started in 1961 working in a police garage because it was a night job and I could go to school during the day. Prior to that I was an air traffic controller in the Army, and it was a communications job. Then I found out about the emergency communications, I tested, and I started that fall in police/fire communications in the Civil/Defense Building.
VANGUARD: Where were you born and raised?
GRANDE: Born and raised in Johnstown, Pennsylvania-a Bethlehem steel town-which is now dying on the vine as most of the cities in PA and NY and NJ are. I went to Catholic school for 12 years, and then when I was 19 my parents had moved to California. I came out here with them, my sister and four brothers. I'm the second oldest of the gang. So we moved to Southern California and I got drafted into the Army. I got out in December, 1960 and then moved to San José.
VANGUARD: What was your MOS in the military?
GRANDE: I was an air traffic controller at Fort Lewis, Washington for two years.
VANGUARD: Did you ever go overseas?
GRANDE: No, I never did. I got married soon after I got into the Army. Since I was drafted, I was only in for two years. I trained at Fort Ord and finished at Fort Willis.
VANGUARD: How old are you?
GRANDE: 73 Years old with 12 grandchildren and 1 great grandchild.
VANGUARD: So you got married while you were in the military, and then you moved to San José. Did you go back to school?
GRANDE: I started in SoCal. I went to Santa Ana Junior College, and then when I came here, I went to City College, and then to San José State. The unusual thing is when I originally started, I majored in political science-I was always interested in it, but there was no money to be made in it-so then I went into accounting because I was okay in math, and then when I worked for the city, I found out about the law enforcement program, so I majored in criminal justice and graduated from SJSU.
VANGUARD: And you worked in a police garage while you were going to SJSU?
GRANDE: I did, for a few months. It was a convenient job. I needed a night job, and the communications job wasn't too different since that was a night job too.
VANGUARD: Where was the PD located back then?
GRANDE: It was in City Hall. So I started there on the first floor of City Hall here at Civic Circle. The old City Hall had been torn down in 1958.
VANGUARD: Where was communications?
GRANDE: Communications was in the little building adjacent to the current Police Administration Building. I'm not too sure what they have in there now, but they did have the radio repair system located there and an emergency center was there also. Just as a side note, it was built for use during a civil disaster, and it was set up so you could live there for two weeks, with water and food. The walls, I think, are 16-18 inches thick. We actually had the old PBX phone system. When we worked as dispatchers, you had to pull the phone wires out and then plug them in to connect calls. It was antiquated, considering the size of the city. Police and Fire dispatching were in there. We worked together and had the old belt system where the dispatchers were in one room, and the complaint desk was in another room. They would write a card, put it on a belt, and it would roll over to the dispatcher. When they finally discontinued that system years later, they found a lot of the cards that had slipped off the belts, so a few people never got a response to their police call. It worked well at the time, and the city just outgrew it.
VANGUARD: What was your pay back then?
GRANDE: It was $300-$400/month, and then we got paid two times a month. You got $100 on the 25th of the month, and then on the first of the month you got the balance. Why they did it like that, I don't know.
VANGUARD: Did you own a home?
GRANDE: I did. I bought a home in 1964 for $16,900. Just before everything crashed here recently, that same house sold for about $850k.
VANGUARD: You still living there?
GRANDE: No, I'm not. I got a divorce about 25 years ago. My wife got the house. So things were a lot different. The city had about 200k people, so the beat system was centered around the Civic Center; it didn't go out too far. They'd call it B9, B8, B7. We had two channels back then-one on the east side, and one on the west side. There weren't too many people. I remember one time you wrote an article on it that after eight hours of being on the radio, you just had to go sit in a corner. There was more traffic. We didn't have enough radios to cover it. And when someone had a stolen car, you'd get a copy after the report, so you had ¼ inch strips on which to write the stolen car info, and then you'd stick it up on a board. If anyone called about a stolen car, you had to go up and down on the board to find the plate. That was about four days after the car was stolen, so it was already in Mexico being stripped down. It was really antiquated, but it all functioned and we all worked together. Looking back, it was a lot of fun, but at the time it was pretty stressful.
VANGUARD: What turned you on to SJPD? Were you recruited by someone?
GRANDE: I have to be honest with you. I had no inkling of getting into police work, and then when I started in communications, I saw some of the law enforcement officers and I thought, "Heck, I can do that." It was a little more money than I was making, so I took the test and did pretty well, and then got hired. On an historical note, I was discharged in 1960. Right after I got out, the Russians started building the Berlin Wall, and I was supposed to come to work in communications in November, but I received a letter from the military saying that they might call me back because of the Wall. I let the city know, so they put me on a waiver and kept the date open for me. I never did get called, so I was able to start the first of November.
