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San Jose PD investigating cop suspected of working drunk; mayor calls for more testing

The officer was reportedly impaired on duty during a search for a kidnapped baby last week


San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo called for universal drug and alcohol testing for police after an officer was allegedly found to be under the influence of alcohol while on duty on May 3, 2022.

Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group

By Summer Lin
Bay Area News Group

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Mayor Sam Liccardo called for universal drug and alcohol testing for San Jose police Tuesday after an officer was allegedly found to be under the influence of alcohol while on duty during the search for a kidnapped three-month-old baby last week.

San Jose police Chief Anthony Mata confirmed during a news conference that the department had begun an investigation April 26 into allegations that an unnamed officer was impaired while at work. The officer is on paid administrative leave.

The results of the investigation will be shared with the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, which will then decide if charges will be brought.

On Tuesday, Mata apologized to the public and the family of the baby boy who was kidnapped last week from his grandmother’s San Jose apartment and found less than a day later.

“When any officer regardless of agency, county or state tarnishes the badge, we all suffer the consequences,” Mata said, adding that the allegation could result in termination and criminal charges for the officer if it is found to be true.

Liccardo described the conduct as “offensive and dangerous” and said that “discipline for this behavior should be appropriate and severe.”

The mayor called for drug and alcohol testing for all officers in the department to be included in the city’s next contract with the Police Officers Association. He didn’t specify how often the universal testing would take place or when it could be implementing. The current contract is scheduled to expire June 30; negotiations are ongoing.

“Currently there is a provision in the contract that applies to several units in the department for random drug and alcohol testing,” Liccardo said. “It’s apparent it needs to be made universal in the department.”

Mata did not comment specifically on the proposal for more testing, but stressed that the department must stand ready to address alcohol and drug issues.

“We will provide substance abuse prevention training for officers not just for themselves but also for recognizing the signs from their peers on how to get help,” Mata said.

Union president Sean Pritchard said in a statement that the SJPOA “welcomes the opportunity to strengthen substance abuse testing for all sworn members, from the Chief to the Cadets in the academy” and that they will “seek a fair and transparent testing policy, as well as an increase to mental health resources for any member seeking help.”

“There are no words to express our utter disappointment with the indefensible actions of this officer that have dishonored our profession by his irresponsible and dangerous disregard for his duty; he should be held accountable,” Pritchard added.

The revelation comes after the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed Saturday that San Jose police Officer De’Jon Packer, who was found dead in his Milpitas home on March 13, died from a fentanyl overdose.

A report from a news organization was the first to reveal that an officer was intoxicated on the job last week. Assistant Chief Paul Joseph declined to give more details at the news conference about how the officer was discovered to be impaired, how long he was on-duty or his position, but said investigators are working to find out if the officer had contact with his colleagues and if they recognized that he was under the influence. Joseph said the officer was discovered sometime towards the “beginning of his shift” and that he had been assigned to help canvas the neighborhood, speak to witnesses and look for evidence during the search for the missing baby.

“We have the respect personnel rights of our employees as well but I think the days of us saying ‘It’s a personal matter, we have no comment, we can’t talk’ — that’s not a way of doing business anymore,” Joseph said.

Joseph also confirmed that another officer is under investigation for an allegation of inappropriate sexual misconduct while he was on-duty; he has been placed on administrative leave. An investigation is ongoing and the department will coordinate with the District Attorney’s Office on any potential criminal charges.

The three incidents don’t appear to be related to each other and the officers don’t work together in one unit, according to Joseph, who added that the department is looking into hiring practices, recruiting practices and background investigations.

Mental health services, including a crisis management unit, peer support program and an employee assistance program are already in place, police said. The department is also looking to bring in a substance abuse counselor for officers in order to “head off some of these things before they become misconduct issues,” Joseph said.

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