San Jose POA President Apologizes to Members for Response to Bigoted FB Posts

When the Facebook posts came to light, Sgt. Paul Kelly—head of the San Jose Police Officers’ Association—condemned them as an “online ring of hate.”

Within hours of the social media comments going public in a June 26 exposé penned by the partner of an active SJPD cop, the agency put four officers on leave for—among other things—allegedly mocking Black Lives Matter protesters and Muslims and disparaging a predominantly Latino and Vietnamese beat in San Jose’s East Side.

Chief Eddie Garcia vowed to fire anyone who made hateful comments online.

Mayor Sam Liccardo echoed the outrage.

As did Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, who assigned his Conviction Integrity Unit to review cases handled by the accused officers.

Though the POA has helped cops get their jobs back before after being fired over similar allegations, Sgt. Kelly said he’d chart a new course. This time, he pledged “swift action” against anyone who took part in expressions of bigotry.

Kelly said the union would “immediately file charges” to expel officers who participated in hate speech online, spend no POA resources to defend them and change its bylaws to allow the board to quickly oust members in the future. Because, he added: “There is zero room in our department or our profession for racists, bigots or those that enable them.”

Faced with calls to resign, however, and the prospect of POA members defecting to the Silicon Valley Fraternal Order of Police, Kelly has since seemed to change his tune.

Instead of announcing as much in an email to members, he’s relayed the message verbally, over the course of two meetings on Monday—one in the early morning and the other before the start of the graveyard shift.

From the second deck of the San Joses PD patrol car parking garage on Mission Street, Kelly said he regrets the way he responded to the Facebook fiasco and assured that the union has been fighting relentlessly for members in the face of unprecedented public backlash against their profession.

“We didn’t get the message right,” Kelly offered, according to audio and written transcripts of the briefing obtained by this news organization. “I’ll take the heat for that, and it’s my fault and I apologize. … You got your stomach punched, then you have to worry about your union backing you up.”

Fear not, he told them.

“Your union will f*ckin’ back you up,” Kelly promised. “We’re doing it now. We did it before that. We f*ckin’ didn’t’ do right on the Facebook [issue], so we tried to pull back the message—but it was too late. So that’s one of the reasons I’m here.”

Kelly invited the scores of officers who attended each briefing to talk or shoot him an email to “ask us questions that you may not want to ask in front of everyone.”

Revelations about the Facebook comments came just in the nick of time in terms of contract negotiations, Kelly reportedly observed, but at the worst time possible in the sense that the nation’s embroiled in anti-police sentiment over systemic abuses.

San Jose signed off on a one-year renewal of the POA’s contract just days before the bigoted Facebook comments came to light. During negotiations, Kelly said the union was fighting pressure to do away with the kind of arbitration that allowed Officer Phil White to get his job back in 2016 after Chief Garcia fired him for making thinly veiled threats of violence on Twitter against Black Lives Matter protesters.

The city, however, eased up, Kelly said.

“They’re changing to transparency in arbitration,” he told members on Monday. “They’re changing the judges in arbitration. A whole bunch of things will be happening.”

Another pressure the union now faces is the city trying to bolster civilian oversight by giving greater authority to the Independent Police Auditor, an office led for the past two years by Shivaun Nurre. Kelly described Nurre as amicable compared to her predecessor, Aaron Zisser, whose tenure the POA opposed for political reasons—to derail a planned 2018 ballot measure that would’ve expanded the powers of his office. (For more on that whole saga, click here, here or here.)

“We ran the last one out of San Jose ‘cause he was bad and dirty,” Kelly said of Zisser. “We don’t have a bad one right now, to be honest with you. We deal with Shivaun very well, and anyone in Internal Affairs will tell you that.”

Still, Kelly said, there’s fear of the Independent Police Auditor [IPA] gaining what he called “full investigating power.”

“They’ll take right from IA [Internal Affairs], grab it to IPA and run with it,” he warned union members. If that’s the case, then the union will “have no oversight. They’ll be done with their investigation and get the chief to sign off on it.”