VANGUARD: So you were hired. Walk me through the process of being a newly-hired police officer here.
GRANDE: Actually, we were the first organized academy. I think there were 22 of us, and at that time it was the largest one. We would spend four hours per day in the classroom, and four hours per day in patrol. They would put us in a beat car, and that went on for six months. The department ran their own academy, but we had to split it up. You felt pretty confident with all the training, by the time you were out on your own. We went out with an FTO and that was a learning experience. I remember Pete Geurin was my FTO and we were in an alley in Willow Glen. He said, "Something's going on," so he turned out all the lights on the car. I'm driving down in the pitch black, and at that time, the siren button was down on the floor of the car. Well, I stretched my foot and hit the siren button, and that blew that sneaky approach.
GRANDE: I thought, "Oh, heck, I'm gonna get fired for this one," but we got a good laugh out of it. The equipment wasn't quite as updated as it is today.
VANGUARD: After 32 years, did you retire as an officer?
GRANDE: I did.
VANGUARD: Why'd you stay an officer?
GRANDE: Well, as I mentioned, my original thing was I was always a "get involved" type of person. As the system worked out, it sort of kept me there. I had four children too, so financially I worked whatever jobs I could and then I was getting involved a little at a time. I belonged to Union Local 270 which was the union then, and is the PBA today. To relate to that, the union was first organized to represent the police, and then as WWII ended and people were attending SJSU on the GI Bill, some of them wanted to get into law enforcement, so they did that here, and that gave us our first educated lot of officers. As a side note, San José was the second city in the U.S. to require a 2-year college education, and the first city was Berkeley. That was in the mid-50's, and Ray Blackmore-Charlie Blackmore's father-was the chief, and he was appropriate for the times. He was a very good man and a good chief. We were very lucky to have him in San José. When I was originally involved in the association, I remember cranking out The Vanguard on a hand press. Vince Kubo used to come over, and we did it together. I got on the board, and then I was vice president with Glenn Castilo who was our president in '79 when we decided to go for binding arbitration with the firefighters. The following year I ran for president. I got my toes in the pond, and then my foot, and I owe a lot of what I've developed as a prolific writer to my experience. I was assigned to Community Relations Unit in 1970. Lieutenant Ike Hernandez was a brilliant guy who allowed me a lot of flexibility. When I first arrived, I had an empty desk and a chair, so we developed a lot of community relations programs. At the end of one year I had two secretaries working practically full-time. I became transfixed in that job. Obviously my ego was being satisfied and I had long been interested in political science, so it gave me a chance to put it all together. Many things contributed to my decision to remain an officer. Just to clarify, I became president in 1980; I served on the board in the 70's, and 1979 is when we won the arbitration issue.
VANGUARD: So were there other specialized units you were involved with?
GRANDE: I did. Community relations was one, and then I was in accident investigation and then every three years or so I went back to patrol for a while. I was in court liaison when I was President of the POA. I then was active on the Retirement Board. I have to say that under the guidance of Chief MacNamara, even though a lot of people think we didn't like each other, we respected each other. If it hadn't been for him, we wouldn't have a lot of the things we have today because he gave the board-and me in particular-a lot of flexibility. As far as pay goes, our pay went up considerable during that time. I became obsessed with both the police work and the pursuit of politics as well as the challenge of negotiations. It was okay at the time because I had a family and I was taking care of them, and ultimately this is probably what cost me my marriage in that I just devoted so much time to these other ventures. Even today, I see people who put in too much time. I always ended my speeches and letter writing with, "Remember to love your family," because it's the most important thing you have. If you don't pay attention to that, you'll look back and see the mistakes you made.
VANGUARD: I agree wholeheartedly. We love this job and we're always going above and beyond, and sometimes this job takes us away from our families because we want to see everything through. And you're right, it can definitely take you away from those special moments-your kids' school programs, special events, family gatherings-and I have talked to a lot of guys that have been around the block and have retired like you, and when you talk about families, they mention that they've been divorced once or twice, and the problem is that they let the job take control of their lives.
GRANDE: I know. It's so satisfying-there's more ego satisfaction there than most humans can handle, and it seems to get the best of us. At the time it's happening, it feels so important, and you feel like you're satisfying all your needs, but we get so intoxicated by the attention that we no longer see clearly.
VANGUARD: You've been around quite a while. Have you seen a consistency amongst our chiefs over the past? Who stands out the most in your mind?
