Newly Unearthed Facebook Posts Point to More Widespread Bias Among San Jose Police

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.”

Jennifer Wadsworth is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth. Or, click here to sign up for text updates about what she’s working on.

9 Comments

  1. Thank you, Charlie Paulson and Jenn Wadsworth. I am grateful that at least some people close to the inner world of SJPD are speaking out. I’ll maintain my optimism about a new Police Chief coming to town but am tempering my optimism with the reality that the POA and the IA Unit is a huge block to any reforms. I’m looking forward to hearing about why other active duty officers are not coming forward- but I believe the answer to that question is obvious. As I’ve said over and over- more than these folks saw those posts and said and did nothing. And why would they? The IPA must send complaints through the Internal Affairs unit of SJPD. That would scare the sh** out of me as an officer. But we need officers to step it up and start outing this type of racist and disgusting behavior that, ultimately, makes their lives more at risk. The POA needs to go… The IPA needs to take over all investigations from start to finish, and the IA needs to be suspended. Since it takes the IA Dept at SJPD so long to do anything, maybe they just need to step aside and get out of the damn way so a new chief and the IPA can start rolling up their sleeves and cleaning house.

  2. I’d accuse these people who are obsessed with the social media conduct of cops of being psychotic, except the complexity of their mental illness is too confounding to allow for so conventional a diagnosis. What I do know is if I were to employ their twisted reasoning processes my days would be consumed with searching for violations, taking offense, expressing outrage, and sharing my emotional wounds with any other crybaby who’d listen. I’ve got to wonder, what the hell is it that has made misery so attractive to these people? I also wonder, what is the agenda of those stoking the wrath of these miserables? Might it be to bolster the status of some scumbag employee’s unjust discrimination suit?

    The fact that off-duty or retired cops amuse themselves by exchanging humorous comments and political outrage is evidence of one thing: they are human. In furtherance of group cooperation, males evolved long ago to deal with their personal temptations (competitiveness, envy, greed, etc.) through a number of means, ribald forms of mockery, exaggeration, and outrage (of self, comrades, and outsiders) being just one of them. And since cops are at the top of the scale of cooperative male behavior small wonder they excel at blowing-off steam. Filter this behavior from the profession and you’ll end up with a police force filled with dull, self-centered opportunists incapable of the teamwork essential for good policing (in other words, they’ll all behave like command wannabes).

    By the way, blowing-off steam is not confined to cops; it is commonly practiced, by both men and women, in traditionally male professions (with the exception of organizations led by socially-emasculated dullards, sorry Jeff).

    The idea that the steam let off during such exchanges represents an accurate depiction of the participants’ values, character, or behavior in other circumstances is nothing more than a wild assumption (of political or personal origin). There exists no proof indicating otherwise nor will their ever be, as it is untestable. Professional comedians are not funny all the time, prize fighters are often gentlemanly out of the ring, psychologists are often social misfits, and many anti-government radicals work as public school teachers, so why should the guard down, private, off-duty behavior of cops (who spend their highly-scrutinized professional lives tightly-bound in rules and regulations) be assumed to reveal anything about how they perform their jobs?

    If you don’t think having some private fun at the expense of another group, or employing generalizations or exaggeration among friends when expressing anger or frustration is healthy I invite you add to your social circle a few serial killers, mass murderers, and political terrorists, all of whom are known for never having fun, hiding their flaws from the public, and expressing anger and frustration only through terrible acts of violence. I also warn you to stay away from cops, for no matter that they will risk their lives to keep you and your loved ones safe, you will find yourself at risk of that which you seem to find so foreign and frightening: cracking a smile.

  3. Bravo! Unfortunately, there’s little professionalism left in journalism and so-called editors have no interest in improving the perception of their industry.

  4. I read a lot about the bad apples in the police department. They get too much attention. There are so many good officers, even if my former attorney says otherwise. I am currently fighting for my daughter. She is in the custody of a known rapist. I previously made a complaint against my former attorney, Valerie Houghton. She says that she “lost a lot of business” as a result of my complaint. Now she wants the man with a history of rape to continue being the custodial parent, even though the mother wants me to have custody. Ms. Houghton thinks that if I am made out to be crazy through PC section 1368, that her hands will be washed clean of letting my son be molested. I’ve been assaulted, stalked, threatened, hacked, and harassed because she has been trying to pressure me into doing what she wants. I don’t want my daughter raped, but Ms. Houghton says, “She’ll have fun.” Who says that? She also says that everyone from the police to the District Attorney’s Office are going to help her achieve her goal. I strongly believe that our law enforcement officials are top notch people. They would never sacrifice my daughter to wash the hands of someone else. It would be completely senseless. Maybe Ms. Houghton will see the light and change her mind.

  5. I told Valerie Houghton, Leah Amini (my other attorney), and Marie O’Leary (supervisor for visitation) that my ex-wife was letting an older man molest my 13 year old son. The two attorneys mostly ignored me and Ms. O’Leary would not allow me to talk to my son about it. At the next hearing my ex-wife not only agreed to disclose that she had hidden $130,000 worth of gold coins, but also to divide them. I was in complete shock. No one had mentioned the gold coins before the hearing. I never thought that I would see them again because my ex-wife is greedy. We each got $25,000, while Ms. Amini got $80,000 to be held in trust. Ms. Houghton had previously threatened me not to fire her or Ms. Amini, but at that point I decided to fire them anyways. Ms. Houghton then went on to represent my ex-wife without disclosure to me and I was subsequently cut out of my kids’ lives. My son recently turned 18, so I was able to confirm that he had indeed been molested. I told him to go report it to the police. About a week and a half later the judge filed an order on his own accord (and without a hearing) that I needed to have supervised visitation with my adult son (11/13/2019). I have previously ask the judge to tell why I cannot contact my kids. He spent several minutes on the computer and could not give me a reason of ANY kind. I have strong reason to believe that my other three minor children from that marriage are also being molested, but I cannot confirm that because I have not seen them in over 6 years.

  6. I have a daughter with another mother that Ms. Houghton demands should remain in the custody of a known rapist. She thinks that if I am made out to be crazy under PC section 1368 that her hands will be washed clean. The mother understands the danger that the child is in. She wants to give me parental rights. She came to court and agreed to my motion, but before we could sign the stipulation, we were rushed into the courtroom, where my motion was denied. The judge even acknowledged the memo from the mediator that she agreed to my motion by referring to defect and waiver of service. I cannot get anyone to listen. How can anyone justify letting another child be put in risk of sexual abuse to satisfy one’s interests? There is even a four page handwritten letter from the mother that was submitted to the record. The letter detailed being drugged and raped by the man who my currently daughter lives with. He can simply take her and disappear without it being a criminal matter. My daughter needs me to be an advocate for her. There are already laws against a rapists getting custody of their children born because of sexual assault. There is also a law against a rapist being able to adopt a child. I don’t understand how any one or two people are so important that they are allowed to put themselves above the well-being of children.

  7. To be fair to Valerie Houghton, I have taken a screen shot of all the messages and have sent them along with this URL to [email protected] – just in case she would like to respond or dispute any of what I have written.

  8. Once again a “news source” prints a story and names a lot of names without fact checking. Jen what is your definition of islamophobia? Im not disputing the obvious comments. It might be best to fact check some of the names you have spewed. Once again you have shown your inability to report in an unbiased manner. Who is this Paulson character? Why do they get to be the one that decipher’s the meaning behind snippets from FB posts? And you run with this? WOW

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