A Vietnamese-American captain in the San Jose Police Department has been named one of the four deputy chiefs, reports the Mercury News here.
The promotion of Captain Phan Ngo, who received his golden captain’s bars just last year, is particularly timely given the severely strained relations between the police and the Viet community over allegations of brutality and the perception of coverups in those cases.
In fact, Captain Ngo, 43, will be the only nonwhite member of the department’s top command staff – which will, however, remain all male. He will be the head of the Bureau of Technical Services, overseeing such areas as dispatch, communication, fingerprints, records, and the IT people, among other things.
A long drawn-out controversy over the shooting death of mentally ill Daniel Pham, and the still ongoing lawsuit over the beating of San Jose State math student Phuong Ho, have made the normally tolerant Viet community vocally distrustful of the police. (When the Bolsavik first reported the Phuong Ho story for Nguoi Viet Daily News, numerous SJ residents, ranging the gamut of age, gender and political views, gave highly negative comments about the police. The Bolsavik ended up publishing only a couple of them.)
In the aftermath of the beating, Captain Ngo was dispatched to speak to community groups and temper their anger. It worked. The case did not generate the same public protests as either the Pham case or the earlier police shooting of Bich Cau Pham.
As an 8-year-old, Ngo was airlifted by U.S. military helicopter out of Vietnam at the end of the war, and landed in Fort Chaffee, Arkansas with aunts and an uncle. His father, a soldier in the South Vietnamese army, had died in combat. Ngo never met his father.
Reached at his son’s elementary school basketball game, Ngo told the Mercury News, “I am very honored and very humbled.” He said one of his first calls after being promoted was to his aunt and uncle who raised him. They were, he said, “ecstatic.”
Police chief Rob Davis, who was Ngo’s sergeant when Ngo first joined the force in 1989, said of the promotion: “I picked him for his loyalty to the organization, his loyalty to the community and his loyalty to what our mission is. He gets the big picture of what we are trying to accomplish.”