GRANDE: I have to say Chief MacNamara because I had the most experience with him. I'm hoping that no one else takes offense to this, but he's probably one of the more brilliant people I've ever met. Some of the oldsters know about this-we had an occasion to differ on an opinion, and we were in the middle of a parking lot between the police building and the old communications building.
VANGUARD: The one where people were looking out the third floor window?
GRANDE: That's the one.
VANGUARD: Great-let's talk about that.
GRANDE: So we got into a heated debate for 10-15 minutes and I figured I was gonna get fired any minute. I could tell people were hiding behind bushes and cars, listening in, and I look at the building and people were listening out the windows. Actually, I think it may have ended up being more positive. He had control of the thing and I don't know why he didn't terminate it. It wasn't that we walked away hating each other. I do know he said on several occasions-both to me and to others-that I did my job well. I felt a responsibility, and I had the support of the membership, and there were things that needed to be said and done. That was a classic moment. I always describe him like this: If you roll a round stone down the street in San Francisco, he can tell you every little pebble it's going to hit before it rests at the bottom. He had that ability to manipulate the press. I think his frustration with me was that he couldn't manipulate me as much as he could his command staff because I wasn't as intimidated by him. I had been in the office about a year, and I asked one of his staff what the chief thought of me, and this command staff person said, "He's concerned with your behavior." I think it meant that he was more standoffish and didn't want me around, and so it made me feel a little more confident that I had him on the offensive. He really was a brilliant man, and there are things that he did for us that I can't even mention. He tolerated us as far as salaries; he wasn't concerned about that. Whatever the city could afford made him happy, and the more we made, the better he liked it. He didn't like our intrusion into administrative prerogatives, and it wasn't that we wanted to take it over-we just felt there should be more consideration.
If there's any negative thing I can say about Chief MacNamara, he was a little insensitive to the individual and his discipline, and that's the only honest criticism I have. I had a hard time with that, since I'm a sensitive person myself. His logic for it didn't hold water, but administratively, I can provide two lists of things we accomplished that I think we couldn't have if it weren't for him, I believe he brought us into a new day and age of modern police work and modern administration. There were things that were accomplished during the 10 years that I was President of the POA that nobody ever dreamt that we would do; such as transfer policies, semi-automatic weapons. First he resisted some of those things, and then he acquiesced because he didn't feel threatened by us. He knew that we were willing to work together.
Going through the chiefs, I think Ray Blackmore was an excellent chief for his time. There was no graft here at all as far as the officers on the street were concerned. There were notables in town that we'd arrest, and they'd say, "I know Ray Blackmore." Ray's message to us was always that we were to arrest them anyway, and if they wanted to talk to him later about it, they could. You knew you didn't have to worry about nepotism with him. We received strong leadership and direction from him for years.
Louie Cobarruviaz was good too. Louie's only handicap was that his only police experience was in San José.
There were some like Bill Lansdowne who were excellent coming up through the ranks. I wasn't here when he was chief, but I remember as the POA President I wrote him a letter of commendation when he was the lieutenant in charge of internal affairs because he handled it so well. Bill and I were in the academy together and Bill is a new age chief-he's sensitive, determined, direct, articulate, thinks ahead-and San José has been very fortunate to have him, and the others I mentioned as well.
Looking at Rob Davis, I think he's an intelligent person who wants to do a good job. Sometimes he's handicapped by social conditions that exist today; I don't know if I could have handled some of the stuff that he has to deal with. He's doing a good job with those challenges.
I think San José has been very fortunate to have the right leadership at the right time. To expand on that, as President of the POA and being on the Post Commission, I went to many agencies throughout the country. I think one thing that makes San José unique is that the POA represents everyone except the chief and assistant chief. Other agencies have associations for sergeants and captains, and they're all at odds. Here, we're all in this together, and we have a comfortable informality. I was at another agency where an officer came into talk to the sergeant, and this seasoned officer had to stand at attention in front of the desk with his hat on his heart and I thought, What the heck is this? Here, historically, you can call the chief by his first name when you're sitting down with him for a cup of coffee, but when the recognition is appropriate, you call him by his title. When BFO was downstairs years back, I was in the chief's office and we had a few visitors from Chicago. We were meeting in Fred Abrams' office, and these guys came in and we all sat down together. All the chairs were taken, so I pulled up the captain's chair. One of the guys said to me, "Wow, you never sit in a captain's chair in Chicago," and I said, "Well hell, it's the only chair left." We have a unique level of professionalism here, and it's helped us to accomplish all that we have.
