Last month our new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was approved by a 10-1 vote from the Board of Supervisors. Active and retired members had been following this contract drama as it played out in the media, the local newspapers, and videos of the board meetings that had been held to discuss the contract up to the vote on it. There were many back and forth discussions whether this contract could help to keep our current officers here in the City and attract new recruits. The common theme from the Board’s constituents was to shore up staffing levels and get sufficient police coverage in their districts.
It was a daunting task, and I am glad it is over. Although when Supervisor Stefani, said SFPD should be paid way more, a part of me was tempted to stand up and shout: how much more? But, alas, once we signed the tentative agreement, the deal was struck. Now we are on to the next thing, because in San Francisco there is always another thing.
Next up, the California National Guard and California Highway Patrol (CHP) are being asked by the Governor to come into San Francisco to help with the fentanyl crisis that has plagued the city for some time now, and continues to get worse, as evidenced by the deterioration of the streets etc.. The call to bring in the National Guard and CHP has caused many people to say that the war on drugs is being resurrected. That could not be further from the truth. Somehow, some equate discussion of anything having to do with the military creates the image in their minds eye with tanks rolling through the Tenderloin, creating a military zone. Now that would be a sight to see. The tragedy is that I don’t believe that the people laying out or stooped over in their drug induced haze would bat an eye seeing a tank in front of them. I guess we have fallen down the rabbit hole so much so that our local politicians, and now the Governor, are reacting by saying that the city needs help from outside sources and can’t figure it out. I am sure in short order there will be MOUs and policies to be hashed out. How we deal with all of this remains to be seen.
For now, we will continue to address the de-policing policies that keep rolling through from our own commission as well as some forthcoming laws making their way through the California State Assembly and Senate. There are a slew of bills coming through that everyone should be keenly aware. What is being proposed on the local, state, and federal level will make our job that much tougher to do. This again, is in direct opposition to the wishes of communities that are being plagued by crime not seen in other communities. It is easy to sit in a gated community with a billionaire spouse and throw money and support behind something that is detrimental to communities of color under the guise of helping. People who call themselves leaders are allowing people to die out on the street. We see it day in and day out. Imagine if there was no Narcan? What would those numbers be like? Would it be enough for action? Leaders can’t or are afraid to stand up and say it is wrong to compel people to get help. These same people who cannot make rational decisions about their own welfare and continue to wallow in the pit of mental illness, the throes of addiction, or both. We have laws, don’t we? Those same laws need to be enforced to effect the change that we need. I believe that the public supports us in our core mission of keeping people safe, but I question whether some in our government do.
It is no secret that the people in this profession have made some major missteps. Those incidents have set the profession back. Those people do not represent all of us. The majority that come into this profession do so to serve and do it with integrity. But as it happens, reform is sometimes more about punishing everyone which includes the communities we serve, when the ability to do our job is taken away by policies that do little to correct the problems at hand. Currently there is legislation being proposed in the California legislature to take away police canines (AB 742-Jackson), to take away Consent searches (AB 93-Bryan), to allow anyone to listen to law enforcement radio communications in real time (SB 719-Becker) another bill that would take away our ability to stop vehicles for low level traffic violations (SB 50-Bradford), but this is also happening with our commission in the new Department General Order (DGO) 9.07 Restricting the Use of Pretext Stops.
Never mind the fact that most of the drugs and guns that we see on the streets of this state and its cities are found in vehicles, not to mention that people who are being trafficked up and down this state, are moved by vehicles. God forbid we stop a vehicle for having expired registration, a headlight or tail light out or a cracked windshield because that is what some politician believes is racist behavior on the part of the police officer. Those vehicle codes are on the books for a reason. Guess what? They are the law. Unless I missed something…
It seems that the commission believes that they can determine, through specific directions, how they want us to exercise our own individual discretion when effecting traffic stops. Especially those that are considered low level, the ones that they believe to be non-effective. Those “non-effective” stops have led to solving crimes and catching criminals. An officer’s individual discretion is made up of several factors and don’t fit neatly into a catch all. I guess they really do want all of us to think the same way.