This & That…

Published Date: 
Friday, April 01, 2011

Here we go…

In a recent article on ‘S F Gate” dated Tuesday, March 15, 2011 our old “friend” and “esteemed” former Police Commissioner Peter Keane weighed in on Public Defender Jeff Adachi’s latest war on cops; accusing a group of plain clothes officers and trying them in the press and in the court of public opinion of some very serious allegations of misconduct related to their criminal investigations. Mr. Keane, a man who has never passed up an opportunity to go on a cop-bashing spree, is true to form in this article.

Peter begins his assault with, “Police officer perjury in court to justify illegal dope searches is commonplace.” He also adds, “It is a perversion of the American justice system that strikes directly at the rule of law. Yet it is the routine way of doing business in courtrooms everywhere in America.”

These are some pretty bold statements with little or no evidence to back such claims up. It is also very clear that there is not a paintbrush wide enough in this world for Peter and his broad strokes. Peter also claims “the corruption of America’s police officers as the most identifiable group of perjurers in the courts is one more casualty on the war on drugs.”

Mr. Keane surmises the reason police officers show such contempt is that they get away with it and because of the people likely to be involved in such cases…you know the type, “the defendant is poor, uneducated, frequently a minority, with a criminal record, and he does have drugs.” Sound familiar? I mean the part where the suspicious person being investigated actually has illegal narcotics in his/her possession? Judging by the tone and content of his piece, the only thing missing is the part where the police officer is also probably “planting” the illegal narcotics on the suspect.

Another claim that I take great exception to is Peter’s assertion that [the] “Police know that no one cares about these people.”

Nothing could be farther from then truth. In fact, it is more often than not the cops that are the first and front line “social workers” when it comes to dealing with people, young and old, in the drug world. And certainly more often than anyone, especially someone like Peter Keane would ever admit, it’s the cops that often care the most.

Peter and his ilk would never want you to believe that a cop would actually take an interest in a person and try to work with him or her to get that user off of drugs, or to channel ones focus and direction away from people who might be a bad influence. I guess Peter Keane has never heard of the Police Athletic League where thousands of kids each year are directed towards the possibilities of a positive life and away from the criminal element. I also trust that Peter has never heard of the Police Wilderness Program or the Police Youth Fishing Program.

There are countless stories of police officers who have really gone out of their way to take an interest in an individual they had contact with whether it was an arrest or and admonishment…or how an officer was able to make such a good impression on a person that it changed that person’s life for the better.

We all know cops like that. How many times do we look back on our own careers at the people we really helped and made a difference when it counted the most? There’s the story of our own Andy Meehan and the late Matt Goodin who took a particular interest in a “crack” addict and completely changed his life around. How they found this individual in a Sixth Street alley, fed and clothed him, encouraged him into recovery and beyond. The man credits these two police officers for giving him a second lease on life.

This is not an isolated story. It is not a unique or rare example of what cops do. The sad fact is, these stories largely go untold. It’s because the cop doesn’t want people to know about it. He or she does it for all the right reasons and not for glamour or glory. More often than not it’s because, simply put, “that’s what we do.” There’s more to the fabric of the DNA of a San Francisco cop or any cop for that matter than just a uniform. For a great majority of us, this job is so much more than just a paycheck. It’s a vocation and we respect our commitment to each other and our fellow man. Most cops don’t want headlines or accolades. They just want to be left to do their jobs with a quiet respectful dignity.

We fight our battles on the streets and defend and uphold those battles in the courtrooms. We will continue to do so vigorously and victoriously!

I have been a Peace Officer for almost thirty years, and a San Francisco Police Officer over twenty-six years, and cannot recall a single case where a San Francisco Police Officer has been charged with, much less convicted of, perjury. I have never seen a case where a San Francisco Police Officer has been terminated by the department for perjury. It would stand to reason that if Peter Keane’s assertions were true the numbers would be extraordinarily different.

A defense attorney calling “foul” on a police officer is akin to the proverbial pot calling a kettle black. Blackstone the Magician could learn a few tricks from the “sleight of hand” tactics employed by many local defense attorneys. Anyone who’s been around the local criminal justice theatre for any length of time knows that a defense attorney never met “a technicality” they didn’t like, especially if it set their client free. It happens all the time…all the time…all the time…If this wasn’t true, we wouldn’t conduct computer checks on criminals on the streets that reveal that an individual has been arrested 35, 55, 70 times or more. And that’s just the times they got caught! One of the popular refrains from such individuals on the street to cops when asked about this is, “Yeah, I might have been arrested a bunch of times but I’ve never been convicted.”  The cop has to be thinking, “The system…it works.”

