This year-end article is somewhat daunting for me. It feels like 2022 went by with lightning speed. As I try to remember all the things that happened during the past year, I don’t want to miss any details. It has been a very eventful year in San Francisco.
As we take a moment to reminisce about the people and events that we have encountered during the past year, we must first talk about the most important group. The love and support of our families, friends and loved ones who have stood by us these past few tough years. The stress of our work not only affects us in our professional lives but can also take a toll on our personal lives. Our loved ones share our work’s joys and sorrows, and sometimes they help to keep us whole as we deal with the trauma that our profession wreaks on us. So, we are grateful for our families, friends and loved ones for sticking with us throughout the year, and for the many more years to come. We ask for your continued love, guidance, and wisdom.
The past year has brought some incredible highs, but there was none bigger than the not guilty verdict of the Stangel trial. No words can accurately describe the feeling of sitting in that courtroom and hearing the verdict in favor of Terry. Through the trial as I listened to his testimony, the impact of his words about being afraid stuck with me. He was doing his job. Would the Jury agree? No officer wants to work like that, nor should they. And believe me no community wants any officer to do police work in fear. We are supposed to take risks and make those split-second decisions, so they don’t have to. We all freely choose to do police work. But it is disheartening to then have our actions politicized for whatever agenda is currently popular. It’s a tough pill to swallow, especially when our freedom is at stake. He was all of us in that moment.
The support of our members, especially legal defense, is a core reason why we exist. Our profession and our members will face more tests, but make no mistake, as a union we will be there to defend them.
While we celebrated the win in the court room, we faced difficult and disappointing losses from the vaccine mandate. This was an incredible low, as we lost experienced officers from our ranks. Members who wanted nothing more than to have a right to choose what was medically in their best interests. The department and city did not see it that way and unfortunately, they legally had the right in this case. People’s right to hold their own beliefs was trampled on. That isn’t right. We all understood there was a choice to be made as individuals, whether to vax or not. Looking back, we see things could have been done differently but that moment has passed and now we must move forward and try to recoup our losses. It won’t be easy. That is why I am proud of the resiliency our members have shown.
We have not always gotten it right, but we have gotten it right more times than wrong. From the vaccine mandate to the chants of De-Fund and De-Police, we have not allowed ourselves to be demoralized. The insane rhetoric around policing has not deterred us from doing our job, because we know what is at stake for the communities we serve, others don’t have a clue. So yes, we continue to strive towards making things better for everyone we serve.
When I stepped into this role, I understood that we were going to need to have a working relationship with the department and City Hall. It has not been easy because we have different opinions about what needs to be done and how it needs to be done. My first thought has always been — what is best for the members. It’s a democracy and the majority of what the members want is to be treated fairly and equitably. We have made strides to bring that about with our retention pay but we have a lot more to do. As we move forward, we will be strongly advocating to get our members the best wages possible, while trying to improve working conditions. We will only seek partnerships that elevate us. We understand the enormous task of getting people back into this profession while trying to keep the much-valued experienced members a little longer. Hopefully the city believes that also and meets us in the middle.
Change is inevitable. Whether that is within the union, the department, or city government. We need to foster the relationships that make us better and cut out the ones that don’t. Our purpose is to be stronger as a union, because the next rough patch is always around the corner. That is why I was pleased with the results of the elections in 2022. From the recent supervisorial races to the recall of the former DA and the election of the new DA, I am hopeful things are changing for the better for all of San Francisco. We will gladly work with people who value us and want to understand what we do. But we do not tolerate any foolishness from people who don’t know what we do and try to speak on it. Again, we will only seek partnerships that elevate us.
With the Holiday season upon us, remember to appreciate what you have, the love of your family, friends, and yes even that stranger you are helping in their time of need. We have only just begun to scratch the surface of our work, so take a pause to enjoy this time to be with the ones you love. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!