San Jose Police Chief Mata to retire
San Jose Police Department Chief Anthony Mata speaks at a news conference at Shady Oaks Park in San Jose on April 3, 2023. Mata, along with Mayor Matt Mahan, were calling for doubling the rate of hiring police officers in the city. Photo by Joseph Geha.

San Jose’s top cop is set to retire in a few months — and is moving on to lead investigations for the county.

Police Chief Anthony Mata will retire in March as he steps into the role of investigations bureau chief for the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office the following month. Mata has served 28 years with the San Jose Police Department.

“I am incredibly grateful for the support and encouragement I have received throughout my career,” Mata said in a statement. “I have full faith and confidence that the unparalleled commitment to this community and the high standards that have made SJPD the leader in our profession will continue. I am forever grateful for the memories and friendships I made within the organization and in the community.”

This is the first time in Santa Clara County history that San Jose’s top cop will take lead of the DA’s investigative unit of sworn officers. The 90-plus member team investigates everything from insurance fraud to cold case murders.

Mata replaces Moises Reyes, who retired in December after three years as bureau chief. The interim chief is Melisa Meyer, who has been with the DA’s office for 25 years as an investigator and then as lieutenant. She will serve until Mata’s first day on April 1.

Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said he picked Mata because of his local roots and leadership skills.

“Chief Mata and I both began serving the People of this county three decades ago. We share a vision of a criminal justice system that is safe and fair for all,” Rosen said in a statement. “I could not be more pleased that our public safety team is attracting leaders of Chief Mata’s national stature.”

Mata started his career as an SJPD officer in 1996 and worked his way to chief in 2021. He received his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Illinois, Chicago and his master’s in public administration from San Jose State University.

He took charge while the San Jose Police Department was marred in controversy, including racist Facebook postsexcessive force complaints and officers targeting and taunting protesters during the 2020 George Floyd protests. While the city has worked to reform the department, issues continue to be uncovered, including racist texts by officers, instances of inappropriate sexual behavior and nearly a third of San Jose police officers receiving complaints in 2022, a 25% increase from 2020.

Mata also found himself at the helm of a yearslong staffing problem. San Jose, a city of roughly 1 million residents, has one of the smallest police departments of any major U.S. city. The police union has claimed that a third of officers are at risk of leaving because of staffing problems, including fewer recruits, and those in training are dropping out or failing at the highest rate since 2021.

Mata came into the role of chief with plans to engage the community, particularly in East San Jose. His approach was celebrated by several community leaders. At the time of his appointment, the Rev. Jeff Moore, president of the NAACP San Jose/Silicon Valley, touted Mata’s leadership to expand a community response initiative for mental health care and homeless people.

Mata’s appointment as chief was notably controversial and received pushback from several state leaders such as Assemblymembers Evan Low and Alex Lee. Mata was one of two officers in 1999 to kill an unarmed man, Odest Mitchell, after firing 10 shots. The officers claimed they saw a shiny object in his hand, but it turned out to be his sunglasses. Former officers also alleged that Mata made Islamophobic and transphobic comments.

Bob Nuñez, vice chair of La Raza Roundtable and former NAACP San Jose/Silicon Valley president, said he is sad to see Mata leave. He said Mata was a unique chief because of his proactive efforts to communicate with residents. However, he said the department has failed to be as transparent as it should.

“He would come and meet with us if there were no issues, or if we had issues. It made no difference to him,” Nuñez told San José Spotlight. “He wanted to be part of the community.”

Nuñez said he hopes that type of community engagement continues with the next chief. He also believes the next chief should understand the different communities of San Jose and that the city should engage all stakeholders during the recruitment process.

The city plans to announce an interim police chief and begin recruiting for a permanent replacement before Mata retires in a couple months, according to City Manager Jennifer Maguire.

“I want to thank Chief Mata for the years he has given to San Jose,” Mayor Matt Mahan said in a statement. “Safety relies on mutual trust and respect between law enforcement and the community — and during his tenure as Chief, Tony has won both the trust of the neighborhoods he protects and the respect of the force he leads.”

Contact Jana at [email protected] or follow @Jana_Kadah on X, formerly known as Twitter. Contact Nick Preciado at [email protected].

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