Monday, June 25, 2007
San Francisco Police Story
There is something very wrong with the San Francisco Police Department at the present moment, and I don't have a clue as to the real reasons.
However, just about every person I know in San Francisco, of all political stripes, feels the same way and that opinion is reaching some kind of critical mass, which the police department and the politicians are ignoring at their own peril.
At the Saturday Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market, in the streetcar mess in the middle, a policeman had stopped a street musician who was drumming on plastic pails in a brilliantly entertaining manner that was not only skillful but charming, and there were a score of people watching him. (And damn you, Willie Brown, for not putting the effing cars underground as somebody proposed at the time this area was being redone, so there would now be a real public pedestrian plaza.)
The crowd started to boo the cop and I heard people muttering, "why the hell don't you go find a real criminal?"
In San Francisco, it feels like the cops have become full-time goldbrickers who only show their faces during large public gatherings, where they mostly ignore the public and create their own little bubbles of privacy.
There's a "Memorandum of Understanding" before the Board of Supervisors currently up for a new contract with the police department that includes an outrageous 24.5% raise and a whole bunch of other goodies and the entire deal is being slipped under the radar. On Tuesday morning at 10AM there is a Public Safety Committee meeting in Room 263 where the MOU, as the acronym goes, is going to be discussed.
In front of my apartment building, a block away from City Hall, we are greeted every morning by the sparkly, beautiful sight of broken glass on the sidewalk from car break-ins overnight. If there are nightly car break-ins, it would seem wise to possibly have a police stakeout in the neighborhood, but to my knowledge that has never been done. In fact, I recently watched a mugging in front of the San Francisco School Board building across the street while a police car drove slowly by, completely oblivious.
My friend Marc Salomon has sent out the following political analysis, and it pretty much says it all. Do read if you're interested.
1. The MOU includes a 24.5% raise over 4 years based on performance. There are no objective standards for performance nor are there prohibitions on giving officers with past records of discipline and legal settlements big raises. This rewards bad cops as well as good cops.
2. The MOU carries forth language from the previous agreement which allows the POA to call for contract renegotiation whenever the Police Commission changes the departmental general orders. That language should be restricted to only requiring "meet and confer" in the cases mandated by state law, no more.
3. The MOU offers up $20,000 gifts to officers for down payments on homes in San Francisco. We all want cops to live in the City, but no other down payment assistance programs in the City offer up grants rather loans to be repaid upon sale of the dwelling. The MOU should offer loans of twice as much, $40,000 to facilitate officers to move to the City. Let's save the gifts for the City's lowest paid workers, not the highest.
4. The MOU current runs for four years, being renegotiated during mayoral election season. The current MOU was one of Willie Brown's last acts as mayor. The MOU should be slated to be renegotiated during a year when the Mayor and Supervisors are not on the ballot. This MOU should run for 2 years and for four years subsequently after that.
5. The MOU needs to include language which requires the officers to seek and receive affirmative civilian permission to cooperate with the state and federal government law enforcement agencies such as the Interagency Task Force in prosecuting federal and state marijuana and immigration laws.
6. The MOU claims that the reason why the SFPD cannot recruit cops is because of low pay but this ignores the fact that the department is in turmoil, its reputation precedes it, and that is a reason as much as money for poor recruitment and retention.
7. The MOU needs to include language which creates two career paths based on where the officer lives. While resident in San Francisco, advancement would be faster, while living outside the city, advancement would be slower.
8. There has not been budget analysis on the impacts of a 24.5% raise on the liability of the City retirement fund in the out years. Officers retire making 90% of their last salary. How does this impact revenues and expenditures in the "out years?"