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

choirboys? The fact is that when police are sometimes a tad over-zealous, the "victim" is rarely that innocent.

I'd rather meet a cop late at night than Oscar Grant. So ask me where my sympathies are always going to be for.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 07, 2013 @ 4:54 pm

unthinking reactionary, unable to distinguish between stereotypes and real people.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 07, 2013 @ 9:26 pm

(or etc.) by cops, that doesn't mean that cops can't be dangerous criminals.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 07, 2013 @ 10:05 pm

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Posted by empower network on Nov. 19, 2013 @ 11:44 pm

What a stupid article!! Just because you witnessed something,doesn't meant that you know the whole story. Plus you only asked other witnesses. Did it ever occur to you that there might have been a warrant out for these people? It's people like you who bitch and moan about how SFPD don't do their job, yet the ones that do, don't get any credit. Plus if you don't feel they do their job, then don't call them!!

Posted by Guest on Jan. 08, 2013 @ 11:52 am

Do you really think that we're getting our $500,000,000.00 pa moneys worth out of the SFPD, including the highest paid police chief in the US?

Posted by marcos on Jan. 08, 2013 @ 12:04 pm

Re-read Anh Le's article.

Posted by Guest sfbg reader on Jan. 14, 2013 @ 3:18 pm

As an "exploitee" of the alleged Muni poverty (I am a cab driver), I cannot help but be dismayed by this writers failure to connect the dots. There is no diabolical conspiracy of evil rascist supervillains but there is an an obvious financial incentive for such an overabundance of policemen responding to a "minor" call.
The SFPD and other city agencies are entitled to charge Muni for their help under the aegis of the "work order" by which they plunder the Muni budget by in essence claiming a financial hardship and transfering that financial burden to Muni for civil servants that are already being paid for by the city. The more policemen being paid for by a Muni call, the less on the SFPD budget. The more police officers responding, the better it is for the PD, for the Muni "work orders" are not on THEIR books and the cost becomes now a hidden one.
This is an old story and I am disappointed (again) that investigative journalism appears to end at an obvious "talking point". "Cops must be rascist." (They usually aren't actually.
How about "following the money"? It's riskier sure but this writer might do some good beyond his despairing that "no one cared I got mugged!" "Hey look, rascists!"

Posted by Mike, the Cab Driver of 15 years experience. on Jan. 14, 2013 @ 6:12 am

Re-read Anh Le's article.

Posted by Guest sfbg reader on Jan. 14, 2013 @ 3:17 pm
Posted by Guest on Jan. 14, 2013 @ 3:33 pm

SFBG readers know "Guest" as vacuous.

Posted by Guest sfbg reader on Jan. 14, 2013 @ 3:44 pm

And if you believe that, I'd like to sell you a bridge to nowhere.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 14, 2013 @ 3:58 pm

I am extremely sorry and somewhat horrified that in this day and age we are still being treated as if we do not matter. The worst of this is where do we now turn, when those that are supposed to be protecting us, do not care??

We must ask ourselves where are our elected officials when we call to help? And why will the media not help in resolving this totally unacceptable situation?

My heart goes out to the writer and the very least I can do is pray for him, and others that must be experiencing his pain, both physically and emotionally.

Posted by Jerry on Jan. 14, 2013 @ 3:55 pm

I am so sorry that Anh Lê was accosted and assaulted and pray that he is well and unharmed; though I imagine the psychological remnants will remain for awhile.

I also thank him for his diligence in being a good citizen…observing, questioning, and following up with inquiries. Such a rare thing. He is very special.

I thank the San Francisco Bay Guardian for publishing Anh Lê's article.

Posted by Bob on Jan. 14, 2013 @ 4:04 pm

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indo-asian news service

Kolkata, 20 September

Just-crowned Durand Cup champions Mohammedan Sporting will look to translate their good form to the I-League when they host last season??s runners-up Pune FC in the inaugural game of the 2013-14 season at the Salt Lake Stadium Saturday.

While Sporting will be making their return to the top flight for the first time in four years, Pune FC will be playing their first I-League game following the departure of Derrick Pereira, who was in charge of each of their previous 104 I-League matches.

Dutchman http://www.uggitaliaonline.eu/ - ugg italia Mike Snoei is Derrick??s replacement and will be aiming for a winning start much like his counterpart Moshood Bola Abdul Aziz, who will be in charge of an I-League game for the first time as well.

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