Years ago, during the 162nd S.F.P.D. Academy class, the late George Stasko, a class instructor, proudly proclaimed that the San Francisco Police Officer is the best police officer in the world. He explained that we had no choice but to be the best because we would have to arrest an individual seven or eight times before the cronk ever went to jail. We all laughed at the time because we thought it was funny, but in time we learned that truer words were never spoken. We are reminded of this every working day.

I also find Peter’s unfortunate article and irresponsible claims to be a slap in the faces to local judges and to the Criminal Justice System as a whole. To think that a Judge would knowingly allow a police officer to openly commit perjury in his or her court without taking swift effective action is reprehensible, irresponsible and to say the very least, illegal. Furthermore, if a defense attorney felt an officer was committing perjury in a case, wouldn’t it be his or her duty and responsibility to bring such concerns before the court in their client’s best interest?

If I were a Judge, I’d like to have Peter Keane in my Chambers for a little chat.

It’s all so easy to bring such allegations against police officers by people like Jeff Adachi and Peter Keane who have an unabashed distaste for the men and women of the San Francisco Police Department. Jeff Adachi has the luxury of trying his cases in the headlines of local papers, which are in the desperate business of selling papers in a fledgling industry. It’s an election year and he wants to make a name for himself for future considerations. As the old expression goes, “timing is everything.” There’s a term for these theatrics, it’s called “grandstanding.”  The results of such grandstanding are quite often as empty as the nonsensical allegations brought forth.

I trust that once all is said and done that this will once again be the case.

 

Line of Duty Deaths…

It is with deep sadness that I report to date, Monday, March 28, 2011, there have been fifty (50) Line of Duty Deaths across the United States this year. Of the 50 deaths, 24 have been by gunfire, including 2 accidental incidents; 2 as the results of assaults on officers; 16 involving vehicles (12 – automobile accidents; 3 struck by automobiles and 1 involving a vehicle pursuit); 1 as the result of an explosion; 1 Aircraft accident; 2 by heart attack and 4 by duty related illnesses.

In January 18 officers were killed, in February there were 14 officers killed and to date 18 officers have been killed in March.

The average length of service of officers killed was 12 years, 4 months. The average age of an officer killed was 40 years.

44 male officers and 6 female officers were killed.

Ten of these officers were from Florida; six from New York; Ohio lost 5 officers; The U.S. Government also lost 5 officers while Texas lost three. California, Georgia, Virginia and Washington lost 2 officers each while Alabama, Colorado, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina and Wisconsin all lost one officer. The United States Tribal Police also lost one officer.

This marks a dramatic increase in Line of Duty Deaths over last year. If you take the current rate and project it for the year, there will be 207 Line of Duty Deaths in 2011, a 28% increase over 2010.

Although, we thank God that no San Francisco Police Officer has been killed since Nick-Tomasito Birco on July 26, 2006, assaults and ambushes on the men and women of this department have risen dramatically. I believe the increase in the number of attacks is up close to 40% over the past couple of years.

The reasons for the increase of violence upon us are many and varied. Perhaps it is the lesser number of officers on the street and the increase of one-officer patrol units. Perhaps because there is little or no consequence to the actions of violent offenders against police officers because of a broken judicial system. We have all seen the increase in youthful offenders who are so much more likely to fight and attack police officers than ever before. Juvenile offenders are incredibly more defiant and physically resistant to arrest or detention by police due to a lenient juvenile justice system. Juvenile offenders have so much more access to guns and weapons these days and are so willing and quick to employ them with little or no fear of incarceration or consequence. Whatever the reason, we have to keep our good officer safety practices at the forefront of everything we do. Whether it is while on patrol in a radio car or on foot, uniformed or plainclothes, out in the street or in a suit in an office somewhere, please be very aware of your surroundings and the people around you. Don’t become paranoid, but don’t let your guard down either. Don’t become complacent, lazy, or fall into a routine where your movements can be predictable. Be mindful of your environment and the essentials of cover, concealment, and positions of advantage. If you’re working alone and want to take on someone or a group of suspicious characters, wait for back up before engaging them. Think tactically before a situation develops that catches you unaware and unable to protect yourself, your partner, or others from injury or harm. Think ahead and plan accordingly. Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and work accordingly to your very best advantage. Try not to rush into any situation to find yourself committed to danger without recourse. Listen very carefully to that little voice inside your head guiding your thoughts and physical movements. Make sure your equipment is in good working order and you are comfortable with your proficiency and abilities.

