A tale of police priorities

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By Anh Lê

On Friday afternoon, November 9th, as I was walking on Howard St. near 3rd, I was physically assaulted twice by a Caucasian man walking with an accomplice, an African American woman. I was punched in the jaw the first time while I was still on the sidewalk; the assailant followed me into the street traffic to punch me in the jaw again. Many people passed by, yet none stopped to help. 

I called 911 from the a nearby restaurant. The first oSan Francisco police officer to arrive ordered me to sit down, and then quickly left. Then two other officers arrived, one of whom told me that he was already on assignment at the Moscone Convention Center. Even though I had an eyewitness, and we both provided the officers with a description of the assailant and his accomplice, and I told the officers that the two were still in the vicinity on Howard St., the police did nothing. One of the cops told me, "I think the guy looks like someone from the Tenderloin."

Compare that to another incident and you get a sense of the city’s police priorities.

On Thursday afternoon, December 13, at the Muni island bus stop on Market St. at 5th, I saw two young African American men in handcuffs. They were detained by an SFPD officer, and two Muni fare inspectors. Both African American men were calm, poised, and respectful in their behavior.

One of the handcuffed men had a cell phone in his mouth while the police officer was questioning him. I thought that it was an odd situation, since the officer could have assisted him by removing the cell phone from his mouth.  I also thought that the dynamics of the situation seemed degrading and demeaning to this young man.

Within five minutes, several additional SFPD officers arrived on the scene, and then several more arrived in an unmarked large black SUV. Nearly all of the police officers were Caucasian. None was African American. 

One of the officers unzipped the second detainee's backpack.  He calmly said to the officer, "I don't have any weapon in there." I could see that the situation involved a simple Muni fare situation. Yet I saw more than ten SFPD officers responding.

I spoke with two of the passengers waiting at the bus stop to ask them what they had seen. Semetra Hampton and Laversa Frasier told me that they saw the two young males handcuffed, and that these young men never acted in any aggressive manner.

I spoke with the two young men, Wayne Price and Jamal Jones. Each received citations, one for paying a youth fare as an adult, the other for misuse of a Clipper card. Hardly serious crimes.

I contacted Officer Michael Andraychak in the Media Relations Unit at SFPD and Paul Rose, spokesperson for San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority to ask why so many officers were involved in such a minor incident.

Rose emailed to tell me that transit fare inspectors saw that the men were using youth passes and asked for identification. When they refused, the fare inspectors contacted police. Andraychack said a Muni fare inspector tried to detain the suspects, but they refused to comply and ran onto the Muni bus island. The inspectors flagged down a nearby police officer, who radioed his location and told dispatch that he was being summoned by Muni personnel for an undetermined problem. Additional officers heard this radio transmission and responded to the scene.

He noted that “Fifth Street / Market is on the border of Tenderloin and Southern Districts. Officers from both districts patrol this area and the MTA K9 officers routinely patrol the Market Street Muni Metro Stations and surface transit stops.”

I appreciate the efforts by Rose and Andraychack to provide me with the information requested.  However, their statements only tell part of the story. Some of their information does not match what I observed, nor what the eyewitnesses told me at the Muni bus stop.

I was there; I counted more than ten SFPD officers who descended on these two young men. Neither of them had done anything violent to anyone, yet their fare evasion elicited massive response.

On the other hand, there was no diligent effort by SFPD to locate, apprehend, and arrest the assailant who assaulted me, on November 9th when he and his accomplice were still in the vicinity of the attack.

Mayor Ed Lee recently proposed a policy permitting police officers to detain and search certain individuals on the street if police deemed it necessary. After vigorous protests from San Franciscans and the Board of Supervisors on the grounds that such a policy would encourage racial profiling, the mayor withdrew the plan.

Still, I have to wonder: Is sending that many officers to handle a simple Muni fare situation involving two young African American males necessary -- or is it racial profiling at its extreme? Is this how we as San Franciscans want to see our tax dollars spent -- and wasted?

Comments

Who hasn't jaywalked, failed to stop completely at a red light before turning right, knowingly underpaid a sales clerk by not correcting his error, puffed on a joint?

Make enough laws and everyone's a criminal. Build enough private prisons and the police state must produce people to fill the cells.

I just witnessed a cop unnecessarily escalate a situation with a pedestrian who was carrying an open beer in a paper bag. The beer wasn't the issue, it was the pedestrian's slowness to respond to the cop's authority. So now the guy has a ticket for almost no reason. And the cops gave him a hard time because "they had something better to do." Well, go do it then, dump the beer, and leave the guy alone rather than waste 15 minutes, bully and scare the guy, and clog up the legal system for a "quality of life" citation.

