The San Jose Police Officers’ Association has blocked significant portions of its website from public access after its executive director was charged in connection with an international drug smuggling scheme.
The association, which is the union that represents about 1,100 San Jose Police Department officers, previously had its website largely open to the public, including pages for its board of directors and its office staff. Now, those pages are behind a password-protected wall.
Shortly after the association’s top administrator, Joanne Segovia, was charged with attempting to illegally import fentanyl in late March, she was placed on paid leave and the association removed her biography and photo from its website.
Segovia, who is not a police officer, has since been fired by the association.
Other staff members’ images and biographies were still visible online, however. But more recently, the association’s staff page has been password protected, along with the page that showed portrait photos and biographies of the entire board of directors, which is made up of police officers.
“Guest Area. Please enter the password below,” the pages now read.
An association official said the change is for officer safety. A police critic said it’s a move away from transparency when it’s most needed to build trust between police and residents.
“If you’re transparent, if you say, ‘This is who we are, this is what we do and this is what happened here,’ people are more willing then to engage and trust in law enforcement,” LaDoris Cordell, a retired judge and former San Jose independent police auditor, told San José Spotlight.
Cordell said changing the website to be less open to the public when there is heightened scrutiny of the organization is the wrong way to go.
“Right away the response has been less transparency, and basically pulling the shades down. ‘We’re not going to even let you know who we are in these positions,’” Cordell said. “They should be doing just the opposite and making these folks available so we know who they are.”
Sean Pritchard, president of the police union, said the organization changed the website to protect its members.
“We’re just trying to ensure that we’re not receiving random calls just from any person, essentially,” Pritchard told San José Spotlight.
He said the union is trying to avoid any of its members being doxxed, a term that refers to someone’s private information such as their home address being published online, sometimes as an intimidation tactic or threat.
Asked whether the San Jose Police Officers’ Association had any indication officers were being targeted or threatened following the allegations against Segovia, Pritchard declined to answer.
Pritchard, along with union Vice President Steve Slack and CFO Dave Wilson, conducted the initial internal investigation into Segovia’s actions. The union plans to hire an outside investigator to look further into the alleged drug smuggling operation and whether the organization can improve its internal controls going forward.
Over the weekend, San Jose Police Chief Anthony Mata said Segovia’s arrest has “rightfully caused concern from our community that the actions of this one individual may be indicative of illegal activity or complicity by others.”
But he noted he hasn’t seen anything indicating a member of his department is suspected of wrongdoing in connection with Segovia, and said he wants to see the matter fully investigated.
Message from Chief of Police Anthony Mata. @SJPDChief_Mata @SJPD_AC_Joseph pic.twitter.com/OaMR7xUaYX
— San José Police Media Relations (@SJPD_PIO) April 8, 2023
During a segment on San José Spotlight’s news podcast, The Podlight, Cordell said while the San Jose Police Officers’ Association isn’t a city department, it needs independent oversight in the wake of the allegations against Segovia.
“Whoever is giving them advice that they should take down everybody’s names, take down photos, and you have to use a special password to even find out anything about the SJPOA, in my view that is a big mistake,” Cordell said. “Is this building trust? No.”
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