[Hpn] inyaface pt 5 pt 1
Sun, 05 Nov 2000 15:24:56 -0700
There is No Deterrent for Police Abuse of Power
Why shouldnıt the police abuse homeless people? Nobody can stop them. If
homeless people cannot afford a lawyer to defend their civil rights, they
have no rights. The sheer volume of citations given to homeless people is a
testimony to the investment in police harassment.
The Coalition on Homelessness has found that in 1999 the San Francisco
Police Department (SFPD) issued a record total of 23,871 citations for
so-called ³quality of life² infractions. While working to protect homeless
people from this unconscionable abuse, it has been learned that many of
these citations are issued even though there has been no violation of the
For example, the SFPD loves to issue citations to homeless people for
³Obstructing the Sidewalk² (MPC 22). These citations are issued even when
the sidewalk is not being blocked. They are given to homeless people who are
simply sitting on the sidewalk, even though the sidewalk is wide and there
is plenty of room for pedestrian traffic to walk past.
Homeless people are then put to the trouble of arranging for a court
date and appearing in court to defend themselves against the citation.
Usually it comes down to a judicial determination of credibility. The judge
almost always believes the testimony of the officer, unless the homeless
person can prove his innocence. In any case, most homeless people are not
lawyers, and they are not skillful enough to successfully defend themselves
Homeless people lose in court so often that they give up even trying to
defend themselves. When a homeless person does not try to defend himself in
court, the court conveniently decides that the person is automatically
guilty and they are fined accordingly. When a judgement against a homeless
person is not paid within a certain amount of time, it turns into a warrant
for his arrest.
Once a fine has become a warrant, a police officer has the discretion of
using the warrant as blackmail to enforce obedience to his every command.
Any person with a warrant on his record must obey the police officer or go
to jail. The net result of all this is that innocent, poor homeless people
are routinely abused, fined, and arrested by the system which we have called
One problem with depending on ³law and order² to solve all our problems
is that ³law and order² has no HEART. There is no forgiveness, mercy,
compassion, or love in law enforcement. What this world needs is more love,
not more cruelty.
The police are the heroes of the rich. Rich people donıt care how the
police get rid of homeless people; they just want them gone. The police are
encouraged to harass homeless people because that is how they get them to go
to some other place, (Not In My Back Yard). Every city is doing the same
thing. The ultimate message to homeless people is, get off the planet, or go
to jail. Our political leaders refuse to invest the resources that are
necessary to solve the problem in a humane way.
There are no effective checks and balances when it comes to
investigating the police. Internal Affairs is no more than a pretense that
is used to prevent any real oversight from being established. Do we allow
criminals to investigate themselves? Of course not! Nor can we allow the
police to investigate themselves. Their Internal Affairs investigations are
preventing the public from being informed about police misconduct.
San Francisco has an Office of Citizenıs Complaints (OCC) which
investigates complaints against police officers. Although this office has
done a competent job of investigating complaints, it has no power to require
a public hearing. When it has found that a complaint is valid it can only
recommend that the San Francisco Police Commission hold a public hearing.
The Police Commission has historically been protective of police officers.
They simply refuse to hear a case if they think it might embarrass the SFPD.
Mary Dunlap, Director of the OCC, explains that the San Francisco City
Charter does not give the OCC the authority to compel the Police Commission
to hold a public hearing on a verified complaint. She feels that we need to
amend the City Charter to give that power to the OCC. That is certainly a
step in the right direction. But as long as the members of the Police
Commission are doing everything in their power to protect the police from
public exposure of their misconduct, there will still be a problem.
We have heard, on the street, of a case in which a homeless person was
assaulted by a police officer. When the homeless person filed a complaint
with the OCC, he was assaulted again by the same police officer. The police
officer was never arrested or charged with a crime, even though assault is a
crime. Needless to say, this person no longer wishes to try to assert his
There is little doubt that the police officers know about one anotherıs
criminal behavior, but the ³Code of Silence² protects police officers from
criminal prosecution. The Blue Brotherhood would never want to arrest their
friend and fellow officer. Good, honest, whistle-blowers are run out of the
department. This is a clear indication that the department is hiding
criminal behavior from public exposure.
