Categories: Nato Green

My spontaneous ice cream social about police reform with Mayor Lee

Last month was my kids’ birthday. Because I am an #InvolvedDad, I organized their birthday party, which included hosting a slumber party of nine 9-year old people who currently identify as girls. As a result, my ability to facilitate high-intensity multilateral negotiations is at a peak, and I’m ready to broker Middle East peace.

A fun thing about parenting is when life prompts interesting discussions with the children and an occasion to indoctrinate them.

To prepare for the party, we went to Mitchell’s Ice Cream to stock up on Grasshopper Pie and Peanut Butter Indulgence. We walked in and took our place in line behind Mayor Ed Lee. He was with two bodyguards. He bought a double scoop on a waffle cone — flavor unknown — and singles for his squad.

Mostly, I don’t yell at strangers. The noteworthy exception is that I derive great satisfaction in hollering pro-abortion invective at anti-choice protesters with the gross pictures of dead babies in front of the Planned Parenthood clinic on Valencia. Planned Parenthood is on our route to school, so when I start shouting out the car window, it leads to a great conversation about why it is important for people trying to deny women basic control over their own bodies not to feel too comfortable in our neighborhood. Left-wing parent indoctrination: unlocked.

I am not Equipto, my fourth-grade classmate, so I wasn’t quite ready to yell at the mayor. But I had a question. I had just read an excellent article in the San Francisco Examiner about the June study of racial disparities in criminal case outcomes, commissioned by the Public Defender’s Office and conducted by the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice. It’s not a hot take that black people are overrepresented in arrests and in jail. The breaking news was the study’s conclusion that the disparities originate specifically in the Police Department, rather than with the District Attorney’s Office, judges or juries.

San Francisco police apparently arrest black people at higher rates and book them on more significant charges than non-blacks, and the consequences of the booking process ripples through the system, causing black people to face stiffer charges, spend more time in jail, take longer to get through trial and end up more likely to get convicted for a felony. The SFPD’s response to the findings was, more or less, “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes? Did I mention I have a gun?”

I asked the mayor how incredibly damning findings of the SFPD in this study might change his approach to police reform, and if he was open to the recommendation of a pretrial unit to address booking issues before charges were filed.

Mayor Lee, his waffle cone, his security and my family blocked the doorway, as my twin daughters rested their heads on my chest to listen to his explanation that he wasn’t sure he agreed with the premise of the study. He believed other departments, like the District Attorney’s Office, share some responsibility for booking and that there were other agendas at work, so he wanted to have more discussion with all involved.

So, basically, nothing. Word salad.

We got in the car to go home, and my kids asked me to recap the mayor’s comments. I told them he didn’t agree with the study. They asked, “Daddy, do you agree with the study?” I said that data is not something you disagree with. The study came to its conclusions, so unless there is a reason to doubt its methodology, I am obligated as a rational person to consider adjusting my own worldview based on emerging evidence.

“Kids, don’t be like the mayor. Don’t fear the evidence.”

Then, we made ice cream sundaes and went to bed.

Nato Green is a San Francisco-based comedian, writer and union organizer. See his standup at Verdi Wild Things Are at the Verdi Club on Thursday, Aug. 10, and sing his praises @natogreen.

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