To Improve Community and Police Relations,
Support the San Jose IPA and Remove POA Leadership
A Statement from San Jose Families Who Have Lost Loved Ones to Police
On July 20, 2018 the San Jose Police Officers’ Association held a press conference as part of an ongoing campaign to remove the San Jose Independent Police Auditor Aaron Zisser. The presser mischaracterized Mr. Zisser’s role at a rally marking the two year anniversary death of 18-year-old San Jose resident Anthony Nuñez. In the POA’s frenzy to target Mr. Zisser, they also attacked San Jose families — namely grieving mothers, fathers, and family members of the deceased. The POA leadership shared with the media a picture of Mr. Zisser standing with the families, and in their advisory wrote that he was seen, “attending an anti-police rally where officers are threatened.” The POA statement said, “The rally included a march to SJPD and culminated with a video in front of SJPD headquarters where two officers are threatened by name.” Clearly, the POA leadership did not think the naming of the officers involved in the death of Anthony Nuñez was an actual threat. If they did, they would not hold a press conference that would bring exponentially more attention to the identity of the officers.
In the POA leadership’s attempt to create a fictional narrative of Mr. Zisser, and their disingenuous re-framing of the rally, the families’ reputation, dignity, and safety were collateral damage. The press conference was the latest of an ongoing effort to oust the IPA that even involved them spending POA resources to gather oppositional research — of which were proven untrue.
The POA attacks on the IPA are irresponsible, and at times immature — their media advisory started with a reference to Britney Spears (a singer popular among teenagers in the early 2000’s) and they published images of Mr. Zisser with a Pinocchio nose as the cover of their newsletter. But the POA targeting of Mr. Zisser, and how they are going about it, is larger than who is the head of the IPA. In their rabid public efforts to remove the sitting IPA, they exposed a larger obstacle to any path of positive community and police relations in San Jose: the current POA leadership. If the POA leadership’s larger goal of the campaign to remove Mr. Zisser is to intensify antipathy towards the San Jose police, while simultaneously building sympathy for the IPA — they are succeeding.
The POA is an association of San Jose police officers. As such, any action taken by the POA leadership reflects on the character and intentions of every single officer. Below are statements from family members who lost loved ones to police, some of who attended the rally and were in the picture the POA used. We wonder how creating the type of reaction the families describe is beneficial to San Jose police officers, the community, and the well-being of the city.
Statement from Sharon Watkins, mother of Phillip Watkins
The picture and the description of our families caused fear amongst some of my friends. They were afraid that I was being displayed as a bad person. I was even told by one to be careful and I should not be involved with corrupt people. As for me personally, the stress of a photo that I had publicly shared being used as a weapon against someone (Aaron Zisser) caused me much sorrow and stress. I was upset for several days, even not knowing the source of the photo, I felt compelled to apologize to the IPA, for putting the photo on my personal FB page.
Statement from Jim and Vickie Showman, parents of Diana Showman
It is disgusting how Paul Kelly distorts the truth with his anger that Aaron Zisser didn’t warn the SJPD of a threat that occurred in front of the police department and in front of the media. The anger is totally disingenuous as Mr. Zisser wasn’t even there. Mr. Kelly’s statement that Aaron Zisser is destroying the credibility of the IPA couldn’t be further from the truth. Mr. Zisser has reached out to the families of victims of police violence to hear our stories and understand the pain we feel which never goes away no matter how many years pass. This demonstrates true impartiality as opposed to the one sided position of the POA, DA, and ultimately the City of San Jose. The POA has overwhelming political power. The fact that Aaron Zisser is listening to disenfranchised families is obviously a threat to the POA. We need a strong, truly impartial Independent Police Auditor as opposed to an office that gives a blind eye to police violence and the promotion of a Police State.
Rosie Chavez, aunt of Jacob Dominguez
When I first saw the news and the social media reports of what SJPOA leadership was saying of our IPA, and most importantly about the mother of Anthony Nuñez and the rest of the families who have lost loved ones to SJ police, I was highly upset, angry and disturbed. It brought so many mixed emotions to surface. Losing my nephew Jacob Dominguez has been the hardest loss to bounce back from, especially since he was confirmed unarmed and executed! We as a family try to continue to put one foot in front of the other, but it’s not easy knowing there is no transparency or accountability and that there may never be any justice when it comes to officer involved killings. There is a definite need for oversight and to build trust in our communities, especially with the families who have lost loved ones in the hands of SJPD.
Kimberly Phillips, mother of AJ Phillips
The recent controversy about Aaron Zisser, stemming from the Chief of Police, Eddie Garcia and the POA, Paul Kelly is hypocritical. The community needs transparency, not the rank and file for the system to work. Their claims of him not being a neutral third party and his acts being disrespectful and reprehensible show the lack of impartiality on their part. Then for Paul Kelly to use a picture of us during Anthony Nuñez’s two-year Angelversary march and say we are an anti-police group, having an Anti-Police rally was dehumanizing. I was in shock, and felt criminalized when I came home from work and seen my picture on the news! Not only was my story criminalized, but now my actions for standing up for him too. This only added to my never-ending suffering from the loss of my son Aaron James Phillips.
Laurie Valdez, partner of Antonio Guzman Lopez
I am so angry and emotionally exhausted dealing with the malicious attacks by POA towards my family and other families. The recent attack by POA using a photo (without consent) and false accusations in a press conference has caused undue stress, anxiety, and fear of being harassed by police. My children have been triggered and re-traumatized as a result of the POA’s actions. I demand a public apology from the POA to be made publicly in media. Finally, I want to make it very clear: I have never made a “threat" to any officer, and I am NOT “anti-police”, “I AM ANTI-POLICE BRUTALITY!”
Corina Griswold, daughter of Rudy Cardenas
Aaron Zisser is currently the only person in office who has taken time to listen to our stories with compassion. He has always stressed the importance of his role, and I have high hopes that he could bridge the gap and help rebuild trust within the community. It deeply saddens me that the police department is trying to push him out of office due to his approach with the families. The exaggeration and extent of this whole ordeal is making it very clear that the department does not wish to see change in the community. I urge the city council to keep Aaron Zisser in office in steps to rebuild trust in the community.