Stephen Ellison

Public Concern Over Hiring of New Los Gatos Police Officer

After a use-of-force incident caught on video in 2016, the former SJSU officer was fired but then reinstated

A college campus police officer who was fired after being captured on video violently beating a suspect has resurfaced as an officer in Los Gatos.

There is growing public concern in the town over new Officer Johnathon Silva, and it’s all centered around the video of him on a call while working with the San Jose State University police in 2016. People are viewing it and trying to decide if the officer’s use of force was justified or not.

"Shh ... lower your voice. I need your name, or I’m going to take you to jail," Silva is heard telling Phillip Chong in the video. Chong was accused of watching pornography in the library and acting strangely.

Silva became exasperated at Chong’s bizarre responses to the officer's questions.

"What’s your birthday?" Silva asks.

"Uhh ... I can change it so ..." Chong responds.

"No, your real birthday," Silva says.

"I don’t have one. I swear to god," Chong replies.

At that point, the video shows Silva yelling at Chong to stand up, then he takes him down and punches him.

Silva was initially cleared of excessive force by then-San Jose State police Chief Peter Decena. But Chong sued. The university reviewed the video, settled out of court and fired Silva.

Even though Silva was reinstated by the state personnel board, he quit and was hired by Decena, now the Los Gatos chief.

The video was made public after media outlets used the new state police transparency law.

A Nextdoor poll of more than 500 people in Los Gatos showed overwhelming support for Silva’s hiring to be reviewed. One participant, who asked not to be named, said Silva needs more evaluation.

"Is this a deep-rooted issue that can’t be managed?" the person asked.

In a statement, the Decena said Silva had been reinstated and had undergone all the necessary tests and evaluations to be hired.

Many people who took part in the Nextdoor poll said they believe public pressure will force the town to review the hiring.

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