Officer Clay H. Rojas, 36, is accused of giving confidential information to 38-year-old William Bettencourt - who is a member of the Hells Angels. Police found that Rojas accessed records from the Department of Motor Vehicles.
The chief shared his shock about one of his own officers going astray, but he believes this was an isolated incident. This is a five-year officer who was doing well in the department as part of a special enforcement team investigating felony violations. Now he's become the focus of criminal misconduct.
"It's a difficult day for our department, for the members of our department. It's a difficult day for our profession," said Santa Clara Police Chief Stephen Lodge.
Lodge says he and the entire department are appalled at the misconduct of one of their own officers and his relationship with a member of the Hells Angels biker gang.
"We learned that he had passed along some confidential information that he had accessed through some computers at the police department," said Lodge.
Santa Clara police arrested the veteran officer Thursday for felony conspiracy to commit a crime. Rojas is accused of giving private DMV data on an undisclosed number of individuals to Bettencourt, a Live Oak resident and member of the Hells Angels' Santa Cruz chapter. It's still unclear why.
"What was his motive? What was his true relationship between himself and William Bettencourt?" asked Lodge.
Bettencourt then passed that information to a San Jose woman - 31-year-old Vivian Rodgriguez - who has also been arrested for felony conspiracy. Chief Lodge says all police officers know that accessing the DMV database for info, like an address or date of birth, is for law enforcement purposes only.
"This as I mentioned is a severe breach of the public trust. Every police officer knows that, and so what would motivate someone who is otherwise doing well in the profession to break the law this way, we're not sure," said Lodge.
The case started unfolding last month after the Santa Cruz County Gang Task Force arrested Bettencourt on charges including possessing steroids for sale, gang participation and battery. They also found in his possession the DMV data which was tracked back to officer Rojas.
"This was a very intensive investigation, and we've concluded, and I'm convinced, that it's limited to this one employee who made very, very bad decisions that amounted to criminal conduct," said Lodge.
Rojas is out on $250,000 bail, and is expected to be arraigned Monday. If convicted, he and Rodriguez face up to three years in prison. Bettencourt is in jail on no bail. He could get 25 years to life under the Three Strikes law, because he has previous felony convictions for assault with a deadly weapon and criminal threat.