Inside SJPD: Police Chiefs Laugh at Crime, City Rules in Emails

There is no honor amongst thieves, especially drug dealers who dabble in thievery.

In the early afternoon of July 24 last year, a man arrived in San Jose with a backpack full of marijuana. He intended to trade its contents for cocaine. But when he met another man in a Safeway parking lot on the south side of San Jose, the drop was squarely on the pot peddler, and he found himself staring down the barrel of a gun. Somehow the weed courier grabbed the weapon and made a run for it. He didn’t get far. The suspect who lost his pistol proceeded to get in a car and run down the man in flight, dragging his body approximately 50 yards—half the length of a football field—before fleeing the scene. The victim was transported to the hospital with severe, but not life threatening, flesh wounds.

Dumb criminal stories, in which ill-conceived misdeeds stack up exponentially, can inspire forehead palm prints and website posts. For the top brass of the San Jose Police Department, this sequence of events inspired an amateur comedy hour.

In an email sent to three of the department’s highest-ranking officers, Police Chief Larry Esquivel set the tone for the laugh-in with an email time-stamped 8:09am the next morning. Esquivel included the blotter report and the message: “Lol…really?!?!”


Deputy Chief Dave Knopf, who oversees the department’s Bureau of Administrations, took the boss’ cue in the first reply by asking Lt. Anthony Mata, who oversees the department’s Research & Development unit, to reach out to the victim and advise him about how to register for a city-approved medical marijuana collective.

“There's no cocaine allowed, but at least he can sell his [marijuana] without getting ran [sic] over by a car!” Knopf noted.

Mata responded: “just called the hospital and he checked out...i'l [sic] send a drone to his house,” before adding a follow-up email with a since-removed YouTube link and a requisite “munchies” joke.

Assistant Chief Eddie Garcia, SJPD’s second in command, couldn’t resist getting in on the fun and sent two emails. Perhaps unsure if his first joke hit the mark, Garcia’s second message mocked the growing concern among community members that crime is on the rise in San Jose.

“Can you people keep my City safe please!” Garcia wrote.

The exchange might be funnier if it wasn’t the latest example of unprofessional behavior in the department. Pop culture tells us to expect veteran homicide detectives to slowly remove sunglasses in the twilight of a grisly murder scene and whisper to their partner, “Guess who ain’t coming to dinner?” (Answer: the dead guy.) But there is an expectation for the police chief to be above the fray, or at least know better than to begin his workday using his city-furnished email account to make fun of injured crime victims.

“It’s not [appropriate],” Esquivel admitted last week in a phone interview, after initially declining San Jose Inside’s request to talk. “It’s stuff that we probably could do a better job of. Sometimes humor probably should not be conveyed—that kind of humor at all, in any case. Believe me, there’s things we could do better on.”

Those “things” are explicitly laid out in hundreds of emails between the city’s top crime fighters, which were obtained through a public records request. The missives provide an echo chamber for the bro culture that permeates a department where morale has admittedly bottomed out.

Over the last year, Esquivel and his command staff have sent emails that suggest indifference for rules on accepting gifts while also routinely disparaging civilian oversight by the city manager’s office and elected officials—the bedrock of a democracy. Garcia, who is frequently mentioned as Esquivel’s inside track successor when the chief retires, has shown a particular disdain for concerns raised by anyone outside the command staff’s inner circle.

With police leadership that projects an unflinching face in public but follows a different code when it thinks nobody is looking, officials at City Hall are starting to wonder if the San Jose Police Department is in even worse shape than previously imagined.

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Josh Koehn is a former managing editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley.


  1. Really? What in the heck do you expect? The voters and the Politicians have made the department a joke, why wouldnt they try to find some humor in it? And when the stress gets to be too much, humor is sometimes the best medicine. If you take offense to it, dont try trading backpacks full of marijuana for cocaine.
    Paramedics, EMTs, Firefighters ALL talk about the calls they go on. I am sure YOU have had some funny stories around the water cooler. If not, maybe you need to lighten up and get a life.

    • Bohica even in my department, we trash talk our customers. Difference is we’re smart enough not to leave records of it in email. If they want to snicker around the water cooler, fine, but it’s not OK to do it somewhere it could be seen through a records request.

