I would be lying if I said 2017 was a banner year at the POA, or for the SFPD rank and file. It was not. That said, there were some major accomplishments made this past year. So, here is a recap of 2017.
A new Chief of Police, inflated command staff, and 272 recommendations from the DOJ/COPs review gave us a lot to deal with. As always, the POA and its Board of Directors addressed each issue head-on and without reservation:
- In January, the POA continued its legal challenge of the flawed Use of Force Policy that was hastily implemented by then Police Commission President Suzy Loftus. Loftus failed to honor meet-and-confer obligations by removing a less lethal force option called the Carotid Restraint, and by removing language that would have allowed our members to use lethal force against a suspect or terrorist who is using a vehicle to mow down innocent victims. Loftus has endangered the public and our officers by her actions. Our case is now waiting to be heard in the California Court of Appeals, where we hope a fair and sensible ruling will be handed down.
- The lack of less lethal options may have also led to officers being assaulted, bloodied, and bruised at an incident in the Oceanview neighborhood in January. The officers made use of all of their “time and distance” training, but when the suspect suddenly became combative they had no other option available to them outside of their mace and baton. They were then forced to go to the bullet, which should not have been their final option. Fortunately, the suspect survived. (He has since been re-arrested twice for assaulting neighbors, and violating his restraining order.)
- A new POA Executive Board was sworn in this past January. I am proud to continue to serve as your President, and I thank you for your confidence in me and my team. I am equally proud and feel privileged to serve with Vice President Tony Montoya, Secretary Rick Andreotti, Treasurer Sean Perdomo, and Sgt-At-Arms Val Kirwan. These veterans bring a vast amount of experience to the Board, even while they continue working in field assignments. They are dedicated and committed to the membership and to the POA mission. I thank them each for stepping up.
- Also in January, the Mayor appointed William Scott as Chief of Police. Bill Scott comes to us from LAPD where he had served 28-years in various assignments, and promoted to the rank of Deputy Chief. Chief Scott requested and received additional funding from the Board of Supervisors to increase the SFPD Command Staff to its largest size in the history of the department. Chief Scott and the POA do not agree on all issues (see below), but have been able to work through some of our differences. I hope to continue with this open communication throughout 2018.
- The flawed Use of Force Policy and the lack of less lethal options may have led to one of our officers having a prolonged hand-to-hand physical encounter with a homeless person on La Playa Street in February. Thankfully, a bystander jumped in to help the officer gain control of the combative suspect. Video of that incident shows the bystander trying to utilize a carotid restraint — something that we (SFPD) can no longer use!
- The POA filed a record number of grievances in 2017. Sadly, informally settling differences with the department or with DHR is no longer an option. Apparently, those days are gone.
- The POA did prevail in arbitration. One resolved members being allowed to choose which time bank they can utilize when on family leave, commonly known as FMLA. This favorable ruling by an arbitrator now allows our members to take advantage of the Wellness Program, if they wish, by expending hours in other time banks rather than their SP hours.
- The POA also prevailed in arbitration related to the Chief’s directive in August that POA representatives where banned from addressing line ups, claiming that we were “disruptive.” The POA demanded expedited arbitration, which was granted. After testimony was given in arbitration, the City immediately asked for a settlement. An agreement was reached that brought us back to the status quo. We shall not be silenced.
- The latter part of 2017 was extremely difficult and heartbreaking for POA members. The senseless, horrific killing of Stacee Etcheber in Las Vegas last October left us shocked beyond belief, broken hearted, and deeply depressed. We can’t imagine what Officer Vinnie Etcheber and his kids are going through. We will all continue to support him and his family during this most trying time.
- Another blow was struck on October 18th when Officer Elia Lewin-Tankel was purposely and deliberately run down by a recidivist felon. It appears that Elia was targeted simply for wearing the uniform and for doing his job. Elia suffered a massive head injury, and is struggling every day in his recovery. This will be a long and difficult road for Elia and his family, and once again we must rally around them with support and prayers.
- As if this was not enough, on Halloween night one of our officers was shot while patrolling in the Castro District by another recidivist felon. Thankfully, our member survived due to the heroic actions of his partner. The wounded officer is now recovering at home. This officer did have to endure several painful surgeries, but we are hoping and praying that he returns to his assignment in the SFPD very soon.
I remember a lesson I was taught while playing football at Sacred Heart High School. No matter how bad a practice session was going, Coach Cota (retired Lieutenant Ed Cota) always said “We are going to end on an up note or a good play. We are not ending practice today on a bad play.” Accordingly, I will end this message, at this most joyous time of year, on an up note.
With the trials and tribulations that our members were faced with this past year, it amazes me how our cops and members of the POA have stepped up, remained professional, caring, and compassionate to the community that we serve. Their dedication to the public, their profession, and to their fellow officers is admirable. The greatest asset of the SFPD has been and continues to be its members. They are a special group of people who have entered a noble and honorable profession, and I am honored to be associated with them.
On behalf of the San Francisco Police Officers Association Board of Directors and office staff, I wish all a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and lasting Peace in 2018.