When San Jose police Chief Eddie Garcia found out in June about hateful Facebook comments made by several of his officers, he promised a swift investigation into “any current employee involved with bigoted activity online” and to hold them accountable to “the fullest extent in my power.”
To date, however, the investigations have been limited to four officers—a far cry from the review of “any current employee involved with bigoted activity online” vowed by the chief. And, according to the San Jose cop union, two of those four have been exonerated.
The only accountability so far has come from outside SJPD. On Thursday, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office announced plans to dismiss 14 misdemeanor cases handled by some of the officers in question and will reconsider more as evidence arises.
Santa Clara County Public Defender Molly O’Neal says that’s not enough, that her office wants the DA to re-evaluate at least a few-dozen more serious cases going back more than a decade. Meanwhile, the partner of an active SJPD cop who helped bring those Facebook posts to light on June 26 says the review should expand to include far more officers.
In a blog post published today, the partner—whose identity has been independently verified by SJI but who goes by “Charlie Paulsen” on Medium—names a litany of cops whose apparent bias calls into question the integrity of their policing.
“I was hopeful that Chief Garcia would recognize and take steps towards addressing systemic racism in his department,” Paulsen writes. “However, last month, when I received news that Sgt. Chris Sciba and Sgt. Fabrice Bellini, who made disparaging and racist FB comments, returned to work with no discipline, it was apparent that change would not come under Garcia.”
The article goes on to cite numerous transphobic remarks and memes posted by SJPD reserve Officer Steve Wilson and his retired colleagues Mark Zappa and Ken Siegel—the latter of whom has a history of excessive force. “Total POS. And he dresses up so he can be in a protected group. BS,” Siegel writes of Chelsea Manning.
Screenshots show retired Sgt. Ed Flosi, who owns Justitia Consulting and has testified numerous times in court as a use-of-force expert, joins in the mockery, misgendering Manning. “Obama thought he was cute … I mean look who Obama married, right?”
The anti-queer rhetoric bandied about by so many San Jose officers makes flying the rainbow flag and instituting LGBTQ training and recruiting seem like window dressing, Paulsen goes on to note in the blog post. It also might explain why the department is locked in litigation over anti-trans bias.
“My last article highlighted a handful of officers who expressed close-minded hatred of Muslims, Blacks, and other minorities,” Paulsen writes in the column published. “Many doubt that only four active officers were involved. Indeed, Islamophobia and prejudice against minorities and marginalized communities are deeply rooted in SJPD and has been perpetuated by many, many officers.”
The blog post goes on to share bigoted memes originally obtained by San Jose Inside from Sgt. James Mason’s Facebook page, where he goes by the name JR Mace. The veteran cop was accused in a 2006 lawsuit of sexually assaulting a woman and arrested in 2016 on suspicion of indecent exposure. Despite his checkered past, Mason spent years as a field training officer, working with new recruits.
Mason regularly ripped into Muslims on Facebook.
On Sept. 11, 2019, he posted a meme conflating Rep. Ilhan Omar with the violent extremists who flew planes into the World Trade Center 18 years earlier. In a post on March 1, 2018, linking to an article about the New York Police Department having to pay a $180,000 settlement to three Muslim women who were forced to remove their hijabs, he asked: “What is wrong with this country? Seriously?”
Paulsen also calls out retired SJPD cop Michael Alford, who worked for the Santa Clara Police Department as a special events officer until December last year, according to a spokesman for the agency.
“Alford seems to hate everything!!” Paulsen writes. “Black lives, Muslims, minorities, and the LGBTQ community. He posts several times to ‘Impeach Ilhan Omar,’ and calls her a ‘Musslamic Democrat that should be arrested.’ He openly expresses how Muslim women wearing headscarves are offensive and calls for the burqa to be banned in America because it is ‘not beautiful and poses a threat.’ Alford calls for Islam to be banned and for all mosques in the United States to be shut down. He shares a meme saying, ‘Pork Fact #76: People who eat bacon are less likely to blow themselves up.’”
In another post, Alford shares an image of a noose with the statement: “If we want to make America great again, we will have to make evil people fear punishment again.”
Despite having shared such views on his public Facebook profile for years on end, Alford keeps getting invited back to volunteer as Santa Clara at the San Jose Police Officers’ Association’s annual Christmas bash.
Since the DA this week said the office will move to dismiss several cases that hinged on the sole testimony of cops who shared bigoted views on Facebook, Paulsen wonders whether the same standard will be applied to those handled by Alford and others who expressed similarly inflammatory views.
Traffic cop Mark Pimentel’s cases were scrutinized by prosecutors for potential bias after his Islamophobic comments were publicized this past summer. But Paulsen cites comments by some of his traffic cop colleagues, including Alford and fellow retiree David Madsen, “the ones whose main focus were creating speed traps, handing out tickets and many other tasks that require an officer’s discretion.”
“How many cases hinged on their sole testimony?”
The fact that neither SJPD nor the DA expanded their reviews beyond a handful of cops shows that more work needs to be done, Paulsen concludes. And that work will probably have to take place under the next chief, since Garcia retires at the end of the year.
“I hope the new chief will take more internal action as Public Defender Molly O’Neal calls for along with the entire San Jose community,” Paulsen writes. “We want transparency. We want a chief who will encourage an environment of accountability, allowing officers to report racist and illegal behavior without facing retaliation. We need a chief who will address the systemic racism at SJPD and will be committed for the long haul.”
Chief Garcia said SJPD will promptly look into matter.
“Moments ago, we were made aware of the blog posting and immediately began an investigation,” he said in a written statement. “As the author points out, most of these postings appear to have been made by former employees, but that does not make them any less harmful or offensive.”
Any current employee involved will be swiftly identified and investigated, Garcia added.
“While I can't comment specifically on discipline matters, I have no problem saying that we have held officers accountable for these types of actions,” he said. “We also have found in the past that not every blog post includes a complete account of information. I can also comfortably say that if some of these former employees were still working here, I would be seeking their termination.”