SAN JOSE -- In a scathing email to 1,500 active-duty and retired officers, the president of San Jose's police union took the unusual step of publicly casting off one of its traditional crime-fighting allies -- District Attorney Jeff Rosen -- saying the group will no longer run the prosecutor's monthly column in its magazine and will try to thwart Rosen's statewide political ambitions.
The email blast from Jim Unland, president of the San Jose Police Officers Association, came in response to Rosen's endorsement of two local candidates who support Measure B, the city's controversial pension reform act. San Jose voters overwhelmingly approved Measure B in 2012 over strong union opposition. Since then, hundreds of cops have been quitting for better-paying cities, and the exodus has coincided with increasing crime rates and longer response times.
Rosen recently endorsed City Council candidate Don Gagliardi, rather than San Jose police officer Raul Peralez, who finished first in the June primary and is backed by the San Jose Police Officers Association. Unland said he abruptly learned about the endorsement when Gagliardi posted it on Facebook.
Earlier this year, Rosen endorsed Councilman Sam Liccardo, who came in second in the mayoral primary against Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese.
"It is disingenuous of (Rosen) to look the men and women of the SJPD in the eye, the way he has, and say he supports us at the same time he supports politicians who champion the very policies destroying us," Unland wrote in the email. "It is clear that Mr. Rosen looks out for Mr. Rosen first and foremost, and I, for one, have had enough."
Rosen declined to take the bait.
"Elections come and go," he said in a brief telephone interview, "but my support and admiration for police officers remains steadfast and true. I have a lot of admiration and respect for police officers. I always have and always will; that hasn't changed."
It is difficult to say if the breach between Rosen and Unland will have any an effect on the relationship between line prosecutors and police officers, who work together every day on criminal cases. The prosecutors belong to a union, the Government Attorneys Association, which has contributed money to support police and firefighters in their legal battle against Measure B.
In December, a lower court struck down key parts of the Measure B after unions sued to block it, but the City Council voted to appeal it.
Unland said in a phone interview that Rosen is keenly aware of what a devastating effect Measure B has had on police morale and public safety. Officers understood when Rosen endorsed Liccardo because Liccardo is a former prosecutor who worked with him, and because Liccardo was one of only a handful of elected officials who supported Rosen when he ran in 2010. But Unland said the union was unpleasantly surprised when Rosen came out for Gagliardi, who has said the Measure B battle should go all the way to the state Supreme Court and that he would vote for it again if it were on the ballot today.
But Unland added that he doesn't believe that Rosen, who lives on the Peninsula, really cares one way or the other about Measure B.
"It's future money he cares about," said Unland, noting that Rosen is widely reputed to be interested in running for state attorney general someday. "By supporting these candidates, he's saying, 'While I'm a Democrat and I get along with police, I'm Establishment too. I'm pro-business.' "
Unland plans to do what he can to derail Rosen.
"Mr. Rosen is an ambitious man and I have no doubt he has his eye on higher office," he wrote in the email. "To that end, I will be forwarding this email to the leadership of our Statewide partners in ... associations that represent over 95 percent of all the 120,000-plus peace officers in the state."
However, as he noted in the interview, Unland is retiring in January. His successor will be elected in the fall to a two-year term, and it will be up to that person whether to continue the feud.
Contact Tracey Kaplan at 408-278-3482. Follow her at Twitter.com/tkaplanreport.