Four San Jose police officers were taken on administrative leave as part of an investigation into a private Facebook group that exchanged bigoted and racist comments between current and retired law enforcement officers.
A spokeswoman for the San Jose Police Department confirmed Saturday that the agency was conducting an administrative investigation into the comments and that the department was seeking help from the FBI.
“While I have no control over what former employees post online, I can express my indignation after hearing about these comments made online. Any current employee involved in bigoted activity online will be promptly investigated and fully accounted for, “San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia said in a statement. “We have no place for it.”
The private Facebook group 10-7ODSJ became public this week in an article published on Medium. The author, an anonymous person identified as the partner of a person who works for a Bay Area police department, wrote that some current and retired San Jose police officers posted racist and bigoted comments in the secret group.
The article states that a recent San Jose police officer wrote in a public Facebook comment, “Black lives don’t matter.” In the private group, the same officer participated in a discussion of a Muslim woman who sued the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department for forcing her to remove her headscarf in police custody.
“Damn it, I would have pulled it all over her face,” the officer said in his comment, according to the Medium article.
Another person had the idea of using headscarves as slings, according to the Medium article.
San Jose Dist. Atty. Jeff Rosen said in a statement that his office’s Conviction Integrity Unit would conduct a “comprehensive review” of all cases involving current and retired officials.
“What I just read made me sick and made me sick for our entire church. No one who makes these kinds of disgusting, racist comments should ever wear a badge, “Rosen said in the statement. “Anyone who writes this kind of junk doesn’t matter to our criminal justice system.”
Paul Kelley, the president of the San Jose Police Officers Assn., The union that represents ordinary civil servants, told the San Jose Mercury News that the union would not provide legal or financial assistance if officials were charged with misconduct related to Facebook -Page. He told the newspaper that there is no place in our department or profession for racists, bigots or those who empower them.
The online group’s discovery coincided with a letter from racial justice activist and police critic Shaun King about another private Facebook group where former members of local law enforcement appeared to be discussing a conspiracy to kill him.
The 40-year-old King included screenshots and excerpts from conversations, also on Medium – a tactic he used because he said he didn’t know where to report the incident and because he had little confidence in law enforcement.
Three of the people named in King’s article were former Long Beach police officers. On Friday night, one of these former officers accidentally fired a pistol at a gas station on Bellflower Boulevard, according to a statement from Long Beach Police Department. The former officer was taken to the hospital after being shot “in the lower limb”. Police booked the gun as evidence and conducted a further investigation into the incident.
Authorities said the pistol’s “accidental discharge” was unrelated to the alleged threats against King.
Eddie Garcia, chief of the San Jose Police Department, said he had previously disciplined and fired employees for “off duty online activities that violate our standards of conduct.”
In 2015, San Jose officials fired a police officer who railed on social media posts about Ferguson Lives Matter and protesters in Ferguson, Missouri.
Phil White’s tweets included, “Threaten me or my family and I will use my God given and statutory right and duty to kill you. #CopsLivesMatter “White also wrote,” By the way, if someone feels like they can’t breathe or their life matters, I’ll be at the movies tonight, off duty and carrying my gun. “
The “I can’t breathe” in White’s tweet referred to the last words of Eric Garner, a black man, after a New York cop knocked him down with a stranglehold in 2014. After Garner’s death, the demonstrators sang, “I can’t breathe. “
An independent arbitrator reinstated White in 2016. He was put in charge of administration and helped introduce the department’s body-worn cameras. At the time, then-acting police chief Eddie Garcia said his agency and the city disagreed with the umpire’s decision but would honor White’s reinstatement into the department.
Times staffer Andrew Campa contributed to this report.