Hours after officially naming a new police chief Tuesday, the San Jose city manager defended the decision to hire Anthony Mata despite concerns raised during the hiring process by some in the LGBTQ+ community.
The San Jose City Council confirmed the hiring Tuesday of Mata, a deputy chief in the department, after a nationwide search. He was one of four finalists for the position, following former Chief Eddie Garcia’s announcement last summer that he was retiring. Garcia has since become Dallas’ police chief.
Mata joined the San Jose Police Department as an officer in 1996 and rose through the ranks, serving as a deputy chief for more than four years.
Three finalists for the chief position—namely Mata, Acting Chief Dave Tindall and Deputy Chief Heather Randol—led SJPD during its violent response to George Floyd protests. Assemblyman Alex Lee (D-San Jose), one of the plaintiffs suing the city over its brutal reaction to the demonstrations, joined Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell) in decrying Mata’s hiring over the protest response as well as the other allegations.
In a joint statement, Low and Lee said the following:
Mata, a 25-year veteran of the San José Police Department (SJPD), currently holds the rank of Deputy Chief. But his actions in a deadly police shooting—as well as allegations of Islamophobia and transphobia—suggest he is unfit to lead the police department of California’s third-largest city and the 10th largest city in the nation.
In 1999, Mata was one of two officers to open fire during the fatal police shooting of Odest Mitchell, an unarmed 48-year-old man. Mata fired 10 shots during a foot chase, hitting Mitchell four times. The officers claimed they saw a shiny object in Mitchell’s hand, but an investigation by the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office found he was holding a pair of sunglasses.
In response to the shooting, Mata told the Mercury News he “paid it forward” by training other officers. This response to killing an unarmed man is unacceptable and ignores the national reckoning that has been taking place over policing in the United States.
In 2018, a lawsuit claimed Mata presided over a police briefing in which Islamophobic comments were made to harass a Palestinian officer. Mata told the Mercury News the situation taught him to be “more careful in engaging with our workforce.” This statement once again suggests a lack of leadership and responsibility on Mata’s part. Leaders should speak out if they see or hear something racist.[ii]
And just this week, former SJPD officer Julie Callahan, who is transgender and served in the Department for nearly 30 years, told ABC7 that Mata made unsettling comments to her in a conversation in which he refused to support her transition. In recent years, SJPD has made positive steps to repair its relationship with the LGBTQ+ community, but the decision to move forward with Mata’s promotion and disregard these allegations is disturbing.
Mata, as a deputy chief, also had a leadership role in the department last summer, when SJPD officers used excessive force in firing tear gas at Black Lives Matter protesters.
At a time when the department needs bold leadership to move forward, San Jose has instead turned to an insider whose own record—killing an unarmed man, along with allegations of Islamophobia and transphobia—should immediately disqualify him from consideration.
Shortly before 6pm Tuesday, City Manager Dave Sykes released the following statement, included below in its entirety.
“The city of San Jose takes all alleged violations of city policy, including alleged violations of the city’s discrimination and harassment policy, very seriously. Upon receipt of various concerns regarding Chief Mata, including matters pertaining to the LGBTQ+ community, which were raised late in the recruitment process, the city immediately looked into those concerns. Based on the information we were able to gather, the city did not substantiate a violation of city policy nor find any reason to disqualify Chief Mata from further consideration as the city’s next chief of police.”