VANGUARD: You're correct on that. We've definitely come a long way. There are a few reasons I wanted to do this interview with you. Not only did I want to talk about your vast experience and accomplishments, like implementing the bocce courts, but the reason I really wanted to talk to you was about your stint as POA President. We're going through some difficult times here in the city, and we're being scrutinized what with the economy, and the flavor of our police work-like you said, the social aspects of this. Isn't it true that during your tenure back in the early 80's, these challenges existed then as well?
GRANDE: They did, and they're very significant. In prepping for my meeting with you today, I was reviewing some material, and there was a quote from 1982 that compared that period to the Great Depression. The economy was bad, people were getting laid off, and things didn't come easy. We had to fight for everything we received, but there was a mutual understanding that we were in a bad way. The POA was called on a lot because we were influential throughout the city. In fact, at that time, other representative groups in the city were having a harder time than we were, even though we had the lowest personnel to resident ratios in the country. I discovered that a cooperative approach was the most helpful approach. I realize there's a great difference between then and now, and attitudes have changed because of the various changes in leadership, etc. But there was a method of cooperation that existed that was different.
I was on the retirement board in 1980, and we had an investment process that had been originally controlled by the city. So members of the retirement board were starting to say, "We need to make more money." As I did. The city had an agreement with the local insurance broker to invest the funds that were contributed by the city and the employees, and it only gained 5% per year! Mortgages were 12% and some people were paying 24%. Our retirement fund was rewritten in 1962 by a fire battalion chief, and he did a great job of putting it together for us. We had $80M in the fund from 1962-1980, and it was being managed by Ed Overton. He was very smart and had risen from being a staff person to being the director. Ed was very knowledgeable and he put a plan together that would hire competing investment managers. If they weren't successful 3-4 years and maintain industry standards, then we would terminate them. You should know that there were two council people who were on the board that were against that shift. From 1980 to 1993, the fund had about $850M in that period of time. Our returns were excellent. We also had an actuary that had been monitoring this for 16 years, and we determined that it wasn't being handled properly, so we changed that also. The first report from the new actuary came in, and it said we could reduce our contribution by $6M. The council wanted all that money placed back in the general fund, and we said, "Wait a minute!" At that point they were paying 36% of salary into the fund, so we shared it. They got $4.5M and we took $1.5M and bought medical care for our retirees. It was a shared amount, but at least it was available. Today, the city is paying 25% of salary, and that includes medical.
VANGUARD: This is going on right now with us. Let's talk about this Cortex Retirement Board Study. Who is Cortex?
GRANDE: As far as I know, they were hired by the city for $500k to come in and study the makeup of our retirement board. To that end, Cortex is generating their own business by telling the city that other retirement boards have outsiders involved in oversight where San José doesn't, and so they are claiming bias in our functionality. It's been proven that the real commitment on our board is by the employees who serve, and of course they have a vested interest in how things are handled because they will reap the benefits or suffer the consequences of our decisions. In the mid-90's, San José was one of three agencies in California that was nearly 100% funded; the other two cities were in SoCal and they were each less than 100k people. When an agency like ours has a retirement fund that's run by the city and you can have 100% funded, that means if they didn't hire anyone from that day forward, there would be enough contributions to cover the benefits for the people that are working. Now they want to do away with that, and it's impossible to believe that they want to bring in four people that will be paid $40k/year to start to handle the investments. Cortx is indicating that our losses are based on the board's mishandling of those contributions, but everyone has taken a hit. We lost about 25% which isn't a lot when you talk about Enron and AIG and other funds. In 1984 when the city was running everything, they lost $60M in faulty bonds; if they had waited six months, they probably would have gotten $160M back, but they panicked and sold it and lost the money. I remember a local attorney wrote a letter to the editor saying that had he known the city was going to sell them, he'd have bought them because he knew he'd make money off the bonds. So there's nothing wrong with our fund.
VANGUARD: I know this is an issue that's come up. Where are we right now with Cortex?
GRANDE: If we move forward with Cortex, they will destroy one of the best funds in the country. The public is only getting one side of the story right now, and that's the side the Merc is publishing. At the time that Ed Overton was leading our group, he was like a guru across the country. I used to go to conferences with him, and he was very well received. He was excellent in all fields, and the city loved having him as a feather in their cap. If you look at Cortex' standards, they could hire Bernie Madoff because he fits all their criteria to be hired. They have no obligation to live in the city or have any connection here, and my concern is that the League of California Cities is behind all of this, and the local administrators see a possibility to have access to the billions of dollars in these two retirement plans. That money belongs to the retirees, and if there is a majority vote in the city, they can do anything they want. These people want these political connections. The problem is that lobbyists have too much control at all levels. It's no longer a democratic, representative government, and we're moving closer to eroding the democratic process and putting in people who only serve the politicians that appointed them. There's justification on both sides, but little common sense.
