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San Jose City Leaders Call Police Quitting Threats A 'Scare Tactic' During Mayoral Race

SAN JOSE (CBS SF) -- A story KPIX 5 broke last week has people in San Jose talking about next month's mayoral election.

CEO of the Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce Matt Mahood said he was shocked and disgusted after seeing a KPIX 5 story last week where reporter Kiet Do approached the union president to confirm rumors that around 200 police officers would quit if Sam Liccardo were elected mayor.

"These types of scare tactics coming from the POA, are disturbing," Mahood said.

Mayor Chuck Reed, who is a strong Liccardo supporter, says it's election year theatrics.

"The police union makes pretty bold statements all the time, because we're in the middle of a political campaign," Reed said. "And they're doing everything they can to undermine the department, and predicting bad things is just part of what they do."

Over the past few years, about 400 officers have either been laid off, gone to other departments, or retired. Many left because of pay cuts, or cuts to retirement benefits from pension reform.

The Chamber of Commerce says the police union played a major role in the exodus.

"They have been helping police officers leave, directing them to job fairs, promoting the fact that the city of San Jose is a bad place to work," Mahood said.  "Those types of scare tactics undermine the city's ability to keep, retain and attract new police officers."

Police union president Jim Unland has no regrets, and doubled down on his prediction, now saying 200 is on the low end of the range.

"To think that my job as the POA president is to sell their failed policies, that's just crazy," Unland said. "And now we're issuing a new warning. If you continue eight more years of this, more officers are gonna leave. It's just what's gonna happen. It's not a threat, it's not an intimidation, it's just a warning that this is the consequence to continuing these policies."

Liccardo says he's focused on solutions, like reinstating officer pay, while the union is fear-mongering.

"The residents I talk to who hear these kinds of veiled threats, consider it political blackmail," Liccardo said. "They're smarter than that and they're not going to be bullied. They know it's their job to elect the next mayor, not the job of a union boss."

The city is on pace to hire 50 new officers this year, however 95 officers have already been lost due to either resignation or retirement.

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