Weeks after the San Jose Police Department suspended officers’ off-duty work for the San Francisco 49ers, newly reported emails show just how cozy the relationship was between some officers and the team.
In an August email that surfaced as part of a public records request by the Mercury News, Sgt. Sean Pritchard told his colleagues that moonlighting for the NFL team could be a “cash cow.” There’s “strong potential as we move forward that there will be the opportunity to work director with the team if they make the playoffs/Super Bowl,” he continued.
The hundreds of emails and internal SJPD documents obtained by the newspaper shed light on just how close certain officers were with the team. Pritchard and Sgt. Lawrence Day appear to have used their influence to handpick officers for the best jobs.
SJPD suspended all off-duty work with the football team after finding out that Pritchard was at defensive lineman Ray McDonald’s house on Aug. 31, before police arrived to investigate allegations that the player had hit his pregnant fiancé. The officer was reportedly at the house earlier in the day for a birthday party McDonald threw with his teammates but returned later that night after getting a call from the player. The Merc reports that Pritchard’s presence at McDonald’s home held up the case for a month.
It was after that incident that the department suspended all off-duty work with the 49ers.
The emails dug up by the Merc illustrate the problems with off-duty employment for officers. Not can they lead to conflicts of interest, they also drain an officer’s energy for department duties.
In an email to a friend, Day said he was “dog tired” after flying back from a preseason game in Baltimore. “Worked 78 hours this week and get home to go back to detective work tomorrow,” he wrote, according to the Merc.
A 2012 audit concluded that SJPD’s secondary employment program needed “significant reform,” partly because officers in charge of arranging the work exercised undue influence in the agency.
Independent Police Auditor LaDoris Cordell said none of the recommendations in that report were implemented.
Similar concerns have surfaced in Santa Clara, where city leaders have accepted perks like free tickets from the team, which relocated this summer to its new home, Levi’s Stadium. Last month, the Santa Clara City Council watered down a resolution against domestic violence, removing McDonald’s name and generalizing the statement to make it less direct.