VANGUARD: Do you see this as being defeated?
GRANDE: I would hope so. You have to take all the facts. As government employees, we have to be considerate of the taxpayer. We've got to be sensitive that these are not good times. People are committing suicide and losing everything they have acquired, and it's going to be a long time before we recover. Back in '83, we were up for a pay raise that was due in January, and the city was going to lay off a number of civilian employees. I went to the city council and said, "How about delaying our pay raise for six months so you don't have to lay off these people?" I can tell you the public employees loved us for taking that move. No one was laid off, and we received our pay raise on time. We had legitimate intentions, and the city council saw it for what it was. We worked very well with city managers and other department heads during that time. If there was something that was troubling, we moved it to a future agenda. We always stayed in communication and worked together, and built a lot of trust between us. That's one thing about politics-word of mouth was more important than anything. If you shook hands, you lived by it, even if you made a mistake. One time the city manager called me and said that they had made a mistake on the health plan during negotiations, and the city couldn't afford it. He wanted to know if I would rescind my agreement so the city could back out of it. I said, "If the tables were turned, would you?" and he said, "No." I said, "There's your answer."
VANGUARD: I agree. I'd like to talk about your accomplishments as POA President. How long did you hold that seat?
GRANDE: 10 years.
VANGUARD: Is that the longest run anyone has had as president?
GRANDE: Consecutively, yes.
VANGUARD: During those 10 years, what were some of your accomplishments?
GRANDE: The contract issue was a big one, and this was where MacNamara was so good. We put together a labor-management committee. We'd meet periodically and discuss whatever issues arose before they became grievances and contract issues, and most of the time we resolved them there. Bob Bradshaw was the assistant chief here in 1980, and his office started the transfer policy. Then he got picked up by Reno, so it landed in our laps. We worked on it for two years, and the administration and the POA accepted it, and it was the first time there was any kind of organization at all on transfer. Realistically, years ago, motor officers were in that unit for 25-30 years. If you were a new recruit and you ever wanted to get on motors, you had to wait 25-30 years for someone to get off. So we figured having a rotation for that desired assignment was important. One fellow got bumped off and doesn't speak to me to this day. We also developed a sergeant's transfer policy, and we had some damned good leaders that would get into the Dick Bureau as sergeants and they'd stay there for 20 years. They were good leaders, they had seniority, they were comfortable and their leadership ability was lost to us forever. Our transfer policy made them move, and some of them profited because they were promoted.
Then modified duty was another one. Before our policy, modified duty was a glorified coffeemaker. We made it so that everyone had a decent assignment. They eventually negotiated a limit on how many they could have, but SJPD is really unusual because if you have a serious injury and you want to work here for the next 25 years, they will find a job for you. You don't have to retire disabled. In most agencies, if you can't do the job, you're out the door. They retire you. We don't do that, and that's what gets me upset about this disability issue with the retirement board.
Let me tell you something. In LAPD, if you are 55 years old and you retire on a disability, and you could have retired on a non-disability 55, that disability retirement is not considered. The only disability that they count is if you retire prematurely on a disability. In San José, ALL disabilities are counted. It's patently unfair because it inflates the number. If LA is going to use that retirement number, then they should do the same thing here. So our retirement disabilities are not as high as they're saying. We get compared to LA, but they don't use the same scale for factoring the numbers.
Semi-automatic weapons is another. MacNamara resisted at the beginning. He didn't want us to have them.
VANGUARD: Why was that?
GRANDE: Because if you can kill someone with two bullets, why kill them with 14??
GRANDE: Dave Norling bless his heart was one of the guys that studied the issue and shared the figures. MacNamara looked at it and conceded, so we were able to get the semi-automatic weapons.
Seniority rights were written into the contract. The hire date and date of promotion-that had never been agreed to before. It was assumed, but there was nothing in writing.
Personal property reimbursement is another: you tear a uniform on duty, the city will buy you a new one. Used to be you had to buy your own.
Personnel files to remain confidential: released by court order only unless you want to sign off the right to release it.
12-month duty assignments. Honestly, I don't know what it is today, but at first they wanted six months, then one month. I've been around some agencies where people's bodies just can't adjust that quickly.
VANGUARD: We bid twice a year.