This happened to a white guy in his early 40's. Imagine the treatment of groups that the authorities assume are criminals.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 1:34 pm

The only quality of life involved here is that of the insecure cop who uses a gun and a badge to compensate.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 1:43 pm

in a park, if there are more serious crimes going on. But if we are going to make such laws, then we must enforce them or those laws might as well not exist. While if you don't like the law, then vote to have it changed.

We can't just obey the laws we approve of and disregard the rest. It doesn't work that way.

Getting back to the "walking while black" issue, even Jesse Jackson said (and he can get away with saying this) that when he hears footsteps behind him and looks around, he feels a sense of relief when that person turns out to be white. He's making the same judgment as these cops were.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 1:50 pm

Troll. Cops stop to ticket cyclists all the time as autos run red lights and threaten pedestrians. Cops enforce whatever laws they want to whenever they want to, they call their own work plan. The cops lose on policing policy when they go before the voters.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 2:23 pm

put forward by progressives such as now-Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi and grudgingly supported by the other wing simply because it had such broad community support was opposed at every juncture by the cops.

Heather Fong said it couldn't be done, but then when it was going to be legislated she came out with a completely different analysis in her attempt to keep weasel room for the SFPD.

Now it's a law and the cops can't spend all their time cooping and maybe trolling the internet on their dash-mounted laptops.

Poor, sad, cop-infatuated bootlickers. How fucking sad for you to have lost that so convincingly.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 2:38 pm

When did that become official SF progressive dogma?

Posted by anon on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 5:05 pm

I don't hate cops. I hate "cop-lovers" -- by which I mean people
who don't have the capacity to judge both the good and bad behavior among them.

As a matter of fact, in general, I respect cops and the occupational hazards they face.

The physical danger that cops undergo is well known; they face a risk of death on the job comparable to taxi cab drivers, and not more than a long stone's throw from some really hazardous professions like pilot, electrician, and fishermen.

And cops also face the risk of developing a jaundiced view of their fellow men. I think that's an underappreciated problem that merits more consideration.

Cops must be fairly intelligent since they all have to learn law and pass exams.

For all these reasons cops deserve respect and admiration,* but I stop short of thinking that they shouldn't be under civilian control, and that is what separates us.

*NOT ALL COPS

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 6:12 pm

is that the mayor we elected is not to your political liking and so, not surprisingly, many of his policles you don't like either, including how the cops work.

But that doesn't mean that the cops aren't being run the way most SF'ers like. The 60% that wanted Lee over Avalos wanted a cop force that is aggressive with criminals, and are comfortable here and there if there are a few unfortunate incidents along the way.

If a majority of SF'ers thought like you, then we'd have a different mayor, and so a different police force. In fact, Oakland's cops continually bitch that their ultra-liberal criminal-friendly mayor ties their hands. That's why the feds are now taking over OPD, which would happen here too if your "hug a thug" polcies replaced real polcie work.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 6:24 pm

The reason the Feds were considering taking over the OPD has nothing to do with "hug a thug" policies, whatever that means.

The OPD is on a short leash because of systemic unjustified police violence, such as the Riders Scandal and the attack on peaceful protesters at the Port in 2003, plus they almost killed Scott Olsen at Occupy Oakland in October, 2011.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allen_v._City_of_Oakland
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2003_Port_of_Oakland_dock_protest
http://vimeo.com/31187119

Your pattern of making shit up undermines what little credibility you have on these comment pages.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 6:54 pm

overseer can over-ride Quan.

The reason for that is manyfold. There were multiple violations over many years.

The people in Oakland have more faith in the Feds or in the State than in Oakland's own government. I'd remind you that the State took over Oakland's school district as well.

Point is - Oakland is a basketcase and we need to avoid that.

Posted by Anonymous on Jan. 06, 2013 @ 10:20 am

Troll. Cops resist Board efforts to legislate cop priorities even when reaffirmed by the voters, the Mayor is often proven wrong.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 8:34 pm

cannot do their job if that happens. The voters support the main priority of the police being protecting life and property. How that is achieved is tactical and best left to those with the knowledge and judgment to do so. Voters, politicans and activists don't have that ability.

I would not trust somebody like you to supervise police because you have very skewed views of what they should be focusing on.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 07, 2013 @ 7:32 am

You'll get a ticket but you won't get detained.

