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Copper Woes

Jun
2
2004

The San Francisco Examiner, which is slowly but surely becoming a good local news read, ran a smart opinion piece Monday. The essay by former Alameda County prosecutor Patrick Mattimore talked intelligently about the work San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris has cut out for her and how her relationship with the SFPD isn’t exactly on the skids. Not yet, anyway. Not if the cops start doing their part.


It’s a timely little bit of writing. And it’s one that’s worth more than the Ex’s usual audience of freeloaders and political junkies. It’s a difficult thing to say but, look, if the SFPD were really doing its job – and doing it consistently in Bay View/Hunters Point — officer Isaac Espinoza would still be alive. No city politician is going to say that but, well, it’s worth thinking about. It’s what really pisses off the good people of that troubled neighborhood.
Espinoza’s murder is understandably still roiling the SFPD. No one wants to see a young man die; we’re getting a steady enough diet of that with the morning papers. One more seems like too much to bear. Besides, it’s hard not to have sympathy for the city’s cops. It’s a tough job. It doesn’t pay very much when you consider the risks. And the rewards are few and far between.
That’s what city law enforcement and its union would like to have us believe – and believe unquestioningly. The cops have gotten a fair amount of support beginning with an overwrought Sen. Feinstein’s inappropriate call — in a Catholic Church — for the imposition of the death penalty. Emotional displays like hers are making the city’s cops feel justified in their anger and grief. Even “AbleDart” the SFWall denizen is faulting Harris and saying she won’t be able to get along with the cops because of her decision to oppose the death penalty for Espinoza’s accused slayer.
But here’s the catch with all this chest-thumping: San Francisco’s police department is not the best or the brightest. I’ve had a few encounters with our boys in blue and, well, let’s just say that being waved through a traffic light then ridiculed, being yelled at for moving a traffic barrier in front of my driveway (while the cop in the squad car jawboned with a buddy) and having my robbery treated as well, just another day in fun city, left me wondering. Wondering – and not for very long, either — how the local cops treat non-white city residents living in not-so-nice neighborhoods who maybe aren’t so obviously solid citizens. (I’m going to leave the Fightin’ Family Fagan and their fajitas out of this conversation, but their ridiculous interstate street brawling doesn’t add to my estimation of the department’s average intelligence or foresight). Shootings don’t help.
Add it all up and there’s a lot more sympathy for the police oversight actions the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has taken. I’m no fan of San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly but his political instincts on this – to stand behind Harris and her 66 percent approval rating – are sound. The SFPD needs a good lesson in community relations. Courtesy, sobriety and a little less impatience with citizen review and comment aren’t too much to ask. Particularly when, as the cops like to remind us, the stakes are so high.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 9:43 AM | Permalink

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