San Jose police union calls for extra security for mayor

The union for San Jose police officers has called for beefed-up security to watch over Mayor Matt Mahan after an incident in which his guard was attacked by a pedestrian.

Steve Slack, president of the San Jose Police Officers Association, wants at least two police officers assigned to the mayor's security detail, up from one.

"Downtown doesn’t seem like it’s very safe, even for the mayor," Slack said.

The viral incident involving Mahan's security detail happened last Tuesday while the mayor was conducting an interview with a local TV station at South First and East San Fernando streets. Mahan was accompanied by his staff and a plainclothes officer assigned as security, when they were approached by a man.

Police said the suspect, 35-year-old Wesley Pollard, displayed "erratic behavior" before growing hostile and shouting profanities towards the mayor and his team.

A restaurant owner in the area said the suspect was asked to move to the side but refused to. He said the suspect became upset and that's how the fight began.

Acting Chief of Police Paul Joseph said the plainclothes officer was punched repeatedly in the face and, according to the POA, was hospitalized for several days. He has since been released. His identity has not been made public.

"I believe having a second set of eyes, a second set of hands there, maybe could have used some different tactics. Maybe you could have had one officer and the mayor and his staff go into another building, lock and secure it, before this individual could approach while the other one was dealing with him outside," Slack said on Monday.

Rev. Jethroe Moore, president of the San Jose-Silicon Valley NAACP chapter has criticized how quickly the altercation escalated and that the involved officer should have identified himself as a member law enforcement. He also said there was no legal basis for asking Pollard to move as he was on a city street.

"I see a Black man walking down the street on his cell phone," Rev. Moore said via a Zoom interview. "He said something the brother did not take as coming from someone of authority or as a police officer."

Slack slammed Moore, saying that the officer "repeatedly identified himself and deescalated as he was trained while being attacked. He did not reach for a weapon and in fact, when a tire iron was thrown toward the officer and he caught it, he did not use it, he discarded it. His actions were commendable, and Mr. Pollard’s actions were clearly out of line, period."

Slack responded to Moore's assertions, saying that race had nothing to do with the incident.

"Unfortunately, Rev. Moore, he entered into this with a race element. It had nothing to do with race. I don’t know why he continues to try to divide the community over something with race," said Slack.

Moore said the POA is trying an old tactic to cast doubt on his criticisms.

"I welcome their attacks. And this is a common thing that this San Jose POA has done," he said.

Experts say the scene played out highlights the increasing dangers faced by elected leaders and those assigned to protect them.

University of New Haven lecturer Bobby McDonald is a retired Secret Service agent who worked as President Joe Biden's security detail. He said the San Jose officer had to make a split-second decision facing multiple variables in an increasingly violent world.

Slack also pointed to the break-in at the home of Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass with her and her family inside. District Attorney George Gascón has said it appears the mayor was targeted.