Santa Clara Police chief Mike Sellers urged the Santa Clara Police Officers Association leadership to put community safety first following a union threat to boycott Levi’s Stadium events. In a letter sent last Friday, the union said that its members might choose “not to work” at Levi’s Stadium if San Francisco 49ers management failed to “take action to stop” quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s “inappropriate workplace behavior.”
“The safety of our community is our highest priority,” wrote Sellers in public letter. “I will urge the POA leadership to put the safety of our citizens first. I will work with both sides to find a solution. In the meantime, I will ensure we continue to provide a safe environment at Levi’s Stadium.” Sellers’ letter can be found at tinyurl.com/chief-scpd-letter.
“The men and women of the Santa Clara Police Department are highly trained and professional law enforcement officers,” he wrote. While Kaepernick’s “Blanket statements disparaging the “The safety of our community is our highest priority. I will urge the POA leadership to put the safety of our citizens first. I will work with both sides to find a solution. In the meantime, I will ensure we continue to provide a safe environment at Levi’s Stadium.”
The SCPOA’s Sept. 2 letter objected to Kaepernick’s refusing to stand for the national anthem on Aug. 26, his comments regarding police about brutality on Aug. 28, and the socks he wore to practice on Aug. 31. That letter can be found at http://www.santaclarapoa.com/news.
The union’s board, the letter said, “has a duty to protect its members and work to make all of their working environments free of harassing behavior. If the 49ers failed “to take action to stop this type of inappropriate behavior, it could result in police officers choosing not to work at your facilities.”
The letter concluded by saying that while its members were “sworn to protect the rights of ALL people in the United States, a duty we take very seriously,” its members had “the right to do their job in an environment free of unjustified and insulting attacks from employees of your organization.”
Working Levi’s Stadium events is a voluntary assignment, so it’s not clear if the union is threatening to not volunteer or to volunteer and then not show up – the equivalent of a sickout.
As of press time the SCPOA had not answered The WEEKLY’s request for an interview or comment.
Sellers said he has confidence in the professionalism of Santa Clara’s police officers. “We in law enforcement take an oath to protect the Constitution, and to protect the First Amendment,” he said. “That’s our job.”
Santa Clara has a diverse community, said Sellers, and the police department works actively works to engage with the community on many levels. “We have gone to great lengths to engage with our community to listen and understand their needs,” he wrote. “As the Chief of Police I am committed to continuing the relationships we have with our residents.”
This outreach includes the Santa Clara Citizens Police Academy – a long-standing program that lets participants go behind the scenes to understand and get a first hand experience of police work and its challenges – and the free-form Chat with the Chief” discussions held throughout the city since 2013; five have been held this year to date.
For his part, Kaepernick explained his actions at length at a press conference after a San Diego preseason game on Sept. 1.
“What I did was taken out of context and spun a different way. The message is that we have a lot of issues in this country. That we have a lot of people that aren’t treated equally. Police brutality is a huge issue that needs to addressed, and we need to fix this.
“These are discussions this country needs to have,” he continued. “Twenty-two 22 vets a day commit suicide. That’s another issue.” Once we admit those real issues, Kaepernick said. “We can deal with them, and we can make this country a better place.”
In acknowledgment of the controversy his actions provoked, instead of remaining seated during the national anthem, he kneeled, he said “to get the message back on track” and “show respect for the men and women fighting for this country.” He was joined by fellow 49ers Eric Reid, and Sunday night by soccer star Megan Rapinoe, who took a knee before a Chicago Red Stars and Seattle Reign match.
“The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony,” said the 49ers in a statement. “It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose to participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.”
Police Boycott Threats Not New
The SCPOA’s threat to boycott Levi’s Stadium events is just the most recent in a string of similar police union threats.
Last winter the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) urged local police unions to refuse to work Beyonce’s Formation World Tour, following the hubbub raised by the singer’s Super Bowl performance. The Miami police union president urged his members to refuse work the Beyonce’s April concert at Marlin’s Stadium. When the date arrived not one officer refused to work, according to an April 5 Miami New Times story.
Last year the national police union, threatened “a nasty surprise” for the opening of Quentin Tarantino’s film “The Hateful Eight,” to retaliate against the filmmaker’s remarks at a New York rally against police brutality, according to a February 16 USA Today story. However, the film opened on Christmas without incident.
The reason for using the euphemism ‘boycott’ instead of ‘strike’ is that in most states public employees cannot legally go on strike. California is one of them.
Santa Clara’s current contract with POA states that the union “recognizes and agrees that it does not have the right to strike. The Association, including its members and representatives, will not engage in, authorize, sanction, or support any work slowdown, stoppage of work, curtailment of production, ‘sick-out, or ‘blue flu action’ for the purpose of influencing management decisions or labor negotiations.”
A Political Agenda at Work?
The former SCCOA president, Patrick Nikolai, is running for Police Chief; raising the question of whether or not there is a political motive at work here, namely, discrediting Chief Sellers.
The union didn’t, for example, threaten last winter to boycott stadium assignments after Beyonce’s Super Bowl 50 halftime show; which some claimed had a Black Panther and anti-police subtext, and which prompted the FOP to call on local police agencies nationally to boycott the singer’s 2016 Formation Tour.
Nikolai has alleged at that his colleagues at the Santa Clara police department falsified time cards and directed others to do so as well, in order to hide hours worked on stadium assignments. No evidence of this has been produced. A grand jury earlier this year found no one to corroborate this allegation (tinyurl.com/cgj-rept-stadium).
Nikolai announced his accusations in a letter to the Mercury News following Mayor Lisa Gillmor’s June accusation that public safety employees’ were falsifying timecards, also made via the Mercury News. Gillmor is a leading Nikolai endorser.