Writing this San Francisco story for me is about “connect”: hoping our own city’s painful—& frustrating legal struggle—finds jolted readers, who also may be “preparing” out on the “broader landscape.”
Out there lays another “tool”—the building of national ties.
Hearts & minds that “synchronize” create “people power”: surpassing specific area isolation, civic politics & emotional “indifference”—thus, they will no longer be “boundaries.”
Greetings heart filled readers!
Trouble in Black Paradise finds a legacy of corrupt “cop culture” flushed into daylight.
The news was expected to be bad.
San Franciscans for Police Accountability (SFPA) a civilian watch group, held a public forum in the Koret Auditorium of San Francisco’s Public Library. It was Saturday, Sept. 24th & featured D.A. George Gascón’s specially appointed Blue-Ribbon Panel on Accountability—the topic appropriately titled, “Making SFPD Accountable: A Community Conversation.”
And what a conversation this was!—one I could not miss!
Locals know Gascón was compelled in May, 2015 to appoint an outside selection of 3 retired Judges (who volunteered time) to study SFPD’s system “& culture”: partly in light of extremely racist, sexist & homophobic texts & emails sent between several cops.
They’d review almost 4,000 case arrest reports (filed by those “implicated” cops) to determine if persistent “misconduct” charges—& the continued frequency of especially unarmed citizens being killed by local police—are connected.
Only 2 “texting” cops resigned of some 14 charged & implicated. The rest found a legal snag: Chief Greg Suhr had let the statute of limitations run out; all 12 remaining kept their jobs—& anonymity.
Most national news outlets, especially CNN, choose to not cover San Francisco’s incidents—a major U.S. city’s similar killings by cops selectively “blacked out”; and a second round of texts did surface (from yet another case) but basically got ignored as well.
For those unfamiliar I explain Gascón’s assembling the Panel in an earlier blog—ironically the 1st repulsive cop “emails” had actually surfaced due to a then ongoing, totally separate Federal investigation: SF cop corruption was already on trial (stolen evidence, drug dealing, falsifying records, etc…) where several got convicted.
This had set the dastardly momentum crashing toward a need to finally call in “outside reviewers.”
Having released their “results” last July the Blue-Ribbon Panel’s 239 page report showed SFPD’s climate was not just bad, but absolutely horrendous—a damning exposé indeed! 72 finding & 84 recommendations were made (related to 8 critical “issue areas”).
Arriving to the forum we greeted each other with heavy hearts for this 2 part event—which was only about to get heavier.
The 2nd half featured the “administrators” & their findings: Judge LaDoris Cordell (a Blue-Ribbon member), Anand Subramanian (it’s Executive Director), Ray Marshall (Blue-Ribbon culture lead), John Crew (Police Practices expert), Mawuli Tugbenyoh (Supervisor Malia Cohen’s rep.), Cristine Soto De Berry (D.A. George Gascón’s assistant) & Alex Salazar (ex LAPD Ramparts officer turned “whistle blower”—& now private investigator).
But the 1st half brought horrifying reality slamming into the room. A panel of family & friends (at left & below) gripped us with the stories of these police victims: O’Shaine Evans, Luis Gongora Pat, James “Nate” Greer, Amilcar Perez-Lopez & Derrick Gaines. Reps of victims Mario Woods, Alex Nieto & others (like Jessica Nelson) were audience members.
No dry eyes in this house survived such a gauntlet. It packed painful substance on the raw bones administrators soon laid bare.
The gist of the official Panel report’s findings then emphasized this: SFPD’s arrests of people of color dwarfs those of whites (contraband found on whites also dwarfs others); standard “stops” scream bias; cops have virtually no oversight; the dept. hardly collects or reviews cop “accountability” data; community trust in the ditch—& all this in America’s “least transparent” (& 2nd oldest) police department.
Especially condemned was the San Francisco Police Officer’s Association (POA): they’re likened to thugs who actually control the department—shielding brutal, entrenched “old boys” cop culture from reforms every step of the way.
POA thwarting the Blue-Ribbon investigation at every step no exception: judges had absolutely no subpoena power; having to gain info through the same “civilian channels” gave a nasty wake-up call (exposing why impacted families get little or no info—or “results”).
And Mayor Ed Lee (our city’s 1st Asian head)—claiming he “backs” more transparency & is already implementing “reforms”—refused to fund the Panel; Subramanian, at right (2nd from right) had to solicit an outside agency.
SFPD’s promise that cops would cooperate with interviewers was broken. All showed up with lawyers instead, refusing to testify—except one: Officer Yulanda Williams. President of Officers for Justice, a Black cop “support group” (I walked with them at left in this year’s “Dr. King Day” March) she reinforced Gascón’s own testimony that a strict “old boys” network rules; it totally contradicted ex PD Chief Suhr (the only other officer testifying) who said there was no “cop culture”—Suhr was eventually fired by Mayor Lee, dogged by months of angry public demand.
