The strength of a democracy and the quality of life enjoyed by its citizens are determined in large measure by the ability of the police to discharge their duties. - Herman Goldstein, Policing a Free Society, 1977
It was called the playpen of countercultures, a place where “sirens make white streaks of sound in the sky” and “a grownup swinging town” (Frank Sinatra said that). I recently visited San Francisco en route from our SafeGrowth summit.
I love this town! It has art, music, walkability, interesting streets, and culture at every turn. If you are bored here, check your pulse.
True, it’s housing costs are out of reach and traffic is a nightmare. But consider the rest: Eclectic and world famous architecture. Birthplace of the United Nations. Mother to Silicon Valley and the world’s biggest tech startups. Home to film noir, hippies, the largest and oldest Chinatown outside Asia, cable cars and the Golden Gate bridge.
San Francisco is one of the world’s great cities.
All except for one glaring problem; major scandals in the SFPD - the San Francisco Police Department!
There are cases of officer theft, coverups, and racism. One case of police racism from 2012 may have tainted 3,000 criminal cases. And right after that, another group of officers were snagged in yet another racism controversy last year.
Then there are the police shootings of homeless men!
Disturbing videos have been showing up on YouTube. One from a shooting of a homeless man appeared yesterday.
Another shooting from December has gone viral. I rarely post graphic YouTube videos as they tell little of the story and I find them gratuitous. Yet, even to the dispassionate observer, it is becoming obvious an ominous pattern is emerging.
THE FEDS STEP IN
Retired SFPD police chief George Gascon, and current San Francisco district attorney, is leading the call for accountability in San Fransisco. I met Gascon a few years ago at a national police leadership workshop and he seemed an astute leader. If he's calling for reform, there are serious problems!
And now the federal government is investigating? How does this happen? Are the combat cops in charge?
I have known a few San Francisco officers over the years and they were as conscientious and dedicated as anywhere. I know one particular police executive, a friend of mine, who spent years in San Francisco PD and today is among the most outstanding police leaders in the country. Trustworthy and true, she exemplifies excellence!
WHAT IS GOING ON?
Perhaps these charges are overblown, media hype? One thing is certain: The ability of SFPD to discharge their duties determines, to a large measure, the quality of life citizens enjoy in that great city.
San Francisco is a fabulous place and it deserves a great police department.