SAN JOSE (CBS SF) – A veteran San Jose police officer has been placed on leave after tweets from an account apparently belonging to him were critical and some say threatening to activists involved in the I Can’t Breathe and Black Lives Matter protests.
The tweets from officers Phillip White prompted an avalanche of criticism and calls for his dismissal.
San Jose Police spokeswoman Sgt. Heather Randol issued a statement from Chief Larry Esquivel which said, “It is extremely important for the community to know the comments made on Officer White’s private social media account do not reflect the thoughts or feelings of the men and women here at the San Jose Police Department. Nor do we condone this type of behavior.”
Bay Area News Group reported that White’s off-duty social media posts were put under review after they were brought to the department’s attention. Among the provocative statements was the following:
“Threaten me or my family and I will use my God given and law appointed right and duty to kill you. #CopsLivesMatter.”
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BuzzFeed News reported that White had been consistently commenting on the protests stemming from the choking death of Eric Garner and the unarmed shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. The hashtags #ICantBreath and #BlackLivesMatter are closely associated with those protests online. White’s Twitter account has been since taken down.
Raj Jayadev of Silicon Valley De-Bug, which works to promote a better relationship between minorities and police, demanded that White be fired. “I saw venom and vitriol and I saw someone who is a walking danger and a walking threat who has a badge and a gun along with the state’s authority to use it.”
The San Jose Police Officers’ Union, which usually doesn’t comment on personnel issues, made an exception with a prepared statement from incoming Vice-President James Gonzales. “Offensive, disrespectful and inappropriate social media comments have no place in the public discourse surrounding the tragic loss of life from recent officer-involved incidents. We condemn these comments.”
San Jose Mayor-elect Sam Liccardo released a statement Monday saying the officer’s statements should be thoroughly investigated. “The residents of San Jose need to know that these statements in no way reflects the fine character of our San Jose Police Department or its officers.”
In addition to social media outrage, a Chage.org online petition has received more than 1,700 signatures demanding Officer White’s dismissal.
“The San Jose community is appalled by Officer Phillip White’s threats to protesters through his twitter account. His words, if tolerated, make the notion of positive police-community relations impossible. Every second he has a badge and a gun, our community is at risk. He must be fired,” reads the petition on Change.org.
Bay Area News Group reported that White is a 20-year-veteran who teaches gang prevention to children as part of his duties. He was also an assistant coach for the Menlo College basketball team, until Monday when word spread of his Twitter activities.
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