It's not clear to me why you'd want the cops to ignore some laws when they see them being broken.

Posted by anon on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 5:04 pm

Troll. Moving violations consume police resources and are subject to discussion on prioritization of allocating those resources. What a fucking retard you are.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 6:23 pm

thru a red, then you're gonna get a ticket. Wanting to get off a ticket is natural, but isn't a valid reason for the cops to ignore such infractions.

The police prioritize their work all the time - that is simply part of the job of the police. If a murder is happening on the same block, you'll probably geta way with blowing that red, but not otherwise.

Oh, and a pedestrian was killed recently at Market and Castro by a cyclist that blew thru a red light. There are reasons why we have such laws and such enforcement.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 6:48 pm

Troll.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 7:02 pm

or traffic laws, but that everybody is a criminal, because everybody (ok, almost everybody) breaks the law. I listed examples that I thought of quickly that I think almost everybody has done.

It's ok for people sitting at tables that a restaurant has been allowed to place on a public sidewalk to openly drink alcohol, but the poor schmoe I saw today got a ticket because some cop had a power trip.

Police need to be accountable to the community they serve. Whenever I see cops doing their work, I usually stop and observe because it's my right and because I like to think that the public witnessing police activity deters police misconduct.

Many states have passed laws making it illegal to videotape the police because they want to protect the police from scrutiny. Without video evidence, the Oscar Grant killing would have been covered up, and no one would have ever heard of Rodney King.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 7:14 pm

The kind of people who would naturally chosoe to monitor police activities are those who do not like the police. As someone who is happy with SFPD and their priorities, I have no need to try and catch them out.

So the danger with that level of scrutiny and observation is that it would be conducted by "activists" who have an anti-cop agenda. And that it would be highly disruptive to their work.

It's the same with city hall meetings. Generally the elftists activists show up en masse, while those happy with the status quo (or maybe just have jobs) don't show up. So the public comments are routinely way out of whack with what most SF'ers think. Luckily, the Supes know this and compensate for it.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 06, 2013 @ 10:12 am

Your complacent attitude contributes to the powerlessness of the average person.

The public should scrutinize all public officials. The police merit hightened scrutiny because the state has granted them the legal use of violence against fellow humans.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 06, 2013 @ 10:19 am

interference. How woud you feel if your boss at work hired people to film your every action and record your every word?

It's not a reasonable thing to do and, as I noted, the kind of people who will vomunteer to do the observing will be biased against police.

Posted by Yvette on Jan. 06, 2013 @ 10:26 am

me to legally use violence against another human being.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 06, 2013 @ 10:39 am

stunning if they didn't have to use force from time to time. They operate under massive amounts of stress and there are times when force is used pre-emptively when danger is sensed. That's valid even if it turns out the danger wasn't real. we give them the benefit of doubt much of the time because of the stress, danger and implications on inaction in the "fog of war".

While excessive violence should be pursued, as it was with OPD (hence the federal oversight), it does not serve law and order to have cops micromanaged, especially since those observers would inevitably have a strong anti-cop bias as often expressed here.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 06, 2013 @ 10:57 am

Busting cyclists, the homeless and jaywalkers is not a "very dangerous job."

Posted by marcos on Jan. 06, 2013 @ 11:04 am

homeless people sometimes carry weapons and are unpredictable.

I'm not so worried about jaywalkers, do so myself, and have never been stopped by a cop, so I don't believe that is a priority.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 06, 2013 @ 11:45 am

Lying Troll. Two pedestrians were not killed by cyclists in 2012.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 06, 2013 @ 11:53 am

Both were elderly but it refutes your idea that cyclists pose no danger.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 06, 2013 @ 12:19 pm

justified. But not always. Not even close. Without scrutiny and accountability, the public would hardly ever know about the instances unjustified and illegal use of violence by the police.

Nobody is entitled to a free pass, especially those who can legally kill you.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 06, 2013 @ 11:07 am

Extraordinary power demands extraordinary accountability.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 06, 2013 @ 11:14 am

Otherwise they would have voted Avalos for Mayor who, no doubt, would have interfered more with the cops.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 06, 2013 @ 11:44 am

justified 99 times and not justified once. How confident are you that the average SF voters is outraged by that?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 06, 2013 @ 11:49 am

None of my jobs has allowed me to write my own work plan on the fly, a-la-carte, off of a menu with tens of thousands of items on it. Either I was directed to work on a certain project or given a limited set of assignments over which I could iterate at my convenience with milestones for each project.