Law Enforcement has become an injustice in itself. It is corrupt to the
core. Undercover Police pretend to be something they are not. In the process
of fooling everybody they become proficient liars and deceivers. When police
interrogate people they lie to the suspect in order to get more information
out of him. Police officers have become so habituated to dishonesty that it
comes naturally to them. When they get on the witness stand, they are the
best liars that ever ³testi-lied.² They have become such expert liars that
you cannot trust their testimony at all.
There is no way to reform a system that has so much power to protect the
perpetrators of its crimes. The rich power elite has captured the highest
positions of power and authority, and they use the police for their personal
protection. Most of our political leaders are bought and paid for by the
rich. The rich, who are gradually turning our political system into a police
dictatorship, have subverted democracy. The police are notorious for
ignoring our Constitutional, Civil, and Human Rights.
The police are totally out of control. We must resist this unjust abuse
of police power.
On Sunday, October 22nd, there will be protest against police brutality,
oppression, and the criminalization of our youth. The San Francisco protest
will begin with a rally at 11:00 am at 24th and Mission Streets, at the BART
station. From 12:00 noon to 1:00 pm, we will march through the Mission
district to Dolores Park. Then there will be another rally at Dolores Park
from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm. This protest is sponsored by the October 22nd
Come to the protest and show your support for justice instead of the
³law of the rich.² In unity there is strength. By joining together in
protest, our voices will be heard.
In Crisis Again!
The Tenderloin is once again facing a crisis. Two of our precious few mental
health providers, The Tenderloin Clinic and The Bayview Clubhouse, are
engaged in a battle with their contract agency, The Bayview-Hunterıs Point
Foundation. This battle has lasted over four years now, and is a retaliation
against the employees for unionizing, has decimated the ability of both
facilities to provide stable, quality care for the community. This
decimation is the result of hiring freezes of essential positions, failure
to pay a decent wage and a refusal on the part of the city to hold their
Board of Directors responsible for failure to comply with city contracts.
Perhaps that has something to do with the Foundationıs close as in
monetarily close friendship with our good mayor.
In response to this all-out assault the employees have written letters,
signed petitions and threatened to go on strike. The latter got them a
meeting with representatives from the Foundation and the Department of
Public Health. There was an agreement reached at that meeting in which the
employees agreed not to strike. After the meeting, and with the threat of
the strike removed, The Foundation refused to honor the agreement.
The staff at these facilities have decided that a more drastic course of
action is called for. As of September 18, the staff began a ³bill out²,
which is to say that they will continue to serve their patients as usual but
will not submit the bills for those services. Those bills are, for the most
part, reimbursed to the city by the state. Without the bills the city will
not be able to collect the state reimbursement. The staff are determined and
courageous, they will not be placated with empty promises this time. They
have sworn to continue the ³bill out² until the following conditions are
1) The lifting of freezes on all vacant positions at the Bayview
Clubhouse, the Childrenıs Program on Third Street and all mental health
positions throughout the Foundation. Also, the immediate hiring of new staff
to fill these position.
2) The immediate release of funds to pay for salary increase to all
Foundation employees as agreed to in the new contract, retroactive to July
3) The resumption of negotiations with the Union to address all
unresolved issues and the deletion of all union busting language from the
4) Compliance with the Sunshine Ordinance to include consumers on the
Foundation Board of Directors. Expansion of the Board to include employees
and at least two members who live and/or work in the Tenderloin and Central
5) The replacement of Karen Patterson Matthew as Executive Director of
the Bayview Hunters Point Foundation.
