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Q&A: Santa Clara County Sheriff's Spokesman Sgt. Jose Cardoza

Cardoza joined the department to 'help protect the innocent and put away the bad guys.' He's now the voice of law enforcement that patrols unincorporated parts of the county and the cities of Saratoga, Cupertino and Los Altos.

Santa Clara County Sheriff's Sgt. Jose Cardoza, 35, is the name most readers see in news stories that detail crime incidents happening in the county. In his fifth assignment, he functions as the public information officer for the department. He has worked patrol, courts, investigations, personnel and training and now administration/public relations.

As a small child he dreamed of being in the Army, and played "cops and robbers." He joined the department in 2000. He's the proud father of two children and was born and raised in San Jose, attended Independence High School and Evergreen Valley College. He's fluent in Spanish. His father is from Mexico and his mother is a second-generation Mexican-American. 

Saratoga Patch: What are your responsibilities as the spokesman for the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office ?

Sgt. Jose Cardoza: My official title is public information officer. Some of my duties include providing members of the media with information in a timely manner on incidents that the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office investigates, responds to or has jurisdiction over. They range anything from traffic accidents to high-profile violent crimes, or our day-to-day operations here. We also provide the media with suspect booking photos and updates on criminal cases or traffic investigations. Some of my collateral duties are being in charge of our department newsletter for our employees, which we do quarterly, and we cover any events that we participate in.

Patch: How did you begin your career at the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office?

Cardoza: This winter will be my 12th year that I've been with the Sheriff's Office. I graduated from the Police Academy in 2000. I was a college student. I was 22 years old. I was going to school studying criminal justice and I was very interested in becoming a law-enforcement officer. I applied at the SO and what interested me to get in...in high school I used to go on a lot of police ride-alongs and I just figured I wanted to do something that's fun and challenging and to this day, 12 years later very rarely do I call in sick and very rarely do I not make it to work unless I'm to the point where I'm so ill I can't make it. It's a job that I really truly love. I love every minute of it. It's a good career and I highly recommend it.

Patch: What are the downsides of working as a sheriff's deputy?

Cardoza: Being in law enforcement is a high stress job, but it's very rewarding as well. The dangers law enforcement officers face on a daily basis, most people rarely experience in a lifetime.

Patch: The SCCSO has been criticized for not providing information sooner about certain high-profile crimes such as the Sierra LaMar investigation.

Cardoza: When it comes to releasing information about a criminal investigation, one of the things we have to take into consideration, especially when a case is open and it's an active investigation, is to not release information that's going to hinder the investigation. Whether it's the Sierra LaMar case or another local case, the general details that we do release and that are public information such as the suspect's name, age, date and time of crime are OK. The government code allows California law enforcement agencies to withhold information that would endanger the safety of a witness, as well as information that would endanger the successful completion of an investigation.

Patch: What cities and towns in the County receive public safety services from the SCCSO?

Cardoza: We provide law enforcement services for all the unincorporated parts of Santa Clara County, which are not annexed by a city, such as San Martin, the area between Morgan Hill and Gilroy, the east foothills, Gilroy all the way to Dinosaur Point, parts of Campbell, parts of the Burbank District of San Jose, parts of North County such as Page Mill and unincorporated Los Altos and the Los Altos Hills area. We have a number of contracts to provide law enforcement services for cities like Saratoga, Cupertino and Los Altos Hills. We also have contracts with the Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation Department, Valley Transportation Authority, and the county courthouses.

Patch: How do you work with other law enforcement agencies in the county such as local police departments?

Cardoza: Very well. From Gilroy Police Department all the way up north to Palo Alto Police Department, we're constantly trying to improve our working relationship with these departments. We've had a very good relationship with all these departments. It's been like this for years and it's continuing. It works out great. The end result is that we know we can depend on each other. If there's something that happens very close to a neighboring jurisdiction such as the Shareef Allman case where he committed a number of shootings up at the quarry in Cupertino off Stevens Canyon, but he was ultimately apprehended on the other side of the Cupertino border, in the Sunnyvale area. In an incident like this, everyone pitches in and everyone comes to help. We're there in a heart beat and send as many units and personnel as we can to help out.

Patch: What's surprised you most in your 12 years with the SCCSO?

Cardoza: There's nothing that really sticks out ... have I ever shot anybody? No. Have I pulled my gun out? Numerous times. I've been in a few vehicle pursuits and foot chases. To me it's not really the violent, or life-threatening situations I've been in, or the violent criminals we've had to arrest ...  sometimes it's the unfortunate incidents that have kind of hit me such as a child death because I'm a father, or an egregious crime to a young child. It's part of our job. We have to do it and unfortunately there's people out there that commit this type of crime and activity. Sometimes you wish you didn't have to see this stuff, but our job is to protect the victims and get people that commit these crimes off the streets.

Patch: How's the SCCSO dealing with the fiscal challenges facing law enforcement agencies?

Cardoza: Fortunately none of our sworn personnel have been laid off this past fiscal year. It hasn't gotten to that point. Most of the funding to support the SCCSO headquarters division on W. Younger Avenue in San Jose comes from the county's general fund. All of our contracts with Saratoga, Cupertino, Los Altos Hills, VTA, and the County Courts are funded by the contracted cities that pay for our services.

Patch: What's the most gratifying part of your job?

Cardoza: It's a fun job. This job is wonderful. What kid doesn't dream about chasing and putting away the bad guys? The inherent dangers are always there, but in a nutshell it's a rewarding job. I may not be a millionaire, but I didn't get into this career to make a whole lot of money. I came in to this career to serve the community. I wanted a job where I was going to have fun and be challenged. 

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Do you have any other questions for Sgt. Jose Cardoza? Ask in the comments area below and he'll try to answer them here for you.

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