In Bureaucracy, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on January 9, 2013 at 12:03 am

Remember Mike Stone, the no-nonsense homicide detective of the San Francisco Police Department?

Each week, he and his partner, Inspector Steve Keller, selflessly risked their lives battling criminals of all types–all to clean up “The Streets of San Francisco.”

Of course, the actors who played these giants of law enforcement–Karl Malden and Michael Douglas, respectively–never risked so much as a strained trigger finger.

Which gave them something in common with many of the men and women who run the real-life San Francisco Police Department today.

Consider: A friend of mine named Tom was a tenant in a San Francisco apartment complex owned by a notorious slumlord.

One July 2, he was assaulted by the often drunk, drug-abusing cretin who served as the building manager of the complex.  So he walked into his neighborhood police station and filled out a detailed report of the assault.

A few days later, realizing he had forgotten to add certain details the police might find important, Tom returned to the station.

But when he asked permission to add to the report, he made a discovery that left him surprised and outraged: Over the course of the July 4 holiday, the police had lost the original report he had filed!

Determined to not go through this experience again, he went home and typed up an even more detailed report.  Then he got online and looked up “San Francisco Police Department” on google.

The website for this agency listed the fax numbers to various high-ranking police officials–including its then-chief, George Gascón.

So Tom jotted down this number, then visited his local Kinko’s office.  For a small price he faxed his request for assistance directly to Chief Gascón.

The next night, two visitors knocked at his apartment door.  They turned out to be Inspectors for the SFPD.

As one of them reached into a briefcase to pull out a document, Tom noticed a copy of his faxed letter to Chief Gascón protruding from the briefcase.

The Inspector asked Tom if he wanted to sign a complaint against the building manager for assault.  Tom said yes, and he quickly did so.

But even though he had finally gotten the attention of the police department, this did not win him any help from the local District Attorney’s office.

The agency decided that a mere assault on a mere tenant by a slumlord’s building manager was not worth holding the manager–and landlord–accountable.

At that time, Kamala Harris was the D.A.  Among her priorities had been creating a secret program to allow even convicted illegal aliens to stay out of prison.

The program, Back on Track, did so by training them for jobs they couldn’t legally hold.

Click here: San Francisco D.A.’s program trained illegal immigrants for jobs they couldn’t legally hold – Los Angeles Times

Certainly it was more important to Harris to prevent violence-committing illegal aliens from going to prison than protecting the lives of law-abiding San Franciscans.

Harris has since won election to California Attorney General.

One of the many crimes that Detectives Stone and Killer relentlessly attacked was that of drug-dealing.  But today’s SFPD has essentially sworn off enforcement of the anti-drug laws.

Today, whole apartment complexes are awash in drug-usage and -dealing.  One such complex, located in the Tenderloin, has enough activity going to give Walgreen’s a serious run for its money.

In 2002, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a blistering series of investigative articles about the SFPD.  Among its findings:

  • Violent criminals in San Francisco have a better chance of getting away with their crimes than predators in any other large American city.
  • Someone who is shot, treated at a hospital and then released is not guaranteed an investigation. 
  • “Unless we have a named suspect, we’re not going to assign the case.  The solvability is too low,” said SFPD Lt. Henry Hunter, the supervisor then overseeing investigations of serious assaults.
  • The assault victim must visit the Hall of Justice for a follow-up interview by an inspector. 
  • “If a person is just shot and they don’t come in, that won’t be assigned necessarily,” Hunter said. “Even if a person comes in, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be assigned.”
  • The department’s inspectors investigate only the most egregious or easiest to solve violent crimes.
  • Most investigations are done by phone, with inspectors seldom leaving the office.
  • Under a formal agreement with the Police Officers Association–the police union–key investigative positions are filled on the basis of time that applicants spend on a signup list, not on demonstrated ability.
  • According to FBI criteria for clearance rates, police simply need to make an arrest to claim a crime as “solved” or “cleared.” It ­doesn’t matter what happens in court.

During the last 10 years, little has changed at the SFPD.  And little is likely to–for the better.

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