It should go without saying that we here at the Coalition stand in
solidarity with our brothers and sisters in their fight to provide quality
mental health care for the Tenderloin community. We would like to take this
opportunity for all of you, weather youıre an ally or if you just agree that
the way these people are getting treated really sucks the big one, to help
support them in their fight. You can provide support for their movement by
DPH Director Dr. Mitchell Katz
at 554-2666, Fax #554-2665
Supervisor Tom Ammiano
at 554-5144, Fax #554-2665,
Mayor Willie Brown
at 554-6141, Fax #554-6160,
And tell them you find the actions of the Foundation, and subsequent
lack of action on the part of the city to be deplorable.
DEMAND THEY MEET THE CONDITIONS OF THE UNION!!!
Crisis Intervention: SFPD Needs it Now!
Five years ago, A collaboration of mental health consumers, mental health
survivors, and front-line mental health providers and advocates began a
process to address the growing problem of the police killing people with
psychiatric disabilities a burgeoning national trend. Decreases in funding
for treatment and other services for mentally ill people has caught up with
increases in funds for ³public safety² (more police, more prisons) across
We met with experts of all kinds, including people who have psychiatric
illness, people who have psychiatric labels, and police officers, mental
health workers and families of people killed by ³legal intervention.² We
came up with a proposal that would allow the police to do something else
besides shoot people who would not or could not follow ³command and
control² procedures that our police are trained to use, and would give
police officers a different perspective on all of us who might be deemed as
³crazy² in a crisis.
The proposal was simple take officers who volunteered for this special
unit, give them more than the 4 hours of training on psychiatric issues that
they now get, and most importantly give them cultural and institutional
support for dealing with people in crisis. Teach them to approach behavioral
issues with understanding, not fear, patronization (and frequent derision)
or the inevitable power struggle.
What could be better? Less violence, more understanding, better support
for better trained police, and a cultural shift away from a para-military
organization that trains and rewards its members to put down by force
anything or anyone deemed dangerous.
Weıve seen far too many examples of San Francisco police encountering
people who had psychiatric illnesses that resulted in death for those
people, and felt confident that the police themselves would like to learn
methods to handle these situations with better outcomes.
We were wrong.
After numerous meetings (3+ years worth of meetings) at the Board of
Supervisors, the Police Commission, with the Mayor, and at public forums,
the program was funded. The police were not happy about this, but had to
recognize the program because by that point we actually got them the money
to do it.
Then, we tackled the arduous task of creating the details of the
training program with SFPD.
This took the better part of a year. There were predictable impasses,
much disagreement and finally a training curriculum, based on other programs
in other cities that had come up with the same solution to the same problem.
San Jose, Memphis, Portland, Albuquerque all had this kind of program in
place based on the same principal: teach officers to see psychiatric
disabilities as nether dangerous or threatening, and support them for
responding with a different approach from ³command and control².
By now, this was nothing radical or innovative. It was simply good
police practice, as mandated by the Department of Justice in their 1998
manual for ADA training of all police departments.
So, why donıt we have this program in San Francisco?
Well, funny you should ask.
Perhaps itıs because the officer in charge of putting this program
together is running a training program in his spare time as a consultant to
other police departments on disability issues, and doesnıt want to allow
risks on his cut of the future action.
Perhaps it is because a couple of San Franciscoıs Police Chiefs have
issues of their own in coordinating their communcations. (We spent six
months with one chief, got his ³full support² and now the other Chief is
nixing this.) There are many rumored reasons and rationalizations for this
gaffe in organizational competency none of them are encouraging.
The hardest thing to swallow is that the whole process has been a
textbook study in institutional stonewalling, and it has to stop.
The SFPD must not be allowed to co-opt and bastardize this program,
especially since they already determined to do so by reducing the training
from 40 hours to 20, PLUS having fully half of those 20 hours devoted to
weapons training. Weapons training is what SFPD wants to do with the money
that we wrung from the Cityıs budget for the Police Crisis Intervention
program. It is so far from the original concept, that it is unrecognizable.
It does, however, allow the police to keep their paramilitary culture
intact, and use their fancy weapons training simulator.
One thing is clear- the SFPD doesnıt really want to change the way it
responds to people with disabling psychiatric conditions. Let us be even
clearer. We will make sure that they do.