SAN JOSE, Calif. - The Santa Clara County District Attorney dismissed more than a dozen cases after an internal investigation revealed some San Jose police officers who handled those cases had previously posted bigoted material online.
Investigators found the police officers in question only had a minor role in the bulk of the cases. They noted evidence wasn’t handled and there were no interactions with defendants.
“My job as the district attorney is to vigorously pursue justice, in a way that is fair, and treats everyone equally,” said Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen.
Rosen announced on Wednesday the dismissal of charges in 14 cases.
Those cases are all misdemeanors, ranging from vehicle code violations to resisting arrest. The action comes after a team of his investigators looked at 250 cases handled by San Jose police officers alleged to have posted bigoted material on Facebook.
“I am relieved that the district attorney is continuing the effort to right the wrongs of the San Jose Police Department,” said Zahra Billoo, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, San Francisco Bay Area.
In June, the website Medium published examples of offensive writings and posts from as recently as May 29. Using a private platform entitled “10-70-D-S-J,” some current, former, and retired officers expressed views such as, “Black Lives don’t matter.” Another officer wrote, “I say re-purpose the hijabs into nooses.”
“We’ve told you these cops exist in your department. and you keep saying they don’t. and we keep telling you they do,” San Jose-Silicon Valley NAACP President Rev. Jethroe Moore II said Jun. 29.
Rosen said a team of 20 prosecutors combed over the cases and found only 14 where an officer who expressed bigotry was integral in a case.
“We no longer felt we could stand behind that conviction because of the prejudice and the bigotry that was expressed by the officer,” he said.
In a statement to KTVU SJPD Chief Eddie Garcia wrote, “The scrutiny officers are receiving regarding inappropriate behavior is warranted, and in this instance, I understand the DA’s decision to seek dismissal in minor cases.” He continued, “We are also holding any officer found to have acted inappropriately accountable through our internal investigations.”
“If they want us to trust them, they need to prove that they are rooting out bad officers,” said Billoo.
The police officer’s union responded to the district attorney's action saying, “Two of the four officers have been completely exonerated and are back at work." Adding, "No matter how much District Attorney Jeff Rosen says otherwise, he is a politician trying to maneuver for his next campaign…”
Rosen said his actions are spurred by the concept that justice should and must be impartial.
“My focus here is on trying to give the community trust in the integrity of the conviction,” said Rosen. “And on also being a check against abuses by law enforcement officers.”
Rosen has sent letters to defense attorneys and to the Public Defender’s, in case someone feels one of the remaining 236 cases needs to be tossed.
Mayor Sam Liccardo, a former prosecutor himself, said he knows a case can turn on the credibility of a witness. And a police officer’s expression of racism and bigotry undermines credibility – in a case and the system.