Officer Williams now faces cop retaliation (threats to not get “back-up” on calls are imminent). By the way, Williams had also been targeted & demeaned in that 1st batch of cop texts.
Administrators say SF’s (& State laws) are totally & absolutely set-up to perfectly shield police from any retribution—period! Other states though, do have far greater transparency & evidence access (readers out there should check the laws where you are).
Panelists revealed a stone cold “legal structure” is designed to push back, while crafted to “appear” as if it works on behalf of cop accountability for public good. The California Police Officer’s Bill of Rights cements cops virtually being “untouchable,” as key evidence (related to civilian victims) fall not onto a “public record,” but into a cop’s “personal file”—itself made legally off-limits to the public.
It means that a precedent would have to be set. Hence this added sobering fact: there has been not one cop convicted in a civilian shooting case in this city’s 267 year history.
Such was the chilling tone awaiting a question & answer period for audience members. Family & citizen “demand” is the same as in other plagued cities: 1. All officers who’ve killed these civilians must be arrested & charged with murder. 2. An independent “pattern and practices” investigation of the SFPD must be by the U.S. Department of Justice and the State Attorney General.
Cops were charged & arrested in Tulsa, S. Carolina & Baltimore, but not one SF officer has been arrested. Gascón still “waits” to charge any SF Cops—even in light of autopsy reports & videos totally contradicting officer’s department backed “versions.”
We now know why.
Given the current state of things audience members targeted 3 main areas: How can the people make the dept. more transparent & get the system to hand over more shielded case info? Can we at least get apologies for victimized “families?” And what can be done to defang the POA bully crew? (Which many say is not actually a union.)
The Blue-Ribbon Panel made a thing clear: their research & findings are but a “tool” (one of many) for public usage in a public driven “cause”; Panelists only investigate & present the “findings”—they have no other “action taking” authority—or power (hence their lack of subpoena ability).
The “public” must use the tools on its own behalf; the Panel’s knowledge in these matters (to be solicited) hugely bolsters this public tool).
It’s why the Justice 4 Mario Woods Coalition (Above & below at right, & left) lobbied City Hall Supervisors on Sept. 19th: demanding they pass a resolution to convene a separate hearing before the “full board,” specifically to review the Blue-Ribbon Panel’s full report. Sups (i.e. “officials”) were being pushed to take action on the 72 findings & 84 recommendations. Otherwise “the report” would just sit there on record, waiting for the discretion of “someone” (a self-motivated legislator???) to take action with it.
Sups did take up the “findings” in last Tuesday’s Oct. 4th Board Meeting. There Judge Cordell gave a blistering 79 year review of jaw-dropping, vicious attacks & violations against multiple “segments & individuals”—cop disciplinary action being nil.
Much of those dept. driven attacks had crashed upon the gay community. Given this—and SF’s history of proud “gay rebellion”—a thing is bizarre: mainstream gays remain detached from this investigation (& have attacked Black Lives Matter). Aside from “individuals” like me no outward coalescing comes from notable groups—or celebrity LGBTQ fundraisers. Maybe that explains this:
One of the cops implicated in the racist, sexist & homophobic emails was “openly gay” white male Michael Robison—a darling of the Castro. He was 1 of the only 2 cops who resigned.
Back at Saturday’s forum Panelists say the City will not apologize to families (unless they promise not to sue) as they fear it’s an admission of guilt which makes them extremely liable.
Some SF cop “transparency” rules do exist, yet are being totally under implemented. But here’s a shocker:
Last February “openly gay” white Senator Mark Leno introduced a Statewide bill (SB 1286) that would expand critical “public access” to info on cops. “Openly gay” white SF Supervisor Scott Wiener staunchly voted against it—towing Sups Mark Farrell & Katy Tang along.
SB 1286 would have expanded dept. transparency: making civilian related evidence, “investigation results” (& cop records) accessible—just what SF families need (as well as assaulted gays). But in May the bill was killed in appropriations—not getting a discussion, or a legislative (or public) vote.
Wiener’s Senate run against Jane Kim (for Leno’s “seat”) is rigorously backed by none other than who you’d expect—the “POA.” Remember this in November!
POA is a well established, well oiled, big moneyed, fierce political “lobbying” force in this city. So are other cop forces in the State—leading “lawmakers” by their noses. In essence Panelists believe our general public is too apathetic, weak-willed & complicit (or “sold out”) to politically challenge them; they pooh-poohed our even trying (although anything that’s possible should at “least” be attempted—if not just to call attention).
Case & point: last December as Black Lives Matter protests flooded the Bay Area Supervisor John Avalos proposed a “toothless” resolution—coauthored by Black Sup Malia Cohen—merely backing protester’s “cause.” A furious, ego wounded POA sent (particularly the Black Sups) thinly veiled “threats”—all reversed their support (backing a gutted version instead).
