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Why Are Some Elected Officials So Unconcerned About Public Safety?

June 1, 2017
Martin Halloran SFPOA President

The balance in our criminal justice system is constantly changing. The peaks and valleys surrounding our imperfect justice system are indicative of its strengths and weaknesses, yet it remains the model for democracies around the globe. Its fundamentals were framed by visionaries devoted to public service.

However, over the decades there have been some absurd laws posed by devoted politicians with decidedly less vision. Add to that ridiculous criminal charges filed -- or not filed -- by self-serving district attorneys, and despicable rulings and sentences handed down by careless judges, and the low points become painfully apparent, especially if you are law-abiding, or one of us who enforce good laws.

I, and many other cops, have often wondered, perhaps more so today than ever, why there are ever-fewer elected or appointed local officials who are concerned about law enforcement and public safety?

Let me give you some recent examples of why we raise this question.

Last month, our city’s elected representatives in Sacramento (Senator Scott Wiener and Assemblymen David Chiu) each introduced or co-authored legislation that if passed, will allow reduced bail or no bail for some charged with certain crimes, including violent crimes. Some multiple repeat offenders could remain free on the streets if they meet certain criteria.  Unbelievably, part of that “criteria” cannot be based on their past criminal history or their failure to appear at court! 

In a May 24, 2017 Chronicle Op-Ed piece, Mayor Ed Lee enthusiastically endorsed these legislative threats to public safety. The Mayor also asserted that "...increased electronic monitoring and pretrial diversion ensures that offenders are following conditions set by a Judge." Ask any cop on the street about electronic monitoring and supervision by under-staffed probation, parole, treatment facilities, or the courts. It is completely inadequate, and easily manipulated by the offenders.

The Mayor goes on to say that most misdemeanor arrestees are issued citations anyway. Why do you think that is? Because crimes that were once felonies and custodial arrests prior to November 2014 are now treated like a common jaywalking offense; only meriting a citation. These abysmal changes are thanks to Proposition 47 and its co-author, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon. This, on top of AB 109, and Governor Jerry Brown’s Proposition 57, have placed tens of thousands habitual criminals back into California’s communities, or has allowed them to remain on our streets with little or no consequences for their criminal activity.

Here is one glaring example of how the “new”criminal justice system is failing once an arrest has been made.

Deshawn Patton SF#676267 --

  • 170408069 – 05/15/17 - Observed committing an auto boost at 1003 Chestnut by PBTF members who are unable to safely move in to arrest him, given his history of reckless driving.
  • 170324788 – 04/20/17 – Observed driving a Lexus at a high rate of speed in Bayview by plainclothes units.  Lexus struck a civilian vehicle, causing lacerations to the driver.  Patton arrested on scene.  Patton subsequently bails out and then a bench warrant is issued for his arrest when he failed to appear in court on this case.  Arrest warrant is still active.
  • 170317868 – 4/18/17 – Patton observed casing vehicles in Golden Gate Park – subsequently flees area at high rate of speed.  Patton commits an auto burglary at Bay and Kearny St. Patton fled scene in suspect vehicle when officers moved in to arrest. He drove onto the sidewalk and then directly towards a SFPD officer.  Patton made numerous reckless maneuvers fleeing the scene at high speed, putting civilians and officers at risk.
  • 160870804 – 10/25/16 – Search warrant executed in Antioch.  Patton arrested inside the home.  Two firearms recovered from the home.  At the time, Patton was out on bail related to two pending auto burglary cases (SF court #16013566 and 15021477).  Patton was charged with three counts of second degree burglary, two counts of conspiracy, three counts of possession of stolen property, and one count of possession of burglary tools related to auto burglaries documented in SFPD incidents 160301439, 160301194, and 160813531. The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office allowed Patton to be transferred to the San Bruno County Jail on a pending case and he was subsequently released from custody in San Bruno.
  • 160856224 – 10/20/16 – During an arrest attempt, Patton used an Infiniti to ram an unmarked police vehicle multiple times with officers inside.  He was then able to evade police successfully.  Patton was charged in this incident when arrested during the aforementioned search warrant.

Printed below is the arrest detail for Richard Brown SF#632527. All of these arrests are for auto burglary dating back to 2008 up to his last arrest on April 14, 2017. Look at the disposition of each case keeping in mind that 90% of the time Brown did not serve the full time listed in the disposition.


The SFPD has a Top 10 list of auto theft/auto burglary suspects who are responsible for hundreds upon hundreds of these crimes. When arrests are made of these suspects, many times the District Attorney’s office will only prosecuted when multiple cases are “bundled” together. This literally means that the cases have to be sold as a package in the courts rather than each case being individually prosecuted. When the DA’s office charges these cases, bail is usually a minimal amount or the defendant is released by the Judge on O.R. Many are serial offenders and are frequently charged as such. Members from plainclothes units within the SFPD have told me that every single major serial burglar who has been arrested has been linked to additional burglaries, either while out on bail or O.R, before their trial or after serving their sentence. These officers told me of one suspect who had 20 auto burglary cases “bundled” together and he was prosecuted by the DA’s office. The defendant received a 6-year sentence, served 1 year of that sentence, and is now out reoffending.

The men and women of the SFPD are doing the job of pursuing these serial criminals and bringing these cases to the District Attorney’s office for prosecution. But often times their hard work is simply undermined by leniency in the courts and by the Judges. There is little incentive for these habitual criminals to stop, and some politicians are endorsing measures to make it easier for them to offend. Is it just the cops who are concerned with public safety anymore?