      • Ah yes, everything’s cool except getting caught. Tricky Dick knows all about that, as do Tiger Woods, Elliott Spitzer, Willy Jeff Clinton, and the list goes on and on. SJPD is in a shambles, and the interim chief and his command staff have time to email jokes to each other. Great!! When asked why he never used Email, Leon Panetta responded: “Because it can be subpoenaed.” Words to the wise.

  2. These “leaders” are not the best it appears and have not lead the department properly. The SJPD was once a one of the best. Now it has fallen apart and WE the the people who live here are suffering. I want a new chief and new leadership for my city. But all that said, I dont think people making inside jokes about their profession is worth getting upset about, everbody does that.

  3. Bohica,
    You shed some light on Josh’s post!
    Josh, the elections are over! You don’t have Mike Honda to kick down the street. Let it Go! What San Jose Needs is a cop, lip syncing to Do you know the Way to San Jose!!! On Facebook, while on patrol!
    I’m a guy that knew a lot of cops that did not have a sense of humor as a young Mexican kid!
    I like Larry’s attitude.

  4. Doesn’t this just sound like a little kid playing “tattle tale”? I guess what josh doesn’t realize is that a cop having a sense of humor is necessary for having to cope with all of the other horrific and disturbing events that are seen in this career. Josh, try smiling sometimes. It’ll make you feel better. Promise.

  5. There’s no story here. You are stretching to find one. Maybe the crime rate should go back up to what it was 3 years ago. It’ll give you something real to write about.

  6. Yes, cops tend to be rather morbid and joke about things many people wouldn’t. The depressing but unsurprising truth which which is highlighted by these emails is that SJPD is operating without competent leadership. These people actually thought it was a good idea to make those jokes in emails which they knew could become public. At the most critical point in SJPD’s history, a time when strong, capable leadership is desperately needed, we have none.

  7. Yawn! Wake me up when you get to the emails from La Doris. or the ones between Reed, Wolff, McEnry and Swenson. or Liccardo and Joseph Le. HAHAHA good stuff.

  8. I live in the southside, this is my Safeway. Where do you live? Doubt you are my neighbor, and even still with the COP to Crime ratio, crime and police is not a laughing matter. Just Tuesday morning, our neightbor got mauled by fourn young teenagers, while walking her dog… is that funny? Josh made his point. To all you in you gated community, paying the taxes on you grandparents/parents homes “miss me” you don’t know what the hell you are talking about. To the “I know a lot of COPS” D-bags…. let me guess moma wanted an engeneer? Try bringing your kids to a park on the southside on a saturday, see how funny we thnk you are. SMH

    • Southside huh? Kalra’s district? Where were you when Reed and Co on the last council where dismissing his efforts for negotiations rather than ballot measures to help the City’s finances? Preserve the fire and police department service levels by maintaining staffing levels? Where you snickering in emails or blog posts ? Over the back fence? Relishing the a spectacle the “greedy unionistas” getting served a bitter cup?

    • Well Sin if your talking about the incident at Tradewinds (that’s Southside Robert) then you should be pleased that all perps were arrested a short time after the incident

  9. I agree that its not smart to put on an email. No argument there. Its just nit-picking and petty to think that Cops and Firefighters cant discuss calls, have a sense of humor, or let off steam by joking about a call, just because you dont dont like it.

      • This stoopid SJI software won’t let me reply to your reply to my reply regarding Rocha…. ya Don was for it while being against it. People change? People change their minds?

        He took time to listen to those affected by measure b – on both sides. He finally came to the conclusion that B was a bad thing a very bad thing a very BIG mistake. He has not denied his former position and has been very public in trying to sway the BIG EGOS on the Council to do the same and fix the problem they ALL created.

        That makes him a decent person. and I think we all like decent people.

        • Your logic here is completely fallible. By your same logic, I could hold up a liquor store at gunpoint, and say, “Oh I made a mistake” and that makes me a decent person?

          It doesn’t. You know it doesn’t. A judge would laugh me out of court with a defense like that.

          • The rather significant difference is that armed robbery is a crime deserving of punishment. Supporting a ballot measure which you later come to believe was a mistake is not. It’s your logic that’s fallible. The fact that Rocha was part of creating the problem doesn’t diminish the worthiness of his attempt to be part of the solution.

          • The rather significant difference is that armed robbery is a crime deserving of punishment. Supporting a ballot measure which you later come to believe was a mistake is not. It’s your logic that’s fallible. The fact that Rocha was part of creating the problem doesn’t diminish the worthiness of his attempt to be part of the solution.