Thankfully for the POA, Kelly said, the city granted a one-year contract extension without asking for anything in the way of reforms. It happened quietly, from June 23 to 25, despite “alllllllll the weight that our board had” from historic demands for more accountability, and even calls to defund police to prioritize other services. (Here’s a link to the ultimately agreed-upon extension).

“Thank God it ratified,” Kelly exclaimed. “If we didn’t seal the deal” that day, he said, he’d have “choked.” He added: “We never worked so hard for f*ckin’ zero.”

The contract renewal gives the union a chance to negotiate for higher wages later this year, likely in August, Kelly said.

“But to be honest with you,” he went on to say, “we need to buy 12 months,” or risk having the city “slap on 50 things on the table” related to police reform. “This way we can at least talk about it,” he said. “We can slow it up. We can let the smoke clear up with all this f*ckin’ chaos going on. That was the goal of the board from the very beginning.”

Over the course of both briefings, Sgt. Kelly criticized DA Rosen, calling his pending review of suspected hate speech from SJPD cops a “fishing” expedition.

The union president also weighed in on the handful of police reform bills being debated in the state capitol, calling the prospect of proposed changes “horrific.”

Lawmakers want to raise use-of-force standards, Kelly said, and to “open back up” SB 1421, which was already enacted to force police departments to publicly disclose officers’ disciplinary records related to serious misconduct.

“We’re just battling as things are going across the nation,” Sgt. Kelly lamented. Though the union was “able to slow things down” here in San Jose on the push to “defund police,” he said the Facebook scandal was “a f*ckin’ disaster” for that effort.

“Our executive team realized we were in trouble,” Kelly said. “So, a decision was made to come out hard and fast. And I will tell you, right away ... that we screwed up.”

Kelly said the “words in the messaging” and words in a video he posted in the hours after the Facebook posts were published by San Jose Inside and the anonymous Medium blogger were misguided, to say the least.

“We didn’t think in two hours that everybody just got their asses kicked,” he said. To the officers gathered during the briefings on Monday, he said: “You just got your asses kicked,” even after displaying heroism for “saving our city and their community.”

“The last thing they need was to have their union speak out against them and kick them back down,” Kelly said. “That wasn’t the purpose.”

Monday’s members-only briefings came after a week of the POA being bombarded with emails wondering why Kelly seemed so quick to throw officers under the bus.

In one message forwarded to San Jose Inside, an officer accused the union leader of selling members before an investigation was even underway.

“The denial of fairness and due process for officers is hard to take whenever and wherever it occurs,” the letter states, “but it is inexcusable when it comes from someone like you, whose position exists to ensure that fairness.”

“No one wants to work with a racist, and I doubt anyone would oppose the removal of an officer who professed racist beliefs,” the author went on to say, “but I also believe, and I’m sure many members agree with me, that any officer accused of such beliefs is entitled to a fair process. What you have done, as our elected representative, is acted as judge and jury before any process at all has taken place. You are not a king entitled to do and say whatever you please. You were elected to serve the membership, and for reasons I stated in this email, you have failed at one of your most important duties.”

Per the author, Kelly’s actions in recent days suggest he’s no longer up for the job.

And so, the letter concludes, he “should resign.”

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.

35 Comments

  1. Hmm, which politicians have been supported by the Kelly and the Police Officer’s Union. YOU KNOW THESE PEOPLE.

    Let’s see:
    2016:
    State Senator District 15 – Jim Beall
    State Assembly District 25 – Kansen Chu
    State Assembly District 27 – Ash Kalra
    State Assembly District 28 – Evan Low
    San Jose City Council District 6 – Helen Chapman
    San Jose City Council District 2 – Sergio Jimenez

    2018:
    San Jose City Council District 3 – Raul Peralez
    San Jose City Council District 5 – Magdalena Carrasco
    San Jose City Council District 7 – Maya Esparza

    2020:
    San Jose City Council District 2: Sergio Jimenez 

    San Jose City Council District 8: Sylvia Arenas
    Santa Clara County Supervisors, District 3; Magdalena Carrasco

    • > Hmm, which politicians have been supported by the Kelly and the Police Officer’s Union. YOU KNOW THESE PEOPLE.

      Which of these politicians have been supporters of “Black Lives Matter” (the organization)?

