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The High Road is a Lonely Place

June 1, 2022
Tracy McCray - SFPOA Acting President

Everyone is a critic, right? Especially those that would like to get a reaction out of us and pull us in the gutter with them, but we refuse to be dragged down. Our ability to do our job depends on our ability to continue to have empathy and a willingness to drown out the negativity so we can best serve this city. Even when it seems those critics aren’t serving us in good faith.

As we close out the month of May and enter June, change is in the air. We all know the hurdles that our profession has faced in the past couple of years, so I won’t rehash what we all know. Recently, there have been many sounding the alarm regarding our staffing levels and the belief that other entities would and should pick up the slack so that we would not be taxed handling issues that are socially driven and not criminally. The end does not appear to be anywhere in sight for these socially driven calls to be dispatched to our supposed supporting partners as we answer calls for people in need who are suffering from issues relating to mental illness to drug addiction, etc. We continue to arrest those who are peddling the poison that we see ravage individuals in our communities every day. It’s a chronic revolving door as we often respond to arrest those same people the very next day and the day after that. The cycle of street dealers continuing to ply their trade of death with impunity. There is no real transparency about why they are returned to the streets after obvious bad behavior. We expend precious resources to an issue that no one else seems to care about until it is at their doorstep.

Has our staffing gotten worse? The answer depends on who you ask and more importantly who you believe. Numbers don’t lie, so when you’re looking at response times — and we know they are going up instead of down — that speaks louder than anything or anyone else.

We still show up every day to do the job, but the critics continue to slam us because we don’t arrive at a call within thirty seconds and solve the crime! Then we have the expert crime solvers who want us to go find the stolen goods by means of prejudging people; anything to get their property back. (Something we get accused of daily and in this case did not do and we still got criticized) Funny thing about that however is there’s a thing called facts, buy hey why pay attention to that. To make a case and an arrest we need facts, at which point it may get prosecuted. However, facts are inconvenient and don’t make for a good story. The worst of the bunch are the “elite” callers, the ones that think they are more important because of their status and feel their issue should be prioritized -even if outside our policies – so, when they do not receive the service, they feel entitled to harness the power of social media and immediately claim we are the problem without providing any context. The nerve some people have!

We also deal with people judging us because of the uniform we wear. They look at us and feel uncomfortable, without talking to us or knowing who we are. What they do not realize or acknowledge is that the individual officer wearing that uniform is out there in the street doing their damned best to protect and serve, while working within the constraints and confines of policies and procedures that continually change and make the job difficult. So, it should come to no one’s surprise that our numbers are down and who knows where we will be by the end of the month, a month that has numerous upcoming events that require staffing. Either way we will persevere even as officers are leaving for other agencies or retirement. There will always be those who rejoice at this turn of events, but then they aren’t the ones who are going to answer that call for help anyway. We’ll take the high road while they take the low road and they’ll be in the gutter where they can stay.