Killer robots, contracts, traffic stops, ah the list is endless when it comes to what 2023 has to offer us. For union business, there is never a shortage of “things” on our plate. From the continual meet and confer circuit, to an election for POA board positions, and even recovering from all those holiday parties! There is never any shortage of work to be done.
We closed out 2022 on some controversial items. One being the killer robots that some on the board of supervisors would have you believe, were going to be unleashed on the unsuspecting black and brown communities of the city so that they could seek out and destroy people in those communities. The spin was swift and the story went national. This was fearmongering at its worst. This all came about because the department was asked to inventory what surplus military equipment it received from the government and a supervisor said that a robot could not be used to unleash lethal force on a human being. I think until that moment nobody would have given that energy! The only time anything close to that happening was back in Dallas in 2016, when five police officers were killed by a sniper in a barricaded position and all other remedies to end the situation peacefully had failed, so it took a courageous leader to think outside of the box to save officers’ and the public’s lives to bring that situation to an end. It was unfortunate that it did end that way, but it prevented further loss of life. I would hope that if that situation ever came about again that there would be courageous leadership that would be willing to consider that an option. Other then that the robots that the department does have, will continue to be used to defuse bombs that they come across. Can’t wait for the next board of supervisors meeting!
Another hot topic is the changes to DGO 9.01. The Pretext Stop! Which by the way is not illegal to do, just look it up. In Whren v. United States (1996), the US Supreme Court held that a pre-textual traffic stop does not violate the Fourth Amendment so long as the police have probable cause to believe a traffic violation has occurred. This is an important point to remember. There must be a belief that a violation of the law has occurred. This is not us stopping people just because we feel like it. Everything we do related to traffic is captured on our body worn camera. If it is not, then there are consequences.
I was part of the working group for this DGO, along with other members of the department and the community. The meetings were fun, that is the nicest thing I can say about them. Mostly I was an observer, just sitting there listening and seeing at times the performance that was put on by some in the group. Entertaining as it was, I truly came away with the sense that people don’t understand the importance of traffic enforcement and some wanted to paint every traffic stop we did as biased and racist, because of a set of numbers that had no context. That was the running theme of it all. Police officers have the legal authority to stop someone who has broken a law on the books (California Vehicle Code) and it is necessary to have traffic enforcement, unless you want everyone to drive like they are on a racetrack. I was always told that being able to drive was a privilege not a right. I pay my registration and insurance and I really want everyone else to also! Driving with regard for the safety of others is the right thing to do. It goes back to the simple human rules. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This is not a difficult concept.
Painting every traffic stop we make as biased and racist is just an awful thing to do. However, it is also the lazy and easy thing to do. If there was true discourse and listening to each other’s concerns maybe people would understand that pretext stops are used for investigative purpose. Just the other day an article came out (thanks EW for sending that to me), about how criminals are using fake paper plates to get away with a myriad of crimes including robbery, assaults, shootings etc. A simple check of a license plate or enforcing the rule that you should have two plates on your vehicle — and that they are the correct ones — should not cause this much consternation. But as usual, for some, everything we do is framed with bias and racist intent. Makes it hard to concentrate on doing the job when everyone wants to slap that label of your bias and racist every time you go out to do your job. So, it was nice to see the community come out and say how they felt about this change in the DGO and they had a lot to say! The argument boils down to this: do you believe the Police Commission, an unelected body, wants people to believe that every traffic stop we conduct is bias and racist and they somehow have the authority to tell us what laws we can or can’t enforce? Or that traffic enforcement is a matter of public safety and needs to be done to keep the public safe? So, I’m looking forward to the next time this comes up on the agenda on the Police Commission calendar.
Speaking of the Police Commission, there were some things said about its current leadership at the last supervisors meeting. I didn’t watch, but I did hear that one supervisor was being called a racist and being bias for mentioning that a change should happen. Funny, I seem to recall when another woman of color was asked to be on the Police Commission not that long ago, some on the board of supervisors rejected her, calling into question her ethnicity as not good enough. Well, another meeting I can’t wait to watch in the new year.
But the biggest item for us this year is our next contract. Lots of eyes and ears on this one. No surprise about how we feel about being compensated for the work that we do in this city. Damn straight I want to be number one. And why shouldn’t we? We have dwindling staffing numbers at a time when everyone wants an officer to enforce this, do that, arrest that person, be seen in this neighborhood or business corridor. There used to be a line to take our test, now the only line outside the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium is people looking to get their next fix, no line to take the police entrance exam. The line people are getting into is to retire or resign. I have heard from some who are just waiting to see if the city is going to come through or not. And I get it. I understand. But just know that we are working to get the contract completed to the best outcome for all. Again, we deserve to be number one.