    • You write:
      Hmm, which politicians have been supported by the Kelly and the Police Officer’s Union. YOU KNOW THESE PEOPLE.

      Let’s see:

      2018:
      San Jose City Council District 3 – Raul Peralez
      San Jose City Council District 5 – Magdalena Carrasco
      San Jose City Council District 7 – Maya Esparza

      2020:
      San Jose City Council District 2: Sergio Jimenez 

      San Jose City Council District 8: Sylvia Arenas
      Santa Clara County Supervisors, District 3; Magdalena Carrasco

      Ahhhhhhh.
      Let’s see who have been among the most outspoken in calling for police accountability? The very same five. So I guess this proves the Fabulous Five can’t be bought?

      REPLY

      • “ So I guess this proves the Fabulous Five can’t be bought?” HARDLY!! They are “bought and paid for” so-to-speak and supported by UNIONS.

    • BEJESUS, I feel compelled to help you amend your 2020 list. Your council list should have read:

      San Jose City Council District 2: Sergio Jimenez 

      San Jose City Council District 3 – Raul Peralez
      San Jose City Council District 5 – Magdalena Carrasco
      San Jose City Council District 7 – Maya Esparza
      San Jose City Council District 8: Sylvia Arenas

    • BEJESUS: “ Hmm, which politicians have been supported by the Kelly and the Police Officer’s Union.” During the last election in March, it was Kelly who wrote on Facebook that the SJPD was supporting certain candidates. According to SJPD officers, SJPOA never discussed candidates. It was Kelly who wrote on their “other” FB account that San Jose PD was supporting (named individuals). Why would a police union come out for or against ANY candidate running for office?? They are to support ALL San Jose taxpayers.

      It was also Kelly who came out against candidate Zito based on an incident long ago with an ex-spouse. Why would the police union be so adamant in trying to get a candidate re-elected who has clearly said she wants to UNFUND them??

  2. Kelly is a bully and a misanthrope. The POA has far too much power. The SJ politicians are afraid to stand up to the police and hold them accountable. Anyone who knows Aaron Zisser, knows his total honesty and integrity. Kelly has none. He defamed Aaron to his membership to force him out simply because he wanted to engage the community more and do his job. He and the POA were trying to do a hit job on him from the start, trying to find dirt on Aaron. They failed at that, because there was none. So they simply maligned him. Kelly is still doing it. He needs to go and get some reason and intelligence in the leadership of the union, if that is even possible.

    • I’m not familiar with Aaron, but I’m very familiar with what Kelly did to Zito in trying to get Arenas re-elected.

  3. Will all do respect, there are kids getting killed all across the country and the hunt for police people is all the attention these victims get? Im not defending bad behavior but Let’s do the math and figure out the number of homicides not involving police versus those committed by police. Look at the crime in New York and Chicago. It is so sad that media is not giving families of victims more attention. How about focusing our energy on the victims killed and their families rather than this high school drama? That is what this article sounds like. Tommy said this and Johnny said that…

    • Jesus, rene, if Tommy said “I like to use hijabs as a noose” and Johnny said “Black lives really don’t matter” then I’d want them held accountable, especially since they’re supposed to be serving and protecting the people! And if you hadn’t noticed, ‘the people’ includes muslims and black people.

      • Kate have you ever made a racial statement or felt prejudice toward another person? Don’t lie, be honest. I’m not so sure anyone has been that perfect, except Jesus since his name was brought up. Perfection is an issue when it’s self serving. Again, I’m not defending bad behavior and I believe people should be held accountable for bad behavior. I also know that hurt people hurt people and it becomes a cycle. Someone hears something they don’t like that hurts them and In turn they try to hurt them back. I’m not picking on the writer of this article. My point was that reporters should write about those families in Chicago or New York that have lost loved ones. Show some empathy. These are tragedies that reporters a across the nation are avoiding. Sadly my point was deflected.

        • The writer should, and did, write about what’s going on in San Jose. That’s why it’s titled SAN JOSE INSIDE. We have followed this story since day 1 and will continue to do so. If an article isn’t of interest to you, simply scroll to one that is instead of trying to hijack an article, it’s readers, and those who want to weigh in. Thank you.