            So if Herrera turned around tomorrow there would be no grudges? Water under the bridge? I doubt that. Also, a liquor store could be knocked off for what.. $300 in the cash drawer? How many millions were taken from the SJPD for all of this? That’s Bernie Madoff stuff right there.

            The way you’re so apologetic for the guy, I can’t help but picture the lot of you as a bunch of Chris Crockers.


          • No, Robert Cortese, I don’t think anyone would be forgiving Reed, Liccardo and Herrera. If they reversed their positions now, it would be simply for reasons of political expediency. Rocha wasn’t the only one who was duped by Reed’s exaggeration of the problem, and maybe he also fell for Reed’s portrayal of POA’s opposition to Measure B as motivated by simple greed, but he was quick to recognize his errors. He was not afraid to admit that he had been wrong. This leads to me to conclude that he’s always been motivated by trying to do the right thing.

            The rest have seen the same evidence Rocha did, but have refused to concede that Measure B has devastated SJPD and hurt the city. Reed doesn’t care; he’s only concerned with his crusade. Liccardo’s primary motivation was winning an election. I’m not sure Herrera is even bright enough to figure it out. Rocha, through his words and actions, has made it clear that he is far different than those three. Neither Rocha not the POA can change the past, but both are focused on trying to fix the present. That’s where I see the common ground.

          • At a time when police staffing levels have reached critical mass and the department is imploding; at a time when police response times are frighteningly long to even the most serious violent crimes; at a time when homicide is up, gang violence is up, auto theft and other property crimes are skyrocketing and violent crime is rising at a level unprecedented since the 70’s and at a time when San Jose has dropped from the safest large city in the US to number 6, at a time like this, we concern ourselves about a few cynical or sarcastic emails that some police chief(s) sent to each other? Ladies and gentleman, Welcome to Oz.

          • Pete, your defense of Rocha is admirable, but misguided. Rocha’s decision to change his mind on Measure B was for political expediency. He had decided that he would be exploring running for Mayor possibly and at that point he felt the best way to contrast himself with Liccardo, Herrera and Nguyen would be to change his mind on Measure B.

            Lo and Behold, Rocha ultimately decides not to challenge Cortese the way Cortese challenged Chavez (Intra-labor battle).

            Also, by your rationale, Was Rocha’s decision not to resign a decision made for political expediency? Or is St. Donald of Rochaville beyond reproach?

  10. Boy I guess news is really slow to put this crap online. How about real investigative news about how this city administration has brought this city to an all time low in moral and personnel. Nobody with half a brain wants to work here. Why don’t you access city hall emails, records and not show some public BS of Sam counting homeless. Did you see the number of officers along for security. I pity the poor officer how had to take him on a ride along.

    Amen Bohica! And SIN, your park and see how funny we think you are your sounds like a threat to me. Name the park(s) so I did need to come to spend the day.

    • Really Retired? Your going to take that line? NO ONE…I repeat…NO ONE thinks murder, assault, suicide, child abuse, the list goes on and on…. is a laughing matter. Some nimrod trying to trade a backpack of pot for a backpack of cocaine is just stupid. If you cant make the distinction between the two, the problem is YOURS, not theirs. The issue is that people seem to think Cops and Firefighters are just robotic, mindless creatures. Last time I checked, no one from the general public was sworn in as the thought police. Unless, of course, you feel the need to “vote” individual thought out of the Police and Firefighters contracts. Good luck on that one.

  11. Josh,

    With police leadership that projects an unflinching face in public but follows a different code when it thinks nobody is looking, officials at City Hall are starting to wonder if the San Jose Police Department is in even worse shape than previously imagined.

    Can you publicly name any of these “officials” so we all can take note and reply to them personally.

    • Retired, Josh has been ordered by City Hall NOT to name these “City Officials.” As a backup, City Hall has ordered the Chief(s) to order all current and former employees to refrain from telling dissatisfied “customers” to call or emai or otherwise bother the Mayor or Council with concerns because it takes so much time for staff to answer and respond to all said concerns and they have more pressing matters to attend to.

      Wondering… what would a FOIA for all emails from City Hall to Koehn/JWads/The Fly/Pulcrano/Marshman/Herhold…. would reveal? This could get real “humorous!” Watch how fast the “cloud” backup we spend $$$ on has failed us.