As for a new SF Police Chief “all” Panelists agreed: current Black acting Chief Toney Chaplin (a local) is not the one!
Chaplin (in Tuesday’s Bd. Meeting) demonstrated typical “blue code” protection—when confronted about Blue-Ribbon findings. Sup John Avalos (at left during Woods’ coalition lobbying) excoriated him! The unaccountable Chief had steadily wobbled! Many peppered Chaplin with questions about the false appearance of his employing Panel recommendations—especially Jane Kim & “openly gay” Latino David Campos (while “white gay” Wiener remained silent—remember this also in November).
And here, a sobering warning: not one U.S. city has achieved the level of deep dept. “reform” needed—without hiring a “total outsider”—no insider hired chief has ever done so.
Here’s a thought:
San Franciscans steadfastly use grassroots “tools”: rallies, press conferences, marches, demonstrations, civil disobedience, lobbying pressure kept on officials, self-sacrifice (Frisco 5 hunger strikes) etc…It keeps a treacherous thing crystallized: the U.S. public absolutely is dealing with systemic “monsters.”
I’ve brazenly said this in blogs: America’s 500 year social pressure “cooker”—managed by legislative governors—has churned out “monsters” designed to menace; for some a jolting reality—but of course you already know!
It was clear as I stood last Friday, Oct. 7th, outside D.A. Gascón’s office during an angry rally. Mario Woods’ Coalition had absolutely irate families pleading (The mother of Oscar Grant, above right & Wood’s at left): don’t dare “wobble” on realizing the diabolical legacy of attack (& damage) tracking us!
U.S. Monsters are terrorists—“radicalized” by our perverse & corrupt dominant religion—which isn’t Islam. Overseers unleashed from the “cooker” run every social, political & religious “power aspect” of America: the legislature, judiciary, corporations, goods & service businesses, media, schools—& churches.
We know our “agents of the court” (from its colonial inception) are the police: groomed to “contain” social progress—protecting a privileged club by threat of the sword—threats we all know are willingly & unhesitatingly carried out.
Homegrown “radicalized” blue code terrorists! Ex LA cop Alex Salazar (above, 2nd from right) ripped apart “uncle toms” on forces (admitting what he once was) betraying their own “corralled” people. Caring folks are crippled by fear—rendered inactive to the “cause.”
Here, Panelist Ray Marshall (2nd from right) says absent, faltering (& corrupted) “leadership” is the top socially derailing factor. It explains why a ton of Black preachers (& their congregations) didn’t flood that room—only about 100 “frontline” attendees (in a 500 seat space).
It also tells why Scott Wiener would sit on Dr. King’s “Freedom Day” stage at Yerba Buena, looking “officious,” but not address the crowd—or explain the notion of a white gay cop involved in racist, homophobic text scandals. Remember! Jane Kim in November!
And elite “leaders” (like this Blue-Ribbon “echelon”) fighting for us in judiciary ranks also must stay personally in touch—“grounded”—as they were sternly reminded by Frisco 5 striker Ilyich Sato; he stressed not seeing any Panel members visit the 5’s hunger strike battleground.
My vested trail moves me back to what I said at the start of this article: a “national” connection push must expand—cleverly & methodically.
We know that without constant “national” spotlight, highly rare cop arrests would not have been made in Baltimore, Tulsa, or S. Carolina. SF groups steadily push for “local” unity, but a few starter actions can begin the thrust out—to reel in this “greater tool”:
Some national “reach-out” items are simple:
Writing campaigns link average folks, engage impacted individuals, locales, share resources (& honor “heroes”) personally. Here, “monstrous” leaders—detached folks from all segments—can be stung by accountability; including a “nefarious” media (with its bevy of sell-out celebrities).
Conference calls between cities (during town hall meetings)—where communities actually bond by sharing stories & “strategies”—establish powerful connects. Isolated folks could be assisted, whose so-called leaders are absent, conflicted (or wobble in “self-indulged” distraction)—new leaders there simultaneously (& naturally) being “raised.”
A basic “grassroots” campaign: no community left behind!
And because “monsters” already entrench the system, “allies” (on civic payroll) definitely are sabotaged by sharks running the bureaucracy. Creating independent “public” services—not beheld to agencies—must be revisited (a visionary astuteness like that of the Black Panthers & Dr. King—both not waiting).
San Franciscans for Police Accountability: itself an excellent model.
Brave, compassionate, invested, frontline (multicultural advocates) hit the “forum” room that day. True “leaders” (from all levels) who’ve stepped “out” from the larger business-as-usual pack, are these San Franciscans—squaring-off with “monstrous” legacy.
There’s a long way to go—& all know we can’t (& won’t) stop this going!