Public employee misconduct in San Jose prompts calls for change

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo is calling for urgent changes to city polices anytime complaints are received about city workers. Should those workers be immediately removed from public-facing jobs at the time the complaints are received?  At a news conference on Monday, Mayor Liccardo confirmed the city had received prior complaints about both a police officer – and a code enforcement inspector – two cases that have since resulted in high profile criminal prosecutions.

"We want to be sure that if it involves a city employee we are on it," Liccardo said.  Mayor Liccardo says the public is rightly concerned about a spate of high profile incidents involving alleged misconduct by city employees. In the case of police officer Matthew Dominguez – recently accused of exposing himself while on a call – a complaint was received about him in May of 2021.  Had he been removed from a public-facing role at that time – could the recent incident have been prevented?

"Specifically, I am interested in a focus on establishing very clear triggers for administrative leave so we are taking employees off the line where there is a credible complaint made of a criminal or predatory nature," Liccardo said. The mayor says those "triggers" would likely depend on the severity of the complaint – possibly an officer, or other city employee, would simply be removed from direct contact with the public.  In other cases that employee might be put on paid leave and told to stay at home.  "We are acutely aware of community concern," Liccardo said.

The Mayor is asking the full City Council to direct the Independent Police Auditor to review how San Jose police investigate alleged misconduct by officers -- or any -- city employees. He points out the SJPD did not – or could not – investigate two anonymous complaints against code inspector William Gerry dating to 2018.  Gerry was recently sentenced to 35 years in prison on charges of bribery sexual, assault and extortion for conduct while conducing his official duties.

For his part San Jose Police Chief Anthony Mata says he will put out his own recommendations shortly while the longer-term policy review is underway. "We don’t tolerate any criminal misconduct here at the San Jose Police Department and as the mayor said we are going to look at our processes and see how we can improve that to avoid these types of situations in the future," Mata said.

SEE ALSO: San Jose police chief proposes 7-point plan for department reform amid instances of misconduct

The mayor plans to move quickly with these proposed changes with a committee hearing on June 1st and a hearing before the full city council on June 7.

In a written statement responding to today’s news conference, Sean Pritchard, President of the San Jose Police Officers Association said: "We are at the bargaining table now with the city discussing our contract that expires at the end of June and have not received any proposals from either the Chief of Police or Mayor Liccardo about any of what they have publicly announced, except for random drug and alcohol testing. We are very interested in any substantive proposals they may have to improve our department, but it is difficult to respond, or react, to sound bites."