GRANDE: Well, that's good. We also did the call-in bid process and the no photo/dissemination of officer. It used to be that if you were under investigation, they'd give your photo to the newspaper, and they can't do that anymore.
Discretionary use of personnel comp time: if you have it, they can't say what you can or can't use it for. Either they give it to you or they don't.
Compensation for court: if you go to court, you're compensated for stand-by time.
Publish schedule for promotional testing: they never had that before.
Library to maintain copies of test materials: one time, I went into the library and they didn't have the books. MacNamara said the PD didn't have the money to buy the books; budget was too short. I went to the lieutenant in charge of R&D and we worked out a schedule for purchase. I took the schedule to MacNamara and said, "Here's the schedule of how you can buy those books." He said, "Where'd you get that?" I said, "I worked with the lieutenant in R&D." Next day that lieutenant was transferred out.
GRANDE: True story.
VANGUARD: When Chief MacNamara says "No," he means no.
GRANDE: He didn't want his subordinates finding out a way.
Stand-by pay and insurance for surveillance: we had to fight on that. In fact, Francois is the one that we got to do it, but they really fought us. Originally it was $250k. Fortunately we had it because we have already had a serious incident.
Locker space for sworn personnel and the command officer for the FBI Academy-they didn't have that before.
The biggest thing is the psychological care we established for police and fire. We got together on a contract, and negotiated the best in the country. It was a Cadillac plan. They were all PhD's-every one-and the fact, is at the end of the year they were running out of money and they would do it free just to keep it going. For whatever reason, they gave that up to the lowest bid. In other words, WE picked the company when we were there. We lost that one. I can't tell you why they gave it up, but it was the best one going. People were using it a great deal, and I can't tell you how many wives came in and visited them. These PhD's had written books on police psychology and knew what they were doing. To me, that was one of the saddest things that happened.
Another big fight was about the merging of the airport police. That was a big job. I worked for 10 years to get it to happen, and it was in 1989 that we finally had the merger.
VANGUARD: So all of those were contract issues, and even today there are quite a few good things that we're still benefitting from.
Let's get into some of the POA issues. Were you involved in the purchase of this building?
GRANDE: I was involved from the very beginning-probably a bit after I joined the department in '66. We always wanted our own property because we were moving around. At that time we had the basement of the bank building at 880 North First. It was inconvenient with no good gathering space. In 1970 one of our lieutenants found 10 acres of property across from the Hyatt House on North First Street for $2k an acre. We had no way to cough up $20k for that-it's probably worth $2M today-but then in 1976, Sergeant Gene Moss, who was also involved in real estate, found the Jewish Community Center in Almaden. It was for sale, but we couldn't afford that either. We kept looking and found this empty building right here as well as the one across the street. Knowing how hard it was to convince police officers to invest their money, we thought we'd take the smaller of the two buildings. We had people assigned to different shifts with videos-Bobby Burroughs had a lot of influence at the time, so he took one around-and we convinced everyone to vote to buy this building. Thank God, we finally got a building, and as it is, it's one of the better investments we made. We paid it off in 4.5 years, and in the December meeting of 1990, which was my last meeting, we burned the mortgage. Everything that we had done in the building-the kitchen, everything-was paid for, and we didn't owe anybody anything. That was a big thing. From then, we moved into the social activities. There were times when we first got this building that Paul Bules, the caterer, would do 3-4 events per weekend. There was a need there, and we filled it. Then we had the room in the back for the officers, and we probably got a little too flagrant with that. We had free food and soda, and it was a good place. The building itself was ideally located, we got a good price, and I know the building has appreciated considerably. In hindsight, maybe we could have worked a little harder and bought the bigger building across the way, but that's the way things go.
VANGUARD: Earlier today, Jim Unland gave you a tour of the upcoming changes that the POA is going to make here.
GRANDE: It sounds excellent. I think it's a generational change; it suited our needs at the time, but needs change. Plus you have to keep it updated. If it lasts another generation, then so be it. In another 20 years, maybe people will decide we need a bigger one in another location, and now that the department is getting a substation, that may have an impact on it too.
VANGUARD: We're one of the most influential and powerful unions in this area. When we do bring people from outside, whether it's politicians or visitors, we need an outstanding and updated union hall.
GRANDE: Pete Salvi was our social director-he started where you did here-and we put on Christmas parties with 2,000 people here. He had floodlights, tents, dancers-it was unbelievable. We owe him a lot for our success. Many of the attorneys and politicians said it was the best Christmas party in town, and we gained a lot of influence with that. People knew who we were, they knew who I was, and we could funnel that into contacts that allowed us to be influential. We got involved with a lot of other stuff because of our police work. I think a freshened-up building will help to attract the kind of people you're talking about, and it doesn't cost a bundle.
