If you live, work, or play in San Francisco you might want to know something about the people who protect you.
They are individuals who have dedicated their lives to a career which allows them to serve in a law enforcement capacity while wearing the San Francisco Police Department star.
However, it’s also one of the most demanding of all professions since it’s the only job where you need to wear a gun to work.
And that’s because they may, on a moment’s notice, be called to handle a critical incident where they might have to make a decision between life or death.
And they may only have seconds to make that decision, a decision that will be reviewed, critiqued, and questioned by people who have months to conclude whether/not their actions were justified.
None of this information is new to the men and women proudly wearing the uniform of the SF Police Department and yet, knowing how precarious their career can be, they still come to work every day and put their lives on the line.
We’re hoping, by writing this column, that people outside of the law enforcement community will have the opportunity to read about the challenges the officers of the SFPD face on a daily basis.
Welcome to their world . . .
It’s 3:30 in the morning when Dispatch receives a call from a woman who states that her brother just sent her a text message saying that he was going to commit “suicide by cop” and for her to
“watch the news.”
(The phenomenon referred to as “suicide by cop” are incidents that the law enforcement profession is trying to avoid at all costs. Officers being used as an instrument to cause people harm goes against everything officers stand for.)
Sergeant David Parry along with Officer Shalane Jackson, Officer Michelle Quema, Officer Talent Tang, and Officer Jimmy Fowler team-up and respond to the residence where the threat is taking place.
They are going in to a situation knowing full-well that their mere presence could escalate the situation or that the subject in question may do something violent in an attempt to provoke them into using deadly force.
Compounding the problem was the fact that a record check noted the individual in question had been previously arrested with a firearm. The officers also ascertained that he had made an earlier phone call to say goodbye to his 4-year old son.
The officers knew they had a limited amount of time to deal with this unfolding situation, especially in light of all the planning this subject had already made. So they quickly developed a tactical operation to deal with the imminent threat and decided to make entry.
Their decision to intervene when they did worked perfectly and caught the individual in crisis off-guard at which time they were able to take him into custody without further incident. The subject was later transported to a hospital for further evaluation.
It’s 9:00 p.m. when most people are either settled or settling in for the night but not if you’re a police officer on patrol in the Bayview District. Officer Meighan Lyons and Officer Michael Hill Jr. had just made a traffic stop on a vehicle with an expired registration. Upon initial contact the officers obtained the driver’s information and ran a check. Turned out his license was suspended and he was currently on federal probation for firearm-related violations.
The officers then asked the driver to step from the vehicle at which time they observed a fully-loaded, semi-automatic weapon sitting on the front passenger seat. The driver immediately informed the officers that he only carried the gun for protection - unfortunately for him, that was not a designated exception in the penal code.
Sergeant Tracy McCray recently submitted a Captain’s Commendation for Officer Stephen Coleman noting his demonstrated professionalism: “Prior to Officer Coleman coming to his current assignment on Patrol, he was a valuable member of the Station Plainclothes Team. He is skilled at surveillance and up-to-date on the district’s most-wanted subjects.”
True to form, Officer Coleman was on patrol in Mendell Plaza when he came across an individual who attracted his attention due to his numerous interactions with others passing through. Officer Coleman initiated a contact and soon found out that the subject in question was on court probation. He also had a large quantity of narcotics in his possession that were all packaged for sale and he also had concealed on his person a loaded .40 semi-automatic weapon.
Stephen made a good arrest, but Tracy made a great call.
Cops know that stolen cars are commonly used for the most serious crimes by recidivist offenders of the criminal justice system. So when Officer Blake Cunningham, Officer Carlos Mustafich, and Sergeant Sean Griffin saw a vehicle with a broken rear window driving by, occupied by an individual they recognized as someone who had an extensive criminal career, they decided to make contact with this subject.
The officers initiated a traffic stop and soon learned that he had stolen the car, was still on active court probation for a previous car-jacking, and there was a loaded gun under the front seat of the vehicle. A criminal trifecta.
Who knows what he was up to but whatever plans he had were sidelined by outstanding police work.
Turns out that it pays to have an affinity for classic cars and all of their unique characteristics, especially when solving crimes.
Officer Chris Giles and Officer Haro Rigoberto are just such aficionados which, in turn, helped solve a home-invasion robbery case when they saw a video of the suspect and his vehicle. Both officers remembered seeing the distinguished-looking car in the district so they set up a surveillance and, sure enough, the driver (who was an exact match for the suspect on the video) returned to where it was parked and had the pleasure of meeting 2 of San Francisco’s finest who had cuffs waiting for him.
It’s 3:00 a.m. and the City’s Finest are still responding to calls for service. This time it’s a report of a man armed with a gun at Market and Valencia. Officer Mariano Flores, Officer Edward Markey, Officer Kenneth Gallo, and Officer Bryan Neuerburg arrive at the scene and immediately spot the suspect due to the excellent description the 9-1-1 Dispatchers obtained from the initial callers.
There’s a quick stand-off with the suspect considering his chances of getting away but he knows those odds have quickly dissipated seeing all 4 uniforms surrounding him. The callers were right about the individual being armed. He had a fully-loaded, semi-automatic weapon ready to go with a high-capacity magazine giving him many extra rounds.
This individual had prior arrests for home invasions robberies as well as other felony charges.
So, whether it’s taking felons with guns off the street or handling an extremely difficult crisis intervention, the job of police officer can be the very definition of dangerous - there’s no guarantee of a safe return from every watch worked.
And they will rarely, if ever, be thanked for what they did. Instead, just about the only thing they can count on is knowing that they managed to do their best no matter what the circumstances.
And that’s all anyone could expect.