Every December since I became President of the POA, I have recapped the progress that we have made during the year. I have also reported some of the short-comings. This year will be no different.
Unfortunately, as we close the books on 2016, the POA is still battling with the City over the proposed Use of Force revisions. The POA has made many compromises throughout negotiations, and we are over 99% of the way there. We believe any of our four counter-proposals are fair, reasonable, practical, and have sensible language related to the revisions. It is imperative that our members be afforded the right to protect the public, and themselves, under extreme and exceptional circumstances. Apparently, the Police Commission sees it differently. That is why they have declared impasse on negotiations and refuse to meet with us any further about the disputed language.
2016 has been a horrifically tragic year for law enforcement throughout our country. Ambushes and assassination of police officers is up by 300% over last year. There is not an officer that I know who, when asked, doesn't remark "that could happen to me."
California is not immune from the bloodshed of police officers. Palm Springs, Moduc County, Stanislaus County, Los Angeles County, Tulare County, CHP, San Jose PD, and San Diego PD have all suffered officers killed in the line of duty. Many of them were killed merely because they were just doing their jobs, or because they were wearing a uniform. As I write this article just days before Thanksgiving, there have been six United States law enforcement officers shot this weekend alone. Two were ambushed, and three have made the ultimate sacrifice.
The reality of the job hit home in San Francisco on October 14, 2016 when Officer Kevin Downs was shot in the head by a crazed gunman. If it were not for his strong will to survive, his partners and a cadet's quick action, along with all of the first responders, Kevin would not be with us today. Kevin continues his amazing progress in rehabilitation, and we are praying for his return to full duty.
As 2016 began the POA was refuting and rebutting the false narrative spewed by some in government and in the media. Supervisor Malia Cohen's and Supervisor John Avalos' ill-informed and poorly written press release in January of this year was a classic example of politicians jumping on the "bash the cops" bandwagon. This release addressed the Officer Involved Shooting (OIS) of Mario Woods in December 2015. Faced with the facts presented by the POA -- and later corroborated in an official answer from the City Attorney's Office -- neither one of these Supervisors could refute the facts.
Subsequently, January of this year brought us the hastily revised Use of Force Policy draft from Chief Greg Suhr, Commissioner Suzy Loftus, and Supervisor Malia Cohen. Once again, naive appointed and elected officials over-reacted. The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) developed their 30-Point Reform Plan, which is not, and never will be, the end all for Use of Force. It offers many solid recommendations of which the POA agrees, but it is not gospel.
An Emergency General Membership meeting was called in March, a survey was sent out to the membership, and they rightfully voiced their concerns. Those concerns were brought forward to the department and to the Police Commission through meet and confer, which brings us to the Police Commission-imposed stalemate we now face.
Also in January, the pandering members of the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted for a "Day of Remembrance" for a validated gang member, who was on parole, who was under the influence of narcotics, and who attempted to murder an unknown innocent bystander in the Bayview District. This gang member -- who was still wielding a bloody knife and refused to drop it when ordered to do so by uniformed officers -- by all accounts committed "blue suicide." Tragically, it was the City and the social system that failed this young man. Not surprisingly, some members of the Board of Supervisors deflected blame to the cops. They took the politically expedient way out in an effort to absolve themselves from any responsibility.
In February, one of our local law enforcement brothers, CHP Officer Andre Sirenko, survived a brutal knife attack after he had his throat slashed by a deranged homeless suspect near a Bay Bridge onramp. Members of the SFPD immediately responded to render aid, provide an escort to SFGH, and to locate the fleeing suspect and take him into custody within 15 minutes. Thankfully, Officer Sirenko has recovered from his injuries.
In April, more ludicrous statements about the SFPD were being voiced by Supervisor Jane Kim. The POA formally invited her -- once again -- to participate in a ride-along or a forced-option class at the Academy. She did not accept our invitation. Fortunately for California law enforcement, she lost her run for the state senate.
In May, we saw the scapegoating of Chief Greg Suhr and his forced retirement after an Officer Involved Shooting (OIS) in the Bayview District. Once again, another individual with mental health issues, under the influence of narcotics, barreling down the street in a stolen car, placed our members in an impossible split-second, life and death decision. Chief Suhr suffered a reactionary, politically expedient fate? He was quickly thrown under the proverbial political bus.
After months of negotiations and compromises on both sides of the table, the POA signed off on a Body Worn Camera (BWC) DGO. The POA believes that the BWC's will continue to build trust with our community, will be a valuable resource for obtaining evidence, and will enlighten those who misunderstand the complexities of our profession.
On July 22nd, the POA held a well-attended public event to acknowledge and honor our local heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. It is they who are deserving of special civic remembrance.
There is a silent majority out there that supports law enforcement and the work we do. A Gallup poll released in October 2016 revealed that respect for police has risen nationally from 64% in 2015 to 76% in 2016. This is the highest level since 1967. We can't let they naysayers deter our mission or our dedication to this noble profession.
In August, the POA sent a letter to San Francisco 49ers Jed York and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodall objecting to statements made by Colin Kapernick about law enforcement. Mr. Kapernick's lack of knowledge of law enforcement and Officer Involved Shootings prompted the POA and the Alameda County Sheriff's Office to invite him to partake in our forced option scenarios at either one of our Academy's. Well I'm sure you guessed it...no response from Mr. Kapernick.
Since September 11, 2016 marked the 15th anniversary of the attacks on America, we saw one of the largest turnouts at the annual San Francisco Police-Fire Mass at St. Monica's Church. Once again the general public came through and were there in large numbers to demonstrate their support for public safety.
The public came through and did not disappoint us after the shooting of Officer Kevin Downs on October 14th. The outpouring of support for Kevin, his wife Corey, and the SFPD was simply overwhelming. Telephone calls, emails, and cards of support and well wishes came into the POA from all corners of the country and from Canada. It was beyond impressive.
This year, like past years, members of the SFPD have demonstrated their commitment and dedication to the community that they serve. The heroic acts performed by these men and women are far too numerous to list. Whether it is an off-duty officer confronting an armed robbery suspect in Oakland, or our Marine Unit rescuing a group of high school sailors who's sailboat had capsized on the bay, or a group of Bayview officers who pass the hat and purchase a new bike for a child who had his bike stolen, or the hundreds upon hundreds guns that were taken off the street by the SFPD, or the Central officers who foiled a broad daylight armed robbery that was caught on video, or the off-duty officers who prepare Thanksgiving dinner for families whose children are hospitalized. The men and women of the SFPD have been there and will continue to be there for our community.
I will conclude with one of the many findings (page 62) from the U.S. Department of Justice COPS report released on October 12, 2016. "There is no evidence that explicit bias is widespread [in the SFPD]. On the contrary, the team observed a law enforcement agency that for the most part showed genuine compassion, caring, and professionalism toward the people of San Francisco."
On behalf of the SFPOA Board of Directors I wish all a festive and joyous holiday season, a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and peace in 2017.