  12. Robert that’s absurd. There are plenty of folks you vouch for whom others take issue with. Some folks like Josh want to give us a lecture about the way “democracy” is supposed to work. Well were not a docarcy we are a representative republic. So when A guy like Rocha says ” I am personally opposed to Measure B but I have to support it because the majority of my constituents DO support it and they elected me to represent their interests so a am duty bound to vote on favor of B.” then Rocha is Doing what he is supposed to do. I don’t have to like it but I have to understand and respect it..

    • Weed he did no less damage to you guys than the others, and now he’s parading around saying, “Just kidding!” Either you guys are blind as bats, or suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. Bias? Malloy sums it up succinctly, ” If they reversed their positions now, it would be simply for reasons of political expediency.”

      Or in Rocha’s case, for political convenience.

      As far as what his constituents want and representing them.. We didn’t want walmart, we didn’t want PW super turned into high density housing, we didn’t want a McDonalds next to Wendy’s and the list goes on. One of my mentors once told me, “Sometimes a leader has to do something against the wishes of their constituents if it’s in their own best interests” Rocha to date, hasn’t proven that to me.

  13. Imagine if you, as a passionate cop-hating journalist, had spent all the time and trouble it takes to gain access to the email records of the police department’s top brass and found absolutely nothing to support your preconceived notions about corruption, conspiracy, or racism. What would you do? Would you print a story about what you didn’t find and risk the obvious, that the public would interpret the lack of scandal as an affirmation of the integrity of the very people you so desperately want to vilify, or would you instead put on your favorite pair of TMZ panties and put together the kind of tattletale story that millions of jealous and unhappy little sisters routinely use to sabotage their joyous and irreverent big brothers?

    I wonder, is there a Pulitzer category for journalistic brattishness?

    • “Imagine if you, as a passionate cop-hating journalist, had spent all the time and trouble it takes to gain access to the email records of the police department’s top brass….”

      It really shows, doesn’t it?

  14. C’mon Josh, this is the best you can do? How many thousands of emails did you have to wade through to find these so called nuggets? It’s is laughable that you act all offended by these innocuous emails. Laughed at a crook who got “victimized”. Expressed frustration at the exceedingly inane requests by the city manager to literally have every piece of law enforcement equipment vetted and examined by every fringe group demanding a say. Or the frustration of elected officials who are too stupid to understand the consequences of their policies on the operations of the department. Policies that will impact the city for years after these idiots are termed out. There is a reason that many government jobs are protected by civil service. It is to remove the politics of elected officials from impacting the operations and delivery of city services.

    Why don’t you examine the emails of Cordell and the cozy connection she has with anti-law enforcement groups. Her so called independent label truly isn’t so. She has a very political agenda and no doubt her emails and her daily meetings calender would reveal such. But I guess that would be too much to ask from you Josh. Your lack of journalistic independence is nonexistent and your use this forum as a way to preach your own political views and the agenda of those you serve.

  15. Like others have said here, this is all you can come up with SJI?

    Granted, there is a definite lack of professionalism displayed in the emails, however if that is the best current topic you can report on (in the midst of NUMEROUS EXTREME ISSUES within the SJPD) your journalism standards are very poor.

    I would love to see a real story, perhaps regarding the SJPD’s gross inability to attract applicants and staff an Academy. Oh.. Wait, that doesn’t fit the agenda!

    How about a story regarding the attrition from the last 3 (soon to be 4) police academies SJPD has fielded… Oh, woops, that’s also taboo.

    How about a hiring comparison to SFPD & OPD? How are the police departments in these two cities managing to hire so many people? How are they managing to keep so many of their new hires around when compared to SJPD? This one blurs the lines of “the agenda” you’re so stricken to.. It might even be seen as informative and thought provoking!

    Or, ask some of the residents in Johnny Kamis’ district how safe they feel at home and how that good ‘ol Measure B thing is working out!

    Time is running out.. There are quite literally droves of young, recently hired officers at SJPD (just under 3 years of tenure and less) who have been waiting to see if things improve before jumping ship and their patience has nearly worn out. To call the situation dire would be a gross understatement.

  16. All this BS between city hall and SJPD need to stop. While the emails shown in this article are inappropriate its not surprising but it is also not something a leader would do on Company email. It shows he new Chief they are trying to groom needs more grooming.