          • My_Opinion, did you use the word “hijacked”? Enlight of the context of this article I am shocked that you used such a bigoted word. Completely inappropriate and mean spirited. I am offended.

        • I am far from perfect but I have never made a racist joke or used an ethnic slur in the 50 years I have been alive.
          It was not hard at all.

          Fire every last one of those bigots, they cannot be trusted to protect those they despise.

      • KATE, that’s where you and I are different. You read alleged statements, but you know nothing else but those alleged statements, yet make instant judgment call. I would be wanting, and did at the time, want much, much more info. Ex.: What were the contexts of the WHOLE discussions in the PRIVATE group? Were any quote marks missing from comments? Were they telling of incidents where other people said something? Etc. You don’t know (!!) and neither did Kelly when he vowed the offenders would not be represented by the very union to which they pay dues every month. I’m not sure Kelly’s assertion of the union members not being represented by the union to which they pay dues every month (or each paycheck) wasn’t illegal.

      • Ms. Kate, Why are you and people like you so obsessed with cops having to love everyone? If someone has been a police officer for 30 years, has held many different assignments but most of his time in patrol, and that officer has done his job well, has never mistreated anyone, all his uses of force were justified, and he has never even received a single citizen complaint, who cares if in his heart, he is an anger filled, bigoted hater of humanity? Please don’t tell me that such a rage-filled cynical misanthrope could not possibly exist because, believe me, I know one who did. You pay a cop to do a job. If you want love, go hire a flower child on LSD or some pot-addled hippie but don’t be surprised if they can’t handle the constant onslaught of savagery, inhumanity, brutality, rage, psychological violence and despair. Sometimes, there are things for which a bigot is just better suited.

  4. SJ inside is doing the type of journalism that other news outlets are afraid to do, that is aggressive fact-checking as well as adversarial journalism, by holding our politicians and those in power accountable. For anyone that dislikes the presentation of raw facts and their imposition of transparency for those in power, then move along.

    That Paul Kelly and the SJPOA have not come out to address the public about this discrepancy is quite incriminating. Kelly has been so quick to speak out publicly in the past but now he is silent when caught in such a compromising and potentially duplicitous situation. If his actions were honest and open, he would have nothing to justify nor fear. He was asking the cops to go out of their way to meet him in a parking lot instead of sending out emails…in 2020?…who does that? I’m not crucifying Kelly, but actually would like him to address the public and tell us what he really means…or step down, as many of his members want him to do.

    • I disagree on your view of this journalism. I find it lacking facts while consisting of primarily heresy. It’s a narrative being created with an agenda/objective.

      • Have we been reading the same article? There are nothing but facts. These pigs have got to get sacked. If their union is too powerful, terminate the department and create a new one. It’s been done.
        It’s not a few bad apples, when the whole group gangs up to support unacceptable behavior they all have to go.

    • > SJ inside is doing the type of journalism that other news outlets are afraid to do, . . .

      It’s more like SanJoseInside, SanJoseSpotlight, and SJ Mercury News are afraid NOT TO DO the type of journalism the “other news outlets” do. They are all pretty much pushing the same narrative.

      Same take on the San Jose “Peaceful Protests”, same take on “Black Lives Matter”, same take on coronavirus lockdown, same take on Gavin Newsom, same take on President Trump, same endorsements, same, same, same.

      Read any one of them and it’s like you’ve read all of them.

      The good news is, the news market in Silicon Valley is wide open for some Monty Python news providers: “And Now for Something completely different”.

      • Yet you spend so much time supporting them with your business and spend hours commenting on their articles. LOL

    • CHARLIE_P, I couldn’t agree with you more with what you’ve written in your analysis of this article. Facts? It’s FULL of facts and an eye-opening article.

      GREAT JOB, San Jose Inside!!

  5. After making such a colossal ass of himself earlier in a printed statement, Paul Kelly’s decision to attempt damage control by verbal means was as understandable as it was imprudent. Notwithstanding the effectiveness of the in-person appeal, the risks inherent in undocumented speech (words taken out of context, statements misquoted, etc.) make it a poor choice for any public person, let alone the leader of an organization under internal and external siege. That his words were recorded and possibly distorted by a snake-in-the-grass was entirely his fault.

