WHY IS A SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER ASKING TO SEE RECORDS OF SLPD’S SWAT UNIT?
By Steven Tavares
|Mike Katz in the police hat?|
Is Mike Katz a community do-gooder or covert government hack? San Leandro’s dual school board trustee and wannabe investigative blogger filed a request last February in search of records detailing the city’s police records centering around its SWAT team.
The request made through the Freedom of Information Act was dated Feb. 1 and signed by Katz. The letter asks the police records division for specific information detailing the number of instances the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) unit was used during the past two years, including the reason for the deployment, number of arrests and whether a firearm was discharged.
Katz also asked to see records on whether a suspect was injured or killed in any case where SWAT was involved.
It is not clear why a member of the San Leandro School Board of Trustee and close political ally of Mayor Stephen Cassidy would be interested in records involving SWAT, although Katz has long used his personal blog to push his own political motives.
His lack of transparency on the site has been criticized by The Citizen many times in the past for blurring the lines between government and news reporting. During the most recent mayoral campaign, Katz, under the guise, of investigative sleuthing, wrote a blog posting detailing campaign donations for Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak, who was also a competing candidate for mayor opposed to eventual winner Stephen Cassidy.
At the time, Katz was a member of Cassidy campaign committee, creating a conflict of interest not detailed anywhere on the site. The pony-tailed school trustee also does not clearly portray himself as a member of city government even though he covers news stories detailing the very entity he is a part of.
In the past few weeks, Katz has shown particular interest in shooting video of recent public appearances by members of the San Leandro Police Department, including its police chief, Sandra Spagnoli. Video of her remarks to a homeowners group are posted on Katz’s blog along with another by a San Leandro police officer.
Evidence of Katz’s interest in the doings of the police department come after Cassidy, his former colleague on the school board, raised eyebrows last Monday when he appeared to criticized the department for touting a reduction in crime without mentioning a perception among some in the community that crime is getting worse. Cassidy has also clashed with the Police Officers Association in the past.
With budget deliberations among the city council simmering towards a slow boil come June, Cassidy peppered talk of reforming the city’s pension obligations with recent talk of trimming more employees from city staff, while questioning their efficiency in providing basic services to San Leandrans. In the past two years, nearly 40 percent of the work force has been cut through layoffs and retirements.