Monday, Santa Clara businesses received a communication soliciting donations that contained this persuasive piece of copy:
“Place our decal in your window” — i.e. donate — “and we will direct our ‘Friendly’s’ to support you.”
Tony Soprano couldn’t say it any better.
This wasn’t a communication from Tony Soprano, however. It was from the Santa Clara Police Officer Association’s — the police union — President Alex Torke and sent to Santa Clara businesses.
When Torke’s not soliciting something that sounds like protection money, he cools his heels in Livermore — about the same distance from Santa Clara as Tony Soprano’s suburban New Jersey mansion was from Manhattan.
It’s conduct that you’d expect in a noir film about dirty cops, but not what you’d expect from a Silicon Valley police department in 2021.
This glossy mailer claims that donors will “make a difference in Santa Clara” by donating — suggested amounts are $100, $250, $500, $1,000, $1,500 — to the union. Not to any identifiable charitable organization — for example, PAL.
“Will you join our list today and help us with a much-needed donation?”
Torke makes it sound like Santa Clara police are in the same situation as a third world police force that can’t afford body armor, instead of working for one of the top-paying police departments in the country (bls.gov).
While the copy aims to give the impression that the money goes to local causes and “the families of injured and fallen officers” nowhere does it actually say that. Your donation is not tax-deductible and goes directly to the union’s coffers.
And what does the POA do with its money?
One thing it does is finance its political committee —a hide-the-money operation for developers so big developers like Related Companies can pretend not to be trying to elect a City Council favorable to their projects. Obviously, the union is starting its 2022 fundraising early.
The PAC is known for its vicious attack mailers that have attacked virtually every minority City Council candidate. These mailers quote a blogger who will go on trial later this month for “lewd conduct with a minor.” You’re known by the company you keep, as they say.
This is the union that didn’t protect one of its members, a Samoan American, who was passed over for a deserved promotion and then denied overtime he had earned.
This is the union that threatened to not work at Levi’s Stadium in 2016 because Colin Kaepernick “took a knee” to protest police shootings of unarmed Black men.
This is the union that engineered a systematic character assassination of Chief Mike Sellers who demonstrated that he could manage one of the most terrorism-attractive events in the world — the Super Bowl — without any incident.
This was done in the service of putting union president, Patrick Nikolai, in charge of the police department. Although the union didn’t succeed in 2016, despite a campaign run and largely conducted by Mayor Lisa Gillmor, it did achieve this ultimate in fox-guarding-the-hen house coup in 2020.
If this isn’t enough, consider this: When retired Santa Clara cops Brian Gilbert and Phil Cooke were concocting a cover-up of an obscene harassment campaign against journalists in Massachusetts, one of their ideas was to get a “friendly” in the SCPD to help them mislead the FBI and the Massachusetts police.
The damage that Nikolai, Torke and their operation are doing to the police department is immeasurable. They’re throwing gasoline on the “Defund the Police” fire.
How will this affect the police officers that put themselves on the line every day for the wellbeing and safety of our community?
How will this affect public trust? Who will trust the word of the police department on high-profile issues like officer-involved shootings?
Our police officers need representatives that look out for their members’ interests — not those of developers and politicians. And they need leadership that reflects the dedication to duty and high standards the vast majority of officers hold themselves to.
They don’t need leaders that take their cues from Tony Soprano.
Update: On Monday, March 22 the City made the following statement: https://www.santaclaraca.gov/Home/Components/News/News/42575/