    Sam Liccardo needs to bring in private sector HR Consultants like myself, Employee Benefit Brokers, 401k Adminstration Experts, Risk Insurance Brokers & HR Employee Benefits Managers to review the entire compensation package including costs for every benefit provided on both employee/employer side & policies associated with any of the compensation packages offered and let us brainstorm/suggest ideas that can reduce costs..
    The HR Department for the City has done a terrible job fixing anything because they are so used to doing the same thing every year because the think they have unlimited funds! Why not bring in outside advisors to toss around ideas to get creative and cut costs to employee compensation without pissing off every employee! My husband is a City employee and has had rich unchanged health benefits for as long as I can remember which is crazy to me because some very small tweaks to medical benefits can cut costs to the City for what their paying for employee benefits! How would anyone in the HR Department know that when they haven’t seen what is trending in that area because they are not exposed to anything but the city? There is tons they can do to cut down benefit costs.
    For the pension they need to be held to the same standard as the private sector and adhere to ERISA laws! I am not saying replace pensions with 401ks but talk to experts who put those benefits in place! They have a new set of eyes and can probably spot some fresh ideas to save cash!
    Bring in HR Consultants and HR Benefit Managers and hear what we do when rolling out benefits to employees! We take a lot of time to plan and roll out this information so its well received and painless for employees! They can also suggest ways to boost moral!
    We are in the freaking Silicon Valley where we have start ups popping up daily! We HR consultants see lots of Companies and have tons of great ideas! You have tons of Executives who successfully manage employee benefit costs that can provide ideas and feedback on what should be the priority! Many (myself included) would be willing to do this at no charge to the city! Not everything suggested has to be implemented but start bringing in some fresh eyes to look at this mess and help you fix it now! Its not impossible! There are tons of low hanging fruit that can be tackled and fixed asap with great results! Stop messing around and use the damn resources in this city!!

    • City employees, particularly police officers, have fled the city because of the dramatic cuts to take home pay and benefits. They have left because the city is no longer a competetive employer. Now, you tell us that you, as a brilliant member of the private sector, can tell the city how they can further cut pay and benefits while leaving the affected employees with smiling faces. Your suggestion is so ridiculous that I believe that Liccardo might love it. Good luck. And doesn’t anyone know that the word is “morale?”

  17. One last thing moral is so low at the city oversight is lacking in tons of areas and money is flying out the doors on dumb crap!

    The Mayor needs to be told its time to manage upper management! Tons of upper level management are so fed up and they don’t care about the City or helping get out of this mess! I know for a fact you have City management traveling all over the country for useless conferences while their direct reports are stuck in the office with pay cuts pissed management is running around only looking out for themselves! Clean house from top down ASAP!!

    • The manager to line employee ratio of most local governments is way off. Since managers make more than the people they manage, this condition unduly inflates public payrolls. From a recent article and radio reports, I learned that Palo Alto has 1,000 employees under the City Manager’s control, of which 200 are managers. Does anyone know the ratio in SJ? Much of the non-tech private sector gave up that low ratio a couple of decades ago, starting with Ford Motor Company, which also had a 5:1 ratio and was near bankruptcy. Now Ford is hugely profitable. Worker productivity in the private sector has increased dramatically in the last two decades. Not so with the public sector. When anyone tries to push public employees to be more productive, the unions scream and public employees’ “morale” takes a dump. Are there individual exceptions? You bet! But far too few. Ask any contractor or builder off the record about SJ’s planning and building departments, and they’ll tell you how inefficient those departments are, despite Chuck Reed’s claim in numerous false claims on the radio that they “work at the speed of business.” All one need do is look at SJ’s parks to see how lazy the maintenance people are. That’s due to union work rules that require more people to do the job than are necessary, none of whom work at half the speed of a private gardener. For instance, dozens of days over the last few years I’ve watched SJ Parks & Rec. workers at St. James Park moving so slowly I was tempted to take their pulse to see if they were still alive. For years I’d drive past Wallenberg Park off Curtner and see the guy who was supposed to be mowing the lawn sitting in his truck smoking; undoubtedly because the union contract allowed him twice the time needed to do the job. Taxpayers are sick of this and many are saying so. Public employee reaction is: low morale.

  18. I guess this is what happens when you get Walmart grade cop administration. Bottom of the barrel that can’t get a serious cop job in a respectable city. At least we got LED street lights now.

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