Stephen Ellison

SJ Officers Union Criticizes Police Auditor After ‘Credible’ Threat Made by Jail Inmate

The San Jose police officers union is openly criticizing the head of the civilian police watchdog after police commanders were not informed of what the union called a credible threat to the safety of its members.

It started with a phone call from 48-year-old county jail inmate Steven Garrison, who dialed up the Independent Police Auditor from the jail on Monday to complain, saying he is frequently and unfairly stopped by white police officers. In the profanity laced call, police said he made a credible threat, saying, "I’m tired of this (expletive). Next time, I’m going to shoot them in their (expletive) face."

According to the San Jose Police Officers Association, it was Internal Affairs detectives who discovered the call by sheer luck when they were reviewing calls into the IPA. They immediately got the green light from commanders to put out a "Be on the look out" bulletin to the department for a man who’s currently in the county jail.

"The prudent thing for the IPA’s office to have done would have been to immediately inform the police department of this very specific threat, and they didn’t do it," said Tom Saggau of the SJPOA.

Saggau said the Internal Affairs detectives who learned about the call immediately told their superiors.

Independent Police Auditor Aaron Zisser agreed with what the detectives did.

"The nature of the threat, the specifics of the threat, absolutely should be brought to the attention of officers, and I’m glad that the specific threat was brought to the attention of officers," Zisser said.

But in a phone interview, Zisser said he doesn't agree that confidential details of the call should have been released. And because the call is now being reviewed, he declined to talk about the case.

Still, he is troubled by the way this call was handled.

"If a threat is not reported to Internal Affairs, I take that very seriously, and that is something that I would like to understand why that would have occurred," Zisser said.

It's not the first time Zisser has angered the police department. Just last month, the police officers union circulated a petition for his removal because his annual report left out information about racial disparities in the department’s use of force.

Zisser has since agreed to amend his annual report.

According to the police bulletin, Garrison is in custody and scheduled to be in court Friday.

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