SAN JOSE, CA — Assemblymember Alex Lee (D-25) and Assemblymember Evan Low (D-28) issued a joint statement expressing serious concerns with the City of San José’s decision to promote Anthony Mata as its next Police Chief.
Mata, a 25-year veteran of the San José Police Department (SJPD), currently holds the rank of Deputy Chief. But his actions in a deadly police shooting — as well as allegations of Islamophobia and transphobia — suggest he is unfit to lead the Police Department of California’s third-largest city and the 10th largest city in the nation.
In 1999, Mata was one of two officers to open fire during the fatal police shooting of Odest Mitchell, an unarmed 48-year-old man. Mata fired 10 shots during a foot chase, hitting Mitchell four times. The officers claimed they saw a shiny object in Mitchell’s hand, but an investigation by the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office found he was holding a pair of sunglasses.[I]
In response to the shooting, Mata told the Mercury News he “paid it forward” by training other officers. This response to killing an unarmed man is unacceptable and ignores the national reckoning that has been taking place over policing in the United States.
In 2018, a lawsuit claimed Mata presided over a police briefing in which Islamophobic comments were made to harass a Palestinian officer. Mata told the Mercury News the situation taught him to be “more careful in engaging with our workforce.” This statement once again suggests a lack of leadership and responsibility on Mata’s part. Leaders should speak out if they see or hear something racist.[ii]
And just this week, former SJPD officer Julie Callahan, who is transgender and served in the Department for nearly 30 years, told ABC7 that Mata made unsettling comments to her in a conversation in which he refused to support her transition. In recent years, SJPD has made positive steps to repair its relationship with the LGBTQ+ community, but the decision to move forward with Mata’s promotion and disregard these allegations is disturbing.[iii]
Mata, as a Deputy Chief, also had a leadership role in the Department last summer, when SJPD officers used excessive force in firing tear gas at Black Lives Matter protesters.
At a time when the Department needs bold leadership to move forward, San José has instead turned to an insider whose own record — killing an unarmed man, along with allegations of Islamophobia and transphobia — should immediately disqualify him from consideration.