SFPOA and SF DA need to attend AA Meetings

SF District Attorney (DA) George Gascon’s Blue Ribbon Panel report on the SFPD titled: Transparency, Accountability, and Fairness in Law Enforcement, is nothing more than a swipe at the same department Gascon led as the City’s Chief of Police.

The report contains 81 recommendations by the panel of experts led by three seasoned professionals. The panel determined better training, tracking and discipline of SFPD would need to happen in order to turn the beleaguered department around. But these professionals ignored the fact that Gascon has an axe to grind against SFPD, meaning it will not be respected by rank and file police.

My personal opinion, the SFPD and the San Francisco DA can ONLY begin to clean up the department by first addressing what is not even mentioned on one page of this 234-page report, the arrogance of both these City departments.

The yearlong report was the result of numerous embarrassing incidents, including a racist and homophobic text scandal, sent and received by some former and current members of SFPD. But if Gascon thinks this report will cause change to happen, I say that he is intoxicated off of his own arrogance.

The powerful San Francisco Police Officers Association (SFPOA) has called the report a “Kangaroo Court” by the leadership of the SFPOA. In other words, it was dead on arrival when you consider the fact that these two departments have never seen eye-to-eye since Gascon was named interim DA by former SF mayor Gavin Newsom in 2011.

And based on the reaction of the POA, a good place to start reform would be for the City to order SFPD and the DA to attend regular AA meetings — AA stands for, Arrogance Anonymous.

The clearest piece of evidence that points to arrogance as the biggest problem of SFPD is how the SFPOA justified the Mario Woods shooting of December 2015. In an attempt to deflect blame for what many already have viewed as a “Racist” police force, POA president Martin Halloran reminded the City; in a radio ad paid by the union, the officers who shot Woods were all “Minority.”

This unwillingness of San Francisco law enforcement to take responsibility of the shooting of Woods, who was a suspect in an earlier stabbing, but not a danger to police is clear arrogance. A video of the shooting accurately depicted a “Police firing squad.”

Many parents, politicians and community leaders have reinforced, “Just do what the officer says” to mostly young Black men. I cannot not agree with this bit of advice, and I admit that I am not a parent.

However, for quite some time, I have preached: give all people more respect than they deserve and you will most likely stay above the nonsense. On the other hand, telling someone to just do what an officer says, in my opinion, is feeding into the arrogance that empowers most police. And in no way is respecting the badge that they (police) too disrespect, too often with impunity.

I respect police. And part of that respect is not to allow their arrogance to be used to shine their badge when I call on them to, “Protect and to serve.”

While sitting in my truck I witnessed a Black man running up the street. Two police cars turn the corner in hot pursuit right after he cut through a small park. I honked at the trailing police car and waved my arms. I got the officer’s attention and he quickly puts his car in reverse. I shouted, “He cut through the park.” The officer relays the information on his radio and then takes off. I honestly forgot all about the incident.

A half hour later, the same officer came back around and pulled up alongside me and thanked me. These officers were not chasing a murder suspect in this case, they were chasing a petty thief as part of their job. But this particular officer showed me great respect in the small gesture of coming back to thank me.

Respect by law enforcement; no matter how small, makes the badges of law enforcement shine brightest in some of our nation’s more troubled communities. And to their credit, I have seen many police conduct themselves with respect for both criminal and law abiding citizen equally.

However, I have witnessed the ugliness of police arrogance also. Personally there is no clearer piece of evidence of SFPD arrogance then how they handled the aftermath of the Mario Woods shooting. However, the smaller incidents of arrogance need to be addressed and corrected before we even think correcting one of the panel’s 81 recommendations can be sustained.

I recently saw two incidents by SFPD that shocked me, in one hour, on two sides of the same City street. In the first incident, two officers walking together down Eddy Street, then they J-walk. — -No problem, I get it and I have another J-walking story. But anyway, these two officers walk up to a man sitting with an open can of beer. Now who does not know that it is illegal to openly drink any alcoholic beverage in public?

On the opposite side of the street, three other officers are strutting up the street when the lead officer grabs for what appears to be a small plastic bottle of vodka from a man resisting to hand it over.

In both incidents the police confiscated the booze, poured it out, and tossed the can and the plastic bottle onto the street as if the streets were a trashcan. The epitome of arrogance is, when law enforcement upholds the law and breaks the law with an exclamation point of littering. And before anyone suggests it does not look good if uniform officers are seen holding empty cans or bottles of booze while on duty, I submit that in these two cases there were nearby receptacles.

June 25, 2016 Eddy Street, these two police officers confront man for the offense of open container in public. They pour out his beer and toss the can in the street (picture of can in red half circle)

The other J-walking incident: I am following perfect parking procedure as I attempt to back into a parking place. I then slam on my breaks because I see an SFPD who I narrowly missed hitting. The officer also suddenly stops but in anger he parts to my door. “You were about to hit me!” he yelled. I yelled back, “Your J-walking!”

This officer paused and reflected on his role in almost getting hit by my truck. He was parked across the street and got out of his car, darting across the middle of the block between two vehicles. The officer then loudly responded: “We’re both wrong!” And left too arrogant to admit he was 100% in the wrong.

The simple solution for turning around SFPD is to get rid of the arrogance within the department, which can be done with respected leadership. And dare I say, a report commissioned by the DA, who was incapable of changing the culture of SFPD when he was its Chief of Police will never be respected by the SFPOA.

As long as San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon and the SFPOA are unwilling to admit and attend regular AA meetings, we should scale down the 81 recommendations down to a ten step program.

1983 to 1993 Bible Study teacher at SF juvenile hall. Currently prison reform activist and author of Case Game - Activating the Activist; an autobiography.

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