One point of notoriety: Kurt Reeves put together a bar on wheels in the '80's and we prayed every week that it had to come to an end. It was so successful. The politicians loved it. They'd call us up and say, "We're going to have a fundraiser. Don't worry about the bar." We got all of our money back because we sold tickets. Brian Bennett had figured out how much each drink cost, and they'd give us the money back. It finally came to a point where we had to shut it down purely for liability reasons. I'll tell you, you couldn't buy that kind of influence.
VANGUARD: Times have sure changed.
GRANDE: Oh, have they ever. You wouldn't dream of doing that today.
VANGUARD: No, you wouldn't.
So you guys worked with the chiefs and put out the first commemorative album.
GRANDE: That was a big job. We worked with Bill Mattos on it. We did what we could do, but he put most of it together. It was very successful, and lot of people still refer to it today. It was really needed, and I'm glad they did a follow-up. You've got to know where you came from before you know where you're going. It reminds us how many SJPD chiefs have gone elsewhere-famous people! People have done very well.
The POA was started in '62. Mark Sturdivant was the first president; our second president was Lee Brown, an African-American young man, very intelligent, and he was president for two years. He ran for president and won. He was a good leader and he went on to have numerous jobs, including in the federal government as a drug czar-he's worked all over the country-and he's been a significant person in African-American history and law enforcement.
VANGUARD: I agree. And I think a lot of our rank and file that get promoted to chiefs or deputy chiefs or captains move on, and they take that with them, and they're successful no matter where they go. And you're right-it's an extension of the quality of this department and the foundation that's been in place for so many years, and the quality of the officers that come here is phenomenal. Their education level is continuing to rise; we've got kids coming in with masters and PhD's already. We're definitely one of the best departments, and you're right that the leadership stands out no matter where they go.
GRANDE: There's no long-standing grievances. We've had some court orders to overcome what is perceived as social discrimination, but I can say in my 10 years, I never had one male officer come to me and say he didn't want to work with a woman. The concern for all of our officers is that they carry their own weight, gender be damned. We've seen that. Women have worked their way through and been promoted. The ones that carried their weight stayed, and the ones that didn't left on their own. It's a significant point. People that look at us realize that sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees. We should be pleased, though.
VANGUARD: And you mentioned Pete Salvi. Was he part of The Vanguard?
GRANDE: Pete WAS The Vanguard. He was the one who organized the "New" Vanguard. Initially he was "the scrounger" of the department. He would go out and get deals…even to this day, he has an unlimited amount of energy. He can't sit still without his knee bouncing. He did what he had to do for the officers. He did a great job-The Vanguard just went everywhere, and people all around the country knew about us. In my generation we were at the tail-end of the depression and we were much more conservative and cautious, and we wanted to get along with everyone. Today everyone is more independent and they see things differently. I do think it's a psychological thing.
Thankfully we have a lot of support in this community. I ran for the city council in 1992, and I thank God everyday that I didn't win, and I was amazed at the level of support that we had. You've got to consider the long-term relationship with the people. And this is where the Merc has the advantage-they're trying to undermine that. You're only as good as the amount of community support you have.
One thing I don't like are the promotional calls from the POA to the community. It intimidates people and it's not helpful to us. We ended up getting out of that practice, and fortunately everyone went along with us; I just didn't feel comfortable with it. Channel 4 one time had a TV show on called "Beggars with Badges," and we don't need to do that.
At that time, there weren't any protective laws at all for our group. The people calling on our behalf would take 90% of our money, and we'd get 10%. Now it has to be accounted for; the wording on the phone has to be specific, etc.
One of the highlights of my career is as a post-commissioner, and I know Pat Boyd has followed my steps. It is a real feather in the association's cap to have two people that sat on the post-commission. It's a very important and influential organization at the state level, and both Pat and I represented all the sworn officers in the state. You associate with the movers and shakers of the state, and I'm grateful to my association with the POA that helped me achieve that position. When an association takes a stand, and it gets recognized by the state, that's huge. Fortunately we had a good relationship with the governor's office.