I know of no other represented city employees who get to choose their work plan on the fly either. The cops are unique and San Franciscans know that the SFPD as an institution is failing us.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 06, 2013 @ 11:07 am

They use their judgment to find and prevant crime, and catch criminals and protect people and property. The detail of how they do that is tactical, and so cannot be planned the way an IT project or DBI indpection is.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 06, 2013 @ 11:47 am

That disconcerting fact shouldn't be missed in the course of dispatching some cop-infatuated propaganda.

Also, I might be wrong but I think this Yvette is a troll imposter.

Yvette may instead be a newcomer to this forum who shares the SFBG's general instincts, and the imp-troll has realized that their best chance of success with that technique is to imp those who don't have any track record on which to verify their identity.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 06, 2013 @ 10:57 am

or on their person, precisely to repudiate the rather selective and self-serving footage that some cop-haters try and use to discredit the cops.

There are canera's in many public places and of course they help catch criminals. I think was Yvette was trying to say was that it isn't helpful if people with a political agenda are following police for the sole purpose of hopefully catching tyhem out. Why instead don't they join a neighborhood watch and fight crime and criminals rather than those who risk their lives trying to protect us from them?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 06, 2013 @ 11:07 am

I like the idea of police having cameras in the car and on their person. The problem is that whenever the video supports the police version, it's always on hand; but when it doesn't, somehow it's always "lost" or there was something wrong with the camera that time. That's why it doesn't substitute citizen oversight.

Cops who are doing their jobs well, have nothing to fear.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 06, 2013 @ 8:50 pm

taken by an anti-police "obersver". If the cops help an old lady cross the street, the video isn't shown. But if they stop and frisk a black guy, it is.

The cops take that video to protect themselves against the bias in those who observe them.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 07, 2013 @ 7:29 am

No video is needed when the cops help an old lady cross the street. That's not going to be litigated anyway. You only need a video when the cops do something wrong and it winds up in court.

Besides, when was the last time a cop helped an old lady cross the street?

Posted by Greg on Jan. 07, 2013 @ 10:41 pm

I fully agree with you. Everyone here on this message board has not brought up the one thing that is a serious contributing factor for these minority youth... That is wealth. Wealth of the community wealth of the schools personal wealth etc. We are never going to fix our problems with crime if we continue to allow poor areas of our community to try and figure out how to make it on their own with no resources to pull from. Maybe if we invested in some after school programs and centers for youth and poorer areas of our community, we would cut way back on crime. White women in Pac. Heights have none of the societal problems that a youth from a poor paycheck to paycheck single parent in a poor part of our community would have so that is like comparing apples to oranges. I do not like how it seems to be all ok with discriminating a weakened population because they never get the financial chance to really make it in this world and instead resort to making it however they see fit. We are all people when we are born. Not one better than the other. We should be very VERY careful about stereo type mass judging of our fellow citizens. Isnt this how the kkk came about? It almost sounds like we are heading right back to those same mentality days. Really scary and NOT the San Francisco i have known all my life. Why is understanding seemingly left out of most of these arguments?

Posted by bluepearlgirl on Jan. 07, 2013 @ 1:47 pm

Did you read Anh Le's article?

Posted by Guest SFBG Reader on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 9:17 am

Did you read Anh Le's article?

Posted by Guest SFBG Reader on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 9:19 am

Jason Grant Garza here ... ah, the police

(just like you and me trying to DO OUR JOB to get by and RETIRE and live the GOOD LIFE ... don't rock the boat ... look at other unions ... we need someone to maintain/oppress the sheeple)

shall I tell you what the police, courts, medical professionals, etc are after? Ask Heather Fong ( is it 250K retirement?) ...

Let us examine by personal example:

Civil Standby for DENIAL of EMERGENCY SERVICES : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cP3jCmJFRo

or

Civil Standby in ORDER to COMPLAIN and CORRECT : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=br3_U7fx-Bs

How can you complain if the PROCESS is RIGGED ... note can not get to OFFICE of CITIZENS' COMPLAINTS or HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION (see their own rigged procedure here on youtube ... my what TRANSPARENCY ???

or

Maybe the process of initially filing the report/complaint in order to PROCESS the arrest and hold accountable in order to effect change:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZiB1ppIX9o
or

Still trying AGAINST ALL ODDS in order to CORRECT, HOLD ACCOUNTABLE and possibly NOT HAPPEN to SOMEONE ELSE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYFPtQ0F_jU

NOW would you care to see the paperwork to the CHIEF ( Suhr ) that I still await response from? Care to see what I got from the Sheriff ... it is there on YOUTUBE.