Don’t hesitate to go out to the range to become better acquainted, more comfortable, and confident with your service weapon. The SFPD Range staffs at both the Airport and Lake Merced Ranges are only too happy to take the time and give individual attention to officers. Rangemaster Dave Pollitt and staffers Chuck Bonici, Nick Shihadeh, and Mike Furusho, along with Randy Ching and Angelo Spagnoli of the Lake Merced Range encourage and want officers to go out and practice and improve their skills. Lou Staffaroni, Al Hom, Tom Loverin, and Sonny Sarkissian of the Airport Range are of the same mindset.

Meanwhile at the Academy, the Defensive Tactics Staff of Officers Oliver Reich, Pete Shields, and Phil Helmer are introducing a new technique involving “grappling” or “wrestling” components into their curriculum. It is a very new and innovative technique in engaging suspects during a physical confrontation contact. It appears to be very affective, but once again it will take time and practice before one becomes comfortable with this new approach.

 The Defensive Tactical Staff along with the Range staffs are outstanding members of this department who really care for your safety and welfare out on the streets. They will to do everything they can to improve our individual skills and increase our confidence levels. Take advantage of their willingness and expertise. Go home to your loved ones at the end of your shift. They are some very special people who are counting on you doing just that.

 

Blood Drive…

A very special thanks and a “tip of the hat” to the sixty-seven (67) members and friends of the SFPOA who responded to the latest Blood Drive on Wednesday, March 23rd. The event took place on the third floor of the POA Building at 800 Bryant Street and we had a steady line of generous donors from ten in the morning until a little after eight o’clock that evening. I sincerely thank each and every one of you for taking the time to give of yourselves so that others might receive the precious gift of life. We ran the gambit from very young officers to retired members of the POA and all shapes, colors, sizes and ages in between.

A wonderful breakfast and great lunch provided by the POA was catered by our good Friend Sal Qaqundah and his great staff at Arguello Super, (Home of the best roasted turkey sandwich in San Francisco), located at 782 Arguello Blvd.

Once again, the POA joined forces with Ms. Christina Mihalas, Field Supervisor for the Blood Centers of the Pacific, and Mr. William Hackley, Assistant Director of Donor Recruitment, also from the Blood Centers of the Pacific, to put on this important event. As is always the case, many hands worked together to make this an incredibly successful drive.

Retired SFPD and SFPOA members Debbie Braden and Mark Hawthorne were in the thick of activities as they have been involved in the SFPOA Blood Drives for the past several years and are old hands at coordinating and overseeing these events. Their efforts are always welcomed and essential if things are to go smoothly. I really appreciate the time and effort these two wonderful folks give for the greater good.

I would also like to mention the outstanding staff members of the Blood Centers of the Pacific for their usual excellent job in taking care of our people and seeing that those giving blood are getting all the special attention they deserve. They include Head Nurses Loretta Almeida and Elizabeth Bowen; Phlebotomists Michael Ly and Robert Manniche; Drivers Tiffany Veth; Luz Cordero; Scott Tercero; Kathy Rodas and Jonita Langley and additional staff members Lourdes Millan, Anna Hembrador and Kathryn McClelland.

Because of all your efforts and kindnesses, sixty-seven (67) units of blood were collected! It was a great day for the POA, the Blood Centers of the Pacific and most of all, those among us who are in need of blood to sustain their lives.

Thanks to each and every one of you and God Bless you all.

 

Take the time to say hello…

Officer Constantine “John” Zachos a 17-year veteran of the SFPD assigned to Mission Station is currently on military leave and serving in Afghanistan. Please take the time to contact John and say “hello” and let him know what’s going on here at home and how the Boston Red Sox are about to engage in yet another bitterly disappointing baseball season while the Giants and Yankees race to the pennant. Contact John as noted and let him know he’s in your thoughts and prayers. He’d love to hear from you…his e-mail is Zirdoc@aol.com and his current mailing address is KAF Kandahar Airfield; Zachos, Constatine J; 492 Civil Affairs; BN Det-1; APO , AE 09355. Thank you very much in advance…

 

That’s it for this month. Take care guys and gals. Keep your heads up and the complaints down. God bless you, your family’s and loved ones. See you next month and “stay frosty out there.”

Go Giants!…Go Yankees!…Red Sox, wait until next year…again!       

 

 

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