San Jose independent police auditor steps down amid calls for resignation

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The San Jose Independent Police Auditor has resigned following months of repeated accusations from the police officer's association claiming he was unfit for the position.

Aaron Zisser submitted his resignation to the Mayor and City Council in a letter Thursday evening, saying he is grateful to San Jose, its advocates and grassroots leaders for the opportunity to work in the city. 

"Unfortunately, the extraordinary personal attacks on my office and my work have become a distraction from the important goals of reform and expanded oversight of the police sought by the public and community groups," he wrote in the letter. 

POA President Paul Kelly first brought allegations against Zisser in June, saying he was a "rogue watchman" who had skewed numbers in a report to the Mayor and City Council to over represent police bias against people of color.

The POA then asked the City Council for a formal investigation into Zisser's actions, saying he had attended an anti-police rally and withheld information regarding a threat to the police department.

Throughout the attack campaign, Zisser maintained that he was open to discussing the situation with Kelly, but Kelly would not be swayed. 

PACT, an interfaith group of community advocates, expressed support for Zisser earlier this month and said Kelly's attack was distracting from a grassroots movement - years in the making - to hold police 

"The resignation of Independent Police Auditor Aaron Zisser after a heavy-handed attack campaign by the Police Union, SJPOA, raises major concerns for community members about the City's commitment to police transparency and accountability," PACT said in a statement today.  

The POA says it will release information next week outlining specific steps to strengthen police oversight in future IPA offices. 

Though the POA said it had legitimate concerns about Zisser, the office said in a statement that it "never questioned the vital and essential role that the Office of the IPA plays in the administration of justice for all San Jose residents."

Zisser touted his office's accomplishments in the resignation letter, including "innovative" community outreach, identifying the need for police to issue annual reports on officer-involved shootings and prompting changes in how internal affairs investigates cases that involve use of force, racial profiling and other serious issues. 

"I will also continue to work for change in my own community, and I applaud the outstanding advocates and community leaders who work so hard to make important progress," Zisser said in the statement. "There is much work to be done to implement meaningful oversight and reform at SJPD."

Asst. IPA Shivaun Nurre will serve as IPA until the City Council selects a replacement, according to Mayor Sam Liccardo, who did not clearly state his position while Kelly's allegations were coming to light. Shivaun previously served as IPA during two other vacancies.

"I'd like to thank Aaron for his service to our community, and for his hard work and commitment to police oversight," Liccardo said in a statement. "I respect his decision to step down and wish him well."