SF Police: A page from the Past ...

What is going on with the Police in the city?

Police Chief Fred Lau in a shouting match with District Attorney Terence Hallinan. Lau says that Hallinan "knows nothing" about prosecuting criminals and "I'm sick and tired of your f-----g bulls--t." [Source: Arrest those tempers!] Perhaps Lau is right that Hallinan is "full of shit", but I wonder what is going on behind the scenes.

Lau talks about community policing - yet we hear about SWAT style raids breaking down doors, handcuffing grandmothers and scaring children. Further stories of cops beating up bicyclists and murdering a 17 year old girl driving away in a car do not play well to the public. What's up? This does not sound like "community policing" to me.

Specifically, we would like a reply to the following 8 points:

  1. SWAT-style police raids. [See: War on crime, SF Bay Guardian] Is this about community policing? What are the Feds doing on raids with SF cops? What accountability is there is raids with FBI and ATF agents? How cooperative should the San Francisco police be with federal agents when the Federal government has been so contemptuous toward the will of the people on Proposition 215?

  2. The killing of Sheila Patricia Detoy. Shot by an undercover SF cop in the front passinger seat of a car driving away. The mother has filed a $15 million claim against The City alleging that officers acted wrongfully during a stakeout that resulted in her daughter's death. [See: Examiner, 11/13/98] Appears to be another "war on drugs" case with plainclothes cops doing the killing. Is this how the police department is supposed to be upholding the law? The hypocrisy of charging the driver of the car with murder and not the cop is almost beyond belief. Why are cops allowed to commit murder with impunity?

  3. The relationship between Police Chief Fred Lau and District Attorney Terence Hallinan. "SAN FRANCISCO'S two top cops took time out from fighting crime to take a few verbal swings at each other in a bitter, obscenity-laced argument." [See: Arrest those tempers!] A momentary lapse or the result of deep distrust between the police and district attorney?

  4. The Human Rights Watch Report. An investigative report by the San Francisco Examiner in 1996 found that the city was paying large amounts in civil lawsuits following officer-involved shootings, but the officers were not being disciplined by the department, or criminally prosecuted. Between 1988 and September 1996, according to this report, SanFrancisco police officers shot eighty-six people, killing thirty-one and injuring fifty-five.50 According to the investigative series, homicide investigations of police shootings quickly affirm officers' accounts, and the district attorney's office does not serve as a check on the homicide investigation but merely confirms the findings. The explanation for this record is similar to that in other cities - top police administrators have shown little observable commitment to holding officers accountable, instead shielding officers who commit human rights violations from exposure and punishment. --Shielded from Justice: San Francisco This needs a complete and detailed reply.

  5. Police violence against Critical Mass cyclists in San Francisco. [See: e-media report] This also requires a response. After many months of the SFPD peacefully guiding the critical mass bike ride, suddenly the police are beating heads and making arrests. Who ordered this? If it's Willie Brown, he needs to cop to this. If it's a project of Richard Holder, then we need to know this.

  6. The Police and the homeless. To what extent are the police being asked to deal with problems that is basically economic and societal in nature? Is it fair to the police to put them in this situation? It should be remembered that the streets belong to all the people, not just merchants trying to make a buck.

  7. Non victim "crimes" and police priorities. To what extent are local police resources being invested in targeting and arresting those involved in prostitution and drug selling? How does the SFPD make the decision to allocate resources in this area? Who makes the decisions and what community involvement is there in how police priorities are made?

  8. Claim 6: Officers under the command of long time Brown ally and friend Deputy Chief Holder deliberately attempted to provoke a riot on Market Street for the benefit of the news media and to generate arrests. [Source: e-media] Is Holder making policy here? To what extent does Holder represent the old style of police conduct which did so much to give SF cops a bad reputation? Bottom line, is Holder compatible with the future of better police - community relations?

The intent here is not to just beat up on the police department. I have personally witnessed excellent police work by individual officers. What concerns me is that the department may be tolerating too many "cowboy cops" who serve only to foster a climate of distrust between citizens and the police. This can have severe consequences for all members of the police department. It also concerns me that decisions are being made somewhere to instigate needlessly brutal confrontations between the police and members of the community (i.e. bicyclists). It seems a little hypocritical to be nailing bicyclists with citations while ignoring the automobiles that regularly use the diamond lanes on Market Street. Who is it that decides that police resources need to go into entrapping men that want to engage the services of a prostitute?

Robert Price



z San Francisco : San Francisco Police