The POA has gotten us involved with the community. We've had golf tournaments and raised money; Gordon Reynolds worked with us to put those tournaments together. We raised $10k during one of them, and we gave it to the Parkinson's Disease Society. We need to protect this association, and encourage the younger generation to get involved. Some of them are going to have a very conservative approach in their relationship to taxpayers, governmental leaders, whatever, and the road is already paved for them. They don't have to do anything but move in and take over. None of this is done by one person. We all build on each other. We've had creative leaders with the POA; Hal Ratliff was excellent-he was my mentor. O.J. Holt with the sheriff's office, and no one will ever know the amount of money and time that man put in for everyone. Some of them, it cost them their lives. Alan Garcia was one-I remember telling Alan to slow down. He had retired, and he ended up having a massive stroke. There were so many people involved in building this agency-Lee Brown, Bill Gergulich, Dalton Roland, Glenn Castlio-everyone put in something. We have a good foundation, and if we didn't, we wouldn't be where we are. I remember I was working with Bob Bradshaw downtown when I first came on, and we were walking the streets in the late 60's, and I remember him saying to me, "Cops will be making $20k a year one day." And I said, "Really?" Whoever thought it would get to where it is today? It's because of our performance. The retirement board doesn't see how much money has been saved in this department. The citizen to police ratio was so low. You go to San Francisco and it's 2.5 officers per thousand; here it's 1.5, and it's historically been that low. Everyone does a good job, and that's how our city can function as well as it does. Nobody considers that-they only look at the monetary losses-and they need to look at the whole picture. Unfortunately I don't think the politicians have broad enough experience to see what they're doing. They're more concerned with satisfying all the special interest groups instead of looking at what's happening here. If someone comes and raises hell with them, they throw money at them to solve the problem, but look at all the money that's been saved over the years. We've saved a lot, but they don't care what we did today-they want to know what we're going to do tomorrow. Everything is functioning very well in the police department. From the standpoint of the POA, our association is doing excellent-it always has, and it's been recognized for doing well. We get recognized everywhere, and we get used as an example, especially in the department, what with our people floating around as chiefs. The city is making a big mistake by trying to change the retirement system.
One of our biggest issues, both with contract issues and The Vanguard, is when they tried to bring the police corps into San José and they organized it all around us. They had to commit four years at half-pay. It was ridiculous. Do you think they can bring in someone to work beside you, doing the same thing you're doing, at half-pay for four years? They didn't want to do police work anyhow-they didn't have to major in law enforcement, they just had to go to college. They'd get fired for anything possible. We really worked hard on that. The police chief, the mayor, the city manager and the city council all wanted it, and we utilized our political influence and were consequently assured it wasn't going to happen. And it didn't, but it was a big fight. It would have been the worst thing in the world, and given what shape we're in today, it would have been twice as bad.
VANGUARD: In closing, what would you say to our presidents today, Bobby and incoming president George Beattie What's your advice for them?
GRANDE: I would tell them to be considerate of where we're at, what we're asking for in our relationship with the community, and how they view what we're doing and what we're asking for. Our primary purpose is to perform all those responsibilities inherent with law enforcement, and I think the community knows that as police officers, we have the utmost responsibility. We can either have someone suffer honor or dishonor, or life or death. Those are all within our purview as individual police officers, and that is the level of responsibility that we should be compensated for. There's a lot of risk with the job, but our level of responsibility as individual police officers in a growing city is what we really have to remind the citizens-and remind ourselves-of. We've been delegated that responsibility and the way we perform under the guise of that responsibility is the way we'll be evaluated. We have to take into consideration the residents of this community-whatever we get, there's someone paying for it. We need to be respectful of that; be conscious of what we're asking for. How will that sit with another group? You have to sit down with professionals and figure out what the fall-out is. I don't think we do that enough, and the biggest thing is to keep our egos in check, and remember our level of responsibility. If we consider that level of responsibility, I think we'll get along fine with our citizens and community. This is a very educated community; we have our ups and downs like any group, but I think we'll be able to maintain and enhance our position in the relationship with the community. You can eventually erode the influence of the naysayers if the majority of the community knows that you know your position, and you're operating within that responsibly. Anything we want, we'll get. There will always be letters to the editors with criticism, but those are met with letters of support for our department. We shouldn't lay everything out in the open. As long as everyone thinks we're in control of the situation, our position will ultimately be enhanced, and that will be better for everyone.
VANGUARD: Again, thank you for the opportunity and for this wonderful interview with you-it's been wonderful. What's your final line when you end a statement?
GRANDE: The best advice I can give to anyone is: Remember to love your family.
VANGUARD: Well, thanks so much, Carm. I have learned a lot, and this union has been around for many years, and I think you're right-it's a different time. Things are changing with the renovation of the POA, generation after generation, and thank you for all the work you've done.
GRANDE: Thank you, I appreciate it.