4 San Jose police officers on leave after racist Facebook posts found
Four San Jose police officers have been placed on administrative leave amid an investigation into a private Facebook group where bigoted and racist comments were shared among current and retired law enforcement officers.
A San Jose Police Department spokeswoman confirmed Saturday the agency was conducting an administrative investigation into the comments and that the department was seeking help from the FBI.
“While I have no control over what former employees post online, I can voice my outrage after hearing about these comments made online. Any current employee involved with bigoted activity online will promptly be investigated and held accountable to the fullest extent in my power,” San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia said in a statement. “We have no place for this.”
The private Facebook group, 10-7ODSJ, came to public attention this week in an article published on Medium. The author, an anonymous person identified as the partner of someone working for a Bay Area police department, wrote that some current and retired San Jose police officers were posting racist and bigoted comments in the secret group.
The article said that a current San Jose police officer wrote, “black lives don’t really matter,” in a public Facebook comment. In the private group, the same officer joined a discussion about a Muslim woman who sued the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department for forcing her to remove her head scarf in police custody.
“Hell, I would have pulled it over her face,” the officer said in his comment, according to the Medium article.
Another person floated the idea of using head scarves as nooses, according to the Medium article.
San Jose Dist. Atty. Jeff Rosen said in a statement that his office’s Conviction Integrity Unit would perform a “comprehensive review” of all cases in which current and retired officers had a role.
“What I just read sickened me and made me sick for our entire community. No one who expresses these type of disgusting, racist comments should ever wear a badge,” Rosen said in the statement. “Anyone who writes this kind of trash has no role in our criminal justice system.”
Paul Kelley, the president of the San Jose Police Officers Assn., the union that represents rank-and-file officers, told the San Jose Mercury News that the union would not provide legal or financial support if any officers were charged with misconduct in connection with the Facebook page. He told the newspaper that there was “zero room in our department or our profession for racists, bigots or those that enable them.”
The discovery of the online group coincided with racial justice activist and police critic Shaun King’s writing about a different private Facebook group where he said former members of local law enforcement appeared to be discussing a plot to kill him.
King, 40, included screenshots and snippets of conversations, also on Medium — a tactic he took because he said he didn’t know where to report the incident and because he said he had little faith in law enforcement.
Three of those named in King’s article were former Long Beach police officers. On Friday night, one of those former officers accidentally discharged a handgun at a gas station on Bellflower Boulevard, according to a statement from Long Beach police. The former officer was taken to the hospital after being shot “in the lower extremity” and police booked the handgun into evidence and were conducting a further investigation into the incident.
Authorities said the “accidental discharge” of the handgun was not believed to be related to the alleged threats made against King.
Eddie Garcia, the chief of San Jose’s police department, said he had previously disciplined and terminated employees for “off duty online activity that runs counter to our standards of conduct.”
In 2015, San Jose officials fired a police officer who ranted about Black Lives Matter and protesters in Ferguson, Mo., in social media posts.
The tweets by Phil White included: “Threaten me or my family and I will use my God given and law appointed right and duty to kill you. #CopsLivesMatter” White also wrote: “By the way if anyone feels they can’t breathe or their lives matter I’ll be at the movies tonight, off duty, carrying my gun.”
The “can’t breathe” in White’s tweet referred to the last words of Eric Garner, a Black man, after a New York police officer took him to the ground with a chokehold in 2014. After Garner’s death, protesters chanted, “I can’t breathe.”
An independent arbitrator reinstated White in 2016, and he was assigned to administrative work and helping to introduce the department’s body-worn cameras. At the time, then-acting police chief, Eddie Garcia, said his agency and the city disagreed with the arbitrator’s decision but would comply with reinstating White to the department.
Times staff writer Andrew Campa contributed to this report.