    Paul Kelly, not unlike our intellectually lightweight mayor and prickly district attorney, believe themselves capable of the impossible, that is, defining what does and doesn’t qualify as inexcusable and dangerous speech. Why they believe this can be best understood by watching herd animals react uniformly to the panicked reaction of a single member. To run together is to lessen the risk of being singled out and devoured.

    The impossibility of passing faultless judgment on words, sentiments, or opinions of a particular kind was recognized by the founders and, despite living in a far less complex and cosmopolitan world, thought so vital they included it in the first amendment to the Constitution (this impossibility has also been recognized internationally, under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights). To think otherwise about speech is to step into a bottomless quagmire.

    To illustrate this point consider the strange case of the n-word, perhaps the first of what might soon grow into a massive dictionary of controlled words. On a scale of 10 the offensive content of the n-word ranges from zero to ten, depending on who, how, and where it is used, as well as who it is doing the measuring. Young black people, especially those wishing to project low breeding, use it freely, often without apparent regard for their surroundings. They treat their use of it as having zero offensive content, except when a respected elder is present or when they wish to convey offense to a fellow black. However, the offensive content of the word zooms to 10 should they hear it from someone they’ve decided has no right to it.

    Within this one word we find an intricate collection of clear-cut and hopelessly tangled rules. How can a word be faultlessly judged when it can be fraternal or racist, acceptable or inappropriate, friendly or insulting, inclusive or hateful? How can the rules regarding its use be determined when there will never be universal agreement over who is qualified to sit in judgment, or what qualifies or disqualifies a particular user?

    What, it is fair to ask, would Paul Kelly do should he learn that some African-American members of his organization had used the n-word on Facebook, or in a text or email? Would he excuse them but terminate any White, Asian, or Hispanic member who liked the post or responded approvingly? What about a biracial officer? Would he or she qualify for a reduced penalty? How far, I wonder, does he want to stick his foot up his ass-ociation?

    If Paul Kelly wants to hold the membership accountable for his personal list of words then he should distribute the list forthwith along with the consequences for violating his sensibilities, which he has somehow managed to make more relevant than his association’s narrow and historical mission.

    • I loved your message.

      I would like to suggest another reason readers, such as I, “like” a post or comment. Hitting “like” on any post or message acknowledges to the writer you have READ the message.

      One thing Sgt. Kelly isn’t is a lawyer.

  6. What’s very apparent to now is there is no longer a first amendment. We are now controlled by mob think, and the price we will eventually pay will be written and payed for in blood and the destruction of our country and our freedom. Good luck getting it back!

  7. RE: “ “The denial of fairness and due process for officers is hard to take whenever and wherever it occurs,” the letter states, “but it is inexcusable when it comes from someone like you, whose position exists to ensure that fairness.”

    “No one wants to work with a racist, and I doubt anyone would oppose the removal of an officer who professed racist beliefs,” the author went on to say, “but I also believe, and I’m sure many members agree with me, that any officer accused of such beliefs is entitled to a fair process. What you have done, as our elected representative, is acted as judge and jury before any process at all has taken place. You are not a king entitled to do and say whatever you please. You were elected to serve the membership, and for reasons I stated in this email, you have failed at one of your most important duties.”

    Per the author, Kelly’s actions in recent days suggest he’s no longer up for the job.

    And so, the letter concludes, he “should resign.”

    EXCELLENT letter and spot on! That could not have been an easy letter to write, but necessary. Thank you for writing it.

    After having been in a union for 34 years and a union steward, I was appalled at Kelly’s response. Who would want to continue to pay union dues month after month and take a chance on the head of their union refuse to represent them before ANY facts/proof had come out??

    It appears Kelly changed his tune and tone only after members of the POA looked at changing union representation.

    Here is my suggestion to POA members: Compare the pros and cons of each union for YOUR benefit. Whichever one is best for your needs and has a track record for standing behind their officers, select that union. The other choice is to vote for a different POA President.

    We stand behind our officers 100%.

