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No sympathy for the…

April 24, 2011

Less than friendly...

So, there’s money troubles in the city, which means there are money troubles in the San Francisco Police Department.

Mayor Lee would like to meet with the union to renegotiate their pensions to help the city get out of it’s budget hole, but if they are unwilling, it could lead to the layoffs of 171 members of the SFPD. He would also like them to forgo raises for the third straight year and renegotiate some of their benefits.

Lee indicates his hands are tied.

And Gary Delagnes, head of the San Francisco Police Association, is fit to be… “It’s a little disingenuous to keep coming back to someone and saying ‘We’ll give it to you next year,’ ” Delagnes said. “That’s what they said last year, and the year before that.”

The boys in blue find themselves in a bad situation, something they have a knack for doing…now, the words that follow aren’t meant to show I’m anti-police officer, I’m not, I’m just anti-asshole. Across this city are plenty of writers who feel obliged to talk about heroism when speaking of these paid servants, tingeing their words with patriotic hues and I’ll leave them such platitudes…I’d prefer to focus on the alternative, speaking from the contingency in San Francisco who aren’t necessarily relieved when approached by a police officer, the same contingency who doesn’t just assume every member of the SFPD deserves the mantle of “hero,” simply for being an officer, doing an admittedly difficult job. 

At work, my experiences with the police have been reasonable, nothing much to criticize, but outside of such social service settings, unfortunately, those experiences are a little different.

Living at Turk and Leavenworth, I occasionally found myself walking home after three am or so, and periodically I was stopped for what is known as “walking while white.” This might occur if you’re a little tipsy, or paying too much attention to the neighborhood going’s ons while moving through heavy drug areas. In these instances, the SFPD might stop you in your tracks, search your pockets while your hands are set firmly on the hood of their car. There may not be probable cause for these fishing expeditions, but this hardly matters on in the middl of the night on Eddy Street, between Leavenworth and Jones, just as I would imagine it wouldn’t matter if I’d ever had anything for them to find and I wound up in court. 

On other occasions, I had the misfortune to suggest a particular officer might have been handling someone too roughly, suggestions which never went over well and I was twice threatened with arrest. Fine. Understandable. I don’t like it when people look over my shoulder at work either. Nonetheless, if that seventy-plus year old guy is too drunk to stand, just because you repeatedly yank him to his feet, shouting, this will not increase his dexterity. Whereas profanities can be satisfying to spit when angry, I don’t believe they taught at the academy such words have magical powers, and I was inclined to inform said officers of this fact…they didn’t like it.

Another day, I witnessed an undercover grab a young man by the neck and body-slam him to the concrete. Yes, we all know that crack dealers keep their supply in their mouths, wrapped in plastic and yes, the officer inferred this was cause for the choke-slam. Notwithstanding, I’m quite sure the reason this particular officer even addressed me at all, was my witnessing of the obligatory kick to the mid-section after the dealer was down.

Combine these three ready-made examples with my general dislike of the SFPD practice that involves their members cruising the TL with mirrored sunglasses, scowls, arched eyebrows and a body language exhibiting a general thrust of menace or threat, and this is why I have little sympathy when I read: SF mayor wants pension reform, not cop cuts.

It is not my intent to infer every officer I’ve dealt with in the TL is bad, no, not all…but for some reason, the bad ones are most of whom I’ve seen, and having previously dealt with officers in Chicago and New Orleans, I won’t say the SFPD is even the worst force I’ve had to endure…they aren’t, but speaking in comparative terms, just because the SFPD are a better, more professional law enforcement group than those of New Orleans doesn’t mean the officers in the Tenderloin are great.

It really means they just suck, less…

Now, I’m a strong believer in unions, and I typically don’t care for a lot of pension reforms, benefit reductions or unfilled promises of raises, but when an organization’s mission is to protect and serve, but they are more likely to put me on guard, I become a bit more understanding, especially when these cuts are happening everywhere, to everybody.

Especially, when so many officers in the SFPD have been involved in clusterfuck after clusterfuck…

Such as: the murder of Richard Tims and Idress Stelley, Fajitagate, the racist and homophobic videos made by officers in the Bayview, Michael Moll, the excessive force used against Kelly Medora, the seemingly vindictive arrest of the San Francisco 8, the crime lab fiasco and most recently, Bill and Ted’s excellent adventures in the Henry Hotel. For details, check out:

SF Chronicle: Use of Force

FBI to investigate SFPD officers in hotel drug bust

Perhaps it is time the SFPD gets raises based only on merit and lack of scandal. Doing a hard, dangerous job shouldn’t make one exempt from a tightening of the belts. Though my job is seldom dangerous, its stress levels can be pretty severe, any job that works with people is, but being a social worker I would doubt a physical assault of a client would be something I could just walk away from saying, “Hey, it’s a hard job. It’s stressful and besides, I’m a hero.” People in my field have been told, as a result of their inability to handle the stress, “Maybe this isn’t the best kind of work for you to be doing.”

Preciseley, if the job is too much for any particular officer, so much so that they ask for special treatment, or carry on an odd air of entitlement, perhaps it isn’t the best line of work for those particular officers. 

Or here’s another way of putting it, in the form of an old Tenderloin joke:

The San Francisco Police Department is so bad at their job, they can’t even solve the murders they’ve committed.

Maybe the city could reconsider giving the SFPD their raises, the day that joke is no longer funny…

What do you think, Mr. Delagnes?

Have a nice day.

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