I guess Ed Lee just hates the Dead Kennedys. And Santana. And the Widow Norton. San Francisco is in a bidding war to become the most corrupt, callous big city in America. San Francisco is one black site Holman Square away from being Chicago. We’re one broken broomstick away from being New York City. Somewhere in Frisco at this very moment, cops are probably trying via text to figure out how to be more like Chicago or New York, or Guatemala in the 1980s.
The San Francisco Police Department needs a simple name that sums up the scandals, like Riders or Ramparts.
There are good cops in The City. I know because the POA buys ads on Facebook to tell me so. The ads say the cops are “working for you to keep you safe, working with you to protect our city.” I sent a note suggesting they add “*unless you’re black, Latino, homeless or mentally ill.” The ad boasts a photo of POA President Martin Halloran, looking like the buffoonish evil captain from “Police Academy VII: Shooting Every Goddamn Thing That Moves” and “Police Academy VIII: Actually, Did I Say Every Goddamn Thing? I Mean Certain Things. You Know Which Ones.”
Since the “Frisco 5” ended their hunger strike, things are moving quickly. There were protests and reports of excessive force by sheriffs; the District Attorney’s Blue Ribbon Panel report damned the SFPD; Mayor Lee fumbled question time; as of this writing, four supervisors have called for Chief Suhr to go; and a recall of Mayor Lee is gathering momentum.
For political junkies, it’s the Red Wedding.
A week after the hunger strike, history has absolved the strikers. They were right. During the strike, people worried at me. Yes, perhaps Suhr should go, but what about the hunger strike as a tactic? Was there a risk that firing the chief could divert from other demands for reform? Did the “Frisco 5” paint themselves into a corner with the hunger strike where they couldn’t negotiate a partial victory?
As they say in “Robert’s Rules of Order,” the “Frisco 5” called the question on San Francisco. No more blah, blah, blah. Time to pick sides. I frankly don’t see how, with all the dirty laundry that keeps tumbling out of City Hall, there’s any scenario where people just retreat to their corners. At this point, the question is whether it will take major lawsuits or more killings of the defenseless to force the issue.
Mayor Lee and Chief Suhr are not behaving like politicians who are trying to avoid a crisis. They’re behaving like people who are bracing for impact and hoping they survive the storm. A politician who wants a political problem to go away fires people. Suhr could have thrown some low-level officers under the bus. If more people got fired for awful incidents, instead of press releases saying “regrettable but justified use of force,” it wouldn’t have come to this. They could have done what politicians do and contained the issue with lip service.
One common concern is that even if Suhr were out, it’s not clear there’s a better police chief to be found. Given the kind of rot he has tolerated, no one is suggesting there is a deep bench of capable cops who are not also reckless, violent bigots. Fair enough. The mayor’s budget proposal to buy Tasers and defibrillators is basically an admission that the cops will get carried away with their Tasers. It’s like buying condoms and the morning after pill at the same time.
It’s not that Chief Suhr should be fired as a punishment or revenge. But all the new protocols and trainings in the world will not matter if cops believe there will be no consequences for doing bad things. So far, Chief Suhr hasn’t demonstrated he will be held accountable for misconduct. And if he won’t, The City deserves a chief who will.
Nato Green will be doing comedy Doc’s Lab on May 16 and 23, and riffing over “Bull Durham” at the Alamo Drafthouse on May 25. Troll @natogreen.