An Interview With Stockton Police Union Regarding Controversial Video About District Attorney

209 TimesSan Joaquin County, Stockton Leave a Comment

By Frank Gayaldo

Stockton Police Officer Association President Chuck Harris spoke with 209 Times’ Frank Gayaldo about a recent post of theirs that was critical of District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar attending a George Floyd inspired protest:

209 Times:

District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar wrote in part:

“We must always be truthful and an edited video designed to mislead the public is a reflection of your truthfulness and does not build trust.”

Did the SPOA provide an edited video designed to mislead the public and if so, is this a reflection of your organization’s truthfulness?

SPOA President Chuck Harris:

Absolutely Not. The video is shown in different parts, but different parts of the same protest. The same date. The same time. The same location. With the same District Attorney. We would never mislead the public that we serve. She chose her words during that anti-police rally. She chose to chant, “No Justice, No Peace” at the same rally where people chanted Cops / Pigs / Murderers. And chanting “No justice, No Peace” is odd to us, especially since she is the one in charge of justice for our county.

209 Times:

Was this an anti-police rally or an anti-police corruption rally?

SPOA President:

While certainly there were plenty of peaceful protestors who were and are rightfully upset for the right reasons, it is undeniable that it also attracted rock throwing and other violent behavior from participants, who were stopping the flow of traffic and throwing items at our officers. When the top prosecutor of the county was yelling chants into the microphone, we believe it created a mixed message for attendees that further destabilized a sensitive situation.

209 Times::

District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar is leading a statewide effort to prevent police unions from financially contributing to district attorney races. The justification behind this is that police unions are able to place undue pressure on prosecutors like herself who need to remain neutral, especially in cases of officer involved shootings or officer corruption cases. Your thoughts?

SPOA President Chuck Harris:

Being able to contribute financially or vocally to district attorney races is a form of freedom of speech, just as Tori Verber – Salazar chanting, “No Justice, No Peace” is freedom of speech. She doesn’t want her voice silenced, and neither do we. I can see how it could look when police unions contribute to the race of a District Attorney. Probably the same way it looks when defense attorneys in San Joaquin County financially contribute to the race of a district attorney, which they have in DA Verber – Salazar’s case.

The defense attorney in the Victor Mow case donated $5,000 to Tori Verber – Salazar’s campaign. Perception is everything. If she doesn’t want police unions contributing to district attorney races, why would she still allow defense attorneys to contribute to those same races? If union contributions are a conflict, then so are defense attorney contributions, and those should have been included in her jointly released letter on June 1st, 2020 also. But they weren’t. Police officers are guardians of the community. We serve our community. We want our community to be safe. So, if we don’t believe a sitting district attorney has the best interest of the community in mind, we need to have the right and the ability to advocate and contribute to a district attorney candidate who does.

209 Times:

Every police officer and deputy sheriff I have personally spoken with says the deployment and after care of the knee on neck restraint used on a proned and handcuffed George Floyd was not only wrong and against best training principles, but that it actually was criminal, vile and disgusting. If one of your officers or the District Attorney for that matter, wants to exercise their First Amendment Rights by sharing their views and protesting against police brutality, do you see anything wrong or unadvisable about that, and if so, what?

SPOA President Chuck Harris:

What happened to George Floyd was disgusting. It was murder and there is no justification for what those officers did. Those involved officers in Minneapolis must be punished for their actions, and we are glad to see that justice is currently in motion for George Floyd, and that justice will be served.

Sharing views and protesting against police brutality is totally acceptable. The Stockton Police Officers’ Association is against police brutality on any level. No one wants a bad cop out, more than a good cop does.

The SPOA believes that once you choose the profession of a public servant, you need to hold yourself to a higher standard than those around you. You must remain fair. You must remain impartial. Nothing about DA Tori Verber – Salazar’s speech that day leads me to believe she can be either.

209 Times:

The relationship between the rank and file police and the District Attorney seem “strained” to say the least. Is the SPOA’s primary criticism against District Attorney Salazar that she exercised her First Amendment Rights in a manner that highlighted police misconduct or are there other issues at play here?

SPOA President Chuck Harris:

We are glad DA Verber- Salazar is against police misconduct. The SPOA is against police misconduct, and every citizen and law enforcement organization should be against it, too. The attendees at this anti-police rally were calling us “Pigs and Murderers”, and she was an advocate for them for doing that. This is not professional behavior of a top law enforcement official of a county.

209 Times:

Does the SPOA trust the integrity of the current District Attorney’s Office to investigate and prosecute future use of force and police corruption cases in a fair and impartial manner?

SPOA President Chuck Harris:

I would like to say yes, but we will see how this turns out. I would hope that DA Verber – Salazar sees how her actions were not fair and impartial, and that she could have handled things differently. Advocating for those in attendance at the anti-police rally on June 5th, 2020, those who were screaming derogatory comments at my officers, calling us pigs and murderers, is not a good start on building trust and working together. But I’m hoping for the best in this situation.

209 Times:

Is there anything else you would like to add?

SPOA President Chuck Harris:

No, thank you.

District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar declined wanting to further discuss her Facebook response with us but did offer the following:

“My door is always open and I will continue to work with LE and the Community to heal and find positive steps going forward”.

Afterwards she would post this response on her social media:

Tori Verber Salazar’s full statement:

“Dear SPOA-
In the days and weeks following the unlawful killing of George Floyd by a Minnesota police officer, we witnessed and continue to witness waves of protests throughout the nation and the world. More importantly, People of all backgrounds turned from watching as witnesses to partaking as participants to seek justice in their own communities.

In early June, I attended several protests in this county which many were hailed by law enforcement as peaceful and nonviolent. During one of the protests, I spoke at the request of some of the organizers. Unfortunately, the Stockton Police Officers Association (SPOA) posted an edited video on its Facebook page that purposely misrepresents the context of what took place. I support the right of all citizens to protest peacefully and I have never, nor will I ever, condone violence against law enforcement officers nor to anyone else in this community. I did not encourage or join in any vile or vulgar comments towards any members of our community and that includes law enforcement.

I come from a law enforcement family, I have worked for this office and this community my entire career. I support law enforcement officers who perform their job honorably, free from discrimination, retaliation and abuse. However, I am just as passionate about my stand against police brutality and I am not afraid to stand against those who would condone this behavior or seek to retaliate against those who peacefully protest and exercise their First amendment rights. I encourage all parties to come to the table to create legitimate and lasting police reform.

I have worked with you to provide justice for all and I will continue to do so. We work daily to build trust with the wonderful people we have the honor to serve. But we must always be truthful and an edited video designed to mislead the public is a reflection of your truthfulness and does not build trust“.

Author’s note:

Upon conducting this and numerous other interviews, i believe District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar did not purposely engage in behavior that she thought would endanger officers, although it could certainly be argued it potentially did. It is important to note that much of the more aggressive behavior that the officers endured occurred after her speech was over and while Ms Verber was not present. This was a point that SPOA President Chuck Harris agreed with, although he maintained the DA’s various stances remains “problematic”.

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