  8. Well, this is awkward: “A union owes a duty of fair representation to all of the workers it represents. This duty requires that the union act fairly, impartially, and without ill will or discrimination when pursuing a worker’s grievance or when negotiating a new contract with the employer. The union is required to take reasonable steps to investigate a grievance and must represent members in more than a dismissive manner. It is illegal for a union to treat you in ways that are:

    arbitrary (e.g., a union refuses to pursue your grievance without reason);

    discriminatory (e.g., a union refuses to pursue the grievances of all of its non-white workers);

    or in bad faith (e.g., a union official fails to respond to your complaint just because he/she doesn’t like you).

    If you feel that the union has treated you in one of these three ways and has breached its duty of fair representation, you may bring legal action against it.”

  9. > Well, this is awkward: “A union owes a duty of fair representation to all of the workers it represents.

    Well, yes. I would expect that to be the case.

    I am a strong believer in Constitutional rule of law and due process, and my first reaction to the POA throwing it’s members under the bus was: “where the hell is the due process?”

    Since POA head Sgt. Kelly has already undermined the case for due process for his members, I don’t see how he can be involved in their representation or advocacy.

    “Fair representation” in this case is going to require some big cajones, a steel backbone, and serious push back against craven, unprincipled, or malignant people.

    Attorney L. Lin Wood did a heroic job of taking CNN to the cleaners for sliming Nick Sandmann of the Covington kids, and Attorney Sidney Powell single handedly ran the corrupt Mueller prosecutors out of town with a sensational exhibition of smash mouth lawyering.

    If the POA is going to do a serious job of fair representation in the pursuit of due process for its members, it is going to have to deploy an equivalent degree of credible and uncompromised legal firepower.

  10. I have no problem with profanity. I use it quite often myself, although I try to avoid using it in the presence of children or a lady. However, if your quotes by SJPOA Paul Kelly, reportedly made at a recent POA meeting, were as laced with profanity as you stated, it provides some insight that those within the police culture will likely recognize.. Whenever another cop uses profanity to other cops, as if the foul language were punctuation, it usually indicates he is somewhat insecure, and/or lacks confidence, and is trying to appear “salty” and/or is trying to appear to be “one of the guys” and exposes then that he has none of those former qualities mentioned, in any positive sense. In fact one of the toughest, even scariest, police officers I know never cursed, and never even raised his voice. He was a Viet Nam vet, very tough, and had a frighteningly distinguished military record. I’ll always remember him telling a third-striker parolee, who was about to be resist arrest on a felony warrant, “My friend, no one wants to hurt you, but it’s enough that you know we will if we have to because you’re going (to jail). Do you understand?” His voice was as terrifying as it was calm and conveyed inescapable confidence. The suspect hesitated a moment, then gave up. There was no profanity.The officer didn’t feel he needed to impress anyone. There was an odd sort of respect to it.

    Now, for Paul Kelly to curse as he reportedly did, and in that context, conveys a lack of confidence, an insecurity in his position and his apparent belief that his membership is so base that in order to connect with them and somehow seem to be “one of the guys”, he had to lower himself, to the intellectual level of an illiterate longshoreman with a 90 IQ, and use profanity. (No insult intended to any longshoreman with an IQ above that and a vocabulary that includes more than simple vulgarity). Paul Kelly needs to go. If I were the San Jose POA membership, I would call a special election and vote in another leader, something Paul Kelly clearly is not.

    The Facebook incident needed to be addressed but not the way it was but someone like Paul Kelly, who thinks his membership only responds to profanity, is not the person to do it. A person like that is more likely to have been a participant in it, particularly considering the wild, almost explosive political overreaction to it, followed by the profanity laden, near retraction to his membership at the POA meeting.. To parody Shakespeare, “methinks the gentleman doth protest too much”. Facebook is where hypocrisy, falseness, double standards, rumors and depression meet up for coffee

  11. Paul Kelly is one of the finest officers in the United States of America. Irish kid from the west side, he knows how to police. Hope he is our next chief.

  12. Mr. Kyne, I won’t insult you by pretending to take you seriously because to do so would imply that you have had your head in the sand, on Mars

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