Simple Choice for new San Francisco Police Chief

SF Police Commission President Suzy Loftus, Mayor Ed Lee and Police Chief Toney Chaplin — Photo SF Examiner

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee is using deception in an attempt to claim he is on top of the demand for police reform. And Martin Halloran, president of the powerful SF Police Officer’s Association (SFPOA), in an attempt to impress his members has employed browbeating of City Hall for not consulting with the rogue cops of SFPD on police reform.

Mayor Ed Lee forced Greg Suhr to resign as chief of police during a meeting in which the two discussed an event earlier that same day. One of Suhr’s officers, a 15 year veteran of SFPD, violated police policy when he shot and killed 29-year-old car thief suspect, Jessica Williams, in the Bayview district. It was the latest in a series of recent embarrassments for the department under Greg Suhr’s watch as chief of police.

The combination of deception and browbeating dooms any realistic hope for police reform in San Francisco. And the communities most negatively impacted by two powerful city egos trying to fix SFPD is the Bayview Hunters Point (BVHP) communities. But with rock solid wisdom, these communities can be turned into the go to place for inspiration.

The SFPOA’s Martin Halloran was most surprised by Suhr’s forced resignation, at a time when he (Halloran) was feeling very powerful and owed a favor by Suhr. And like any power addict, they will do anything to feed their addiction.

As first reported by SFWeekly 250 SFPOA members had assembled in March, 2016 to cast an embarrassing vote of no-confidence for Suhr. This would have given Mayor Lee no choice but to fire the chief. But POA president Halloran and former head; now POA consultant Gary Delagnes, talked the members out of voting.

This favor for Suhr left the rank and file with no say in getting rid of the once popular chief of police or any hope of a say so on police reform. And worse for Halloran, he has no Chief Suhr to say, “You owe me one buddy.”

With the recommendation of Greg Suhr, Toney Chaplin was elevated to interim chief by Mayor Lee. And trying to avoid looking like chief Keystone cop, Halloran called the new chief and pledges to work with him. Was he sincere with his pledge? Some suspect the pledge was a pathetic attempt to act like he was still calling the shots.

But in his first press conference as chief, Chaplin sounded more like comedian Charlie Chaplin when asked about his top priorities as chief. “Reform, reform, reform.” It was as laughable a statement as any of the laughs Charlie Chaplin received, or worse, from any of the silent films of the 1900s, featuring the “Keystone Cops”, a fictional and incompetent police force.

One could easily say that Chaplin’s promise of “Reform, reform, reform” was for the ears of Mayor Lee and the many naïve citizens who believe real police reform will actually come to SFPD. Chaplin, a 26 year SFPD veteran knew that the reason the SFPOA members wanted to cast a no-confidence vote for Suhr was because the rank and file, felt, Suhr’s police reforms were being pushed through to the SF Police Commission without consulting with the union at all.

A native of the city and at the time, a 30 year SFPD veteran, Suhr promised police reform when he was first selected to head the department by Mayor Lee in 2011. So for the POA members to begin kicking and screaming five years later is also Keystone cop funny. Never mind the fact that the rank and file SFPD, not willing to throw Halloran overboard for defending rogue cops; which are a disgrace to police everywhere, is all the input the mayor or police chief needs as a solid reason not to seek further input from the POA on reform.

June 1, 2016, Mayor Lee will propose his next budget, which calls for spending, “$17.5 million for police reform” as reported by KQED on May 11, 2016. But in breaking down the spending, one could clearly read it as false advertising for police reform. $4.4 million goes directly to SFPD for better equipment and training. A portion of these funds Chaplin has vowed to spend on implicit bias training.

What Chaplin is naïve about is the fact that, the city agency that will conduct the implicit bias training under its current director was sued along with the city for implicit bias. Ironically, the agency; the SF Human Rights Commission has already requested $200,000.00 for this training, the same amount the city paid to keep this embarrassing suit quiet.

The other $13.1 million is earmarked for expanding programs for victims of violence and prevent violence programs for young people. Who is not in favor of increased funds for victims of violence? And surely I would not be opposed to increased funding earmarked for crime prevention programs for young people.

But calling “victims of violence” any part of the definition of police reform or youth “prevention of violence” is deceptive. The mayor is proposing closer to $4.4 million for police reform, not $17.5 million as he claims. The SF Board of Supervisor should unanimously reject this attempt to deceive by Ed Lee with a stern rebuke.

A lot less smoke and mirrors from City Hall will help whomever is selected to lead a police department in shambles. And if that winner is the interim Chief Toney Chaplin, who has an empty police discipline file, he too can be corrupted by his own naivety.

The San Francisco Police Department was corrupt before the 47-year-old Chaplin was born. And the only way real police reform will happen in this city especially at the Bayview Police Station is when the new chief can convince the rank and file that real police reform can be as much of a life saver as a bulletproof vest.

In the meantime, San Francisco can greatly reduce the chances of its police force being mired in another generation of rogue, rank and file cops, who often seek sanctuary status in the City’s Bayview Police Station. How? Beginning with the BVHP turning their communities into a museum of street wisdom can initiate change.

“God gave man the wisdom to build airplanes but we put the bombs in them.” My father dropped this gold nugget in my brain some thirty plus years ago. Ever since then, I have used wisdom, over force, to fight for what I believe is right and just.

Overcoming the rogue cops that patrol the streets of BVHP by placing wisdom in plain sight for all to read and ponder each thought-provoking message is a good first step for how residents can reclaim BVHP. And until City Hall finally gets it, residents can begin to place their most inspirational and teachable quotes of wisdom in their windows.

In response to the out of control auto break-ins that every community of the City suffers from, a simple message placed in car windows that reads, “Don’t steal, chill” will make even a thief think twice. This simple little message might not cause 95% auto break-in thieves to alter their behavior, but it could be the reminder car owners need, to not leave items in their cars to entice mischievous eyes and fingers.

“Be a part of the city, don’t tear the city apart” engraved on a thousand pound rock would minister to both cop and kid. Strategically placed in any or all parks of Bayview Hunters Point it might also help remind readers to respect public property.

“You can’t make it to heaven by raising hell on earth” will cause some to think twice as this thought-provoking message stands between them and mischief on another huge piece of beautiful granite, designed to catch anyone’s attention.

“You don’t have to be an angel to do the right thing” engraved on a piece of Third Street pavement could be just the encouragement needed for a person searching for a reason to get back up.

The Bayview Hunters Point could turn into the most inspiration place in the world, if creativity and wisdom or sage advice was on display from not only the many mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers but others who care to share.

Timeless quotes, by great historical figures, whose words of wisdom has inspired us all could find new purpose if extracted from the books that hide their wisdom and place them in BVHP to inspire all residents as well as visitors.

Nelson Mandela said, “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”

Mother Teresa said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

Mahatma Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

There are countless short quotes and phrases that have lifted up as well as saved many from the path of destruction. And one only needs to read and think to be inspired.

The goal of turning the Bayview Hunters Point into an outdoor museum of wisdom will not be easy nor cheap. There are many agencies of the city who by charter need to sign off on this form of art. And though I envision 99% of the cost for this unique art project will be picked up by private individuals willing to pitch in, they will only do so, when City leaders and the BVHP communities give the green light.

And a committee consisting of mostly residents of BVHP would need to be formed under strict guidelines, to select the most inspirational and appropriate messages with a goal of erecting a thousand quotes, with no ambiguity. The committee must also guard against turning the entire district into an eyesore of neglected art.

So the mission for Police Chief Toney Chaplin is a simple one when it comes to changing the “Culture” in Bayview Hunters Point. Attach yourself to wisdom rocks or rogue cops.

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