The RACE card, white folks with more, MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS, the BOY SCOUTS, the CATHOLIC CHURCH ...

are ALL MORE IMPORTANT than someone DEAD RIGHT, the LIVING DEAD and LEFT for DEAD ... look at all the HELP, CORRECTION, HUMANITY, etc

You can NOT win in a RIGGED PROCESS and you can not fight those who are PART of the "EVIL of BANALITY."

Don't believe me ... go to http://www.myownprivateguantanamo.com to see a signed confession and the LEFT for DEAD ... I confess ... so what? Ask yourself ... what did I get from DPH and the CITY ATTORNEY after they had my case thrown out of FEDERAL COURT (C02-3485PJH) or what did I get when they signed a CONFESSION YEARS later with the OFFICE of INSPECTOR GENERAL .... is it what I am getting NOW ???

Come on FOLKS ... PLAY the GAME, DRINK the KOOL- AID, CONTINUE the ILLUSION as long as they get theirs while JUST DOING THEIR JOB ... ha,ha,ha.

RIGGED is as RIGGED DOES ....

Posted by Jason Grant Garza on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 7:01 am

Sorry peeps... the San Francisco police department has some serious cultural problems. They do behave racist (regardless if they are personally or not). The police "brotherhood" reminds of a gang.

There are individuals in the uniformed brotherhood who are no doubt decent humans, but there are far too many who perform their jobs in fear, in the belief of stereotypes, and are just plain lazy about getting to the bottom of things, leave that for the investigators.... its easier to support popular beliefs rather than seek out the truth which will always result in justice. The event think they are the "good guys" and that is ridiculous because they are human being and we know that human beings have a hard time being perfectly good.

Truthfully speaking, police officers mostly support those who believe in "the system" and truthfully speaking "the system" is far from perfect. The commentor on white collar crime was accurate....besides finding every legal way to separate people from their money, there is also the way our system was set up in the first place TOTALLY unfair and with lethal force!

Where are the heroin makers, how many arrests are made? Where are the poppy growers? Who manufactures the assault weapons and ships them from where? Where does the cocaine and crack come from? Why are there no arrests reported in the local newspapers about any of the crime? Is it because there are no arrests? Or are the news papers not reporting them? Only the police officers said that Kenneth harding shot himself and of course those who have absolute faith in the system, which police officers protect are going to believe what that hear.... not what they saw.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 06, 2013 @ 4:39 pm

You want SFPD to go after heroin manufacturers and poppy growers??? Of course because Golden Gate park is teeming with poppy fields. The gun manufacturers? SF has ONE gun shop, let alone any firearms manufacturing plants. Cocaine producers? Yea... all those coca fields in Delores Park are a huge problem.

Kenneth Harding shot himself with a .380 (which no cop carries) in the neck. Oh I forgot. They probably shot him with it, then planted it. That there is one hellova shot. On the run, able to change guns, shoot him in the neck, and plant the gun without anyone ever seeing anything.

Holy crap, do you actually think (or research) before you post? Or do you just watch TV and assume that that's what happens in real life?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 06, 2013 @ 8:08 pm
Posted by Eddie on Jan. 06, 2013 @ 8:45 pm

... but now I can't get that song out of my head...

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 07, 2013 @ 12:02 am

Thanks, Yvette.

Everyone, please re-read Anh Le's article.

Posted by Guest SFBG READER on Jan. 06, 2013 @ 9:39 pm

It seems clear if these men had given the fare inspectors the info they wanted the police would have never been called, they still would have gotten the citation but none of the headache. Yes I think the police sometimes overstep there bounds, but not in this case, they had no way of knowing what these men were trying to run for. Simple fact: Don't run

Posted by James on Jan. 07, 2013 @ 1:51 pm

racial profiling, isn't it odd that the "victim" invariably turns out to be some type of villian?

It's never, say, a totally innocent party. Was Oscar Grant totally inoocent. Rodney King? And so on.

The cops don't pick on the innocent. They may over-react sometimes, but rarely on a perp who wasn't a BG.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 07, 2013 @ 2:02 pm

Your blind obedience to authority and apologism for police misconduct is quite frightening, especially since it is so widely shared.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 07, 2013 @ 4:37 pm