SAN JOSE -- A police officer with two decades of service was arrested early Wednesday after authorities searched a storage space he rented and found a large marijuana stash they suspect he was trafficking, according to the San Jose Police Department.
Son Hoai Vu, 42, was booked at the Santa Clara County Jail on suspicion of two marijuana possession counts, one each for sales and cultivation, both felony charges. His initial bail was set at $20,000, according to jail records.
Suspicion about Vu was first aroused at 4:25 p.m. Tuesday when management at the Public Storage on Tully Road and 10th Street, near the Santa Clara County fairgrounds, was clearing out a storage space because of overdue rental payments, authorities said. They found a large amount of marijuana inside and called police.
"Patrol gets there and conducts an initial investigation, and they come to determine the storage facility was rented by a San Jose police officer," said police spokesman Officer Albert Morales.
The officers summoned investigators with the Criminal Investigation Detail, a subset of the Internal Affairs division, Morales said. Working with the District Attorney's Office, which is typically involved in investigations of possible officer misconduct, an investigation was launched that ended with Vu's arrest.
Vu, who is assigned to the patrol division, has been placed on paid administrative leave. Morales could not confirm the volume of marijuana seized -- one report estimated as high as 20 pounds -- but said it was large enough to warrant suspicions of sale and cultivation. The storage unit costs about $200 a month to rent, according to the Public Storage website.
Morales said no other officers were involved in the suspected drug activity. Police contend that Vu's arrest is an isolated case.
"We will not tolerate such conduct, especially criminal conduct, and we will hold those responsible for their actions," police Chief Larry Esquivel said in a statement. "We are working closely with the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office to ensure this investigation is thorough and complete."
A handful of officers has been convicted of crimes over the past few years for offenses including lewd acts with a minor, embezzlement, drunken driving and writing phony tickets. In the highest-profile active case involving SJPD, Officer Geoffrey Graves is being prosecuted after accusations he raped a woman while on duty.
Even though criminal charges against officers are rare, they can powerfully influence public trust in police, said LaDoris Cordell, the city's independent police auditor and a retired judge.
"I truly believe that most of the officers in the SJPD are good men and women," Cordell said. "That being said, these individuals wear badges, take an oath to uphold the law and carry weapons. They must be held to far higher standards."
Cordell said her office and police already fight an uphill battle for perception in many of the city's communities and that even a sliver of bad officers can undo great strides.
"Even though it's one or two or three out of several hundred, the message that goes to the public is a bad one," she said. "It's hard on the department and very difficult for us who work to try and build trust."
Staff writer Mark Gomez contributed to this report. Contact Robert Salonga at 408-920-5002. Follow him at Twitter.com/robertsalonga.