Thursday, December 08, 2005

Cop Suspended Over Offensive Video

This story comes to us from the most “tolerant” city in the entire United States, San Francisco. This is the city where anything goes, that is unless you are making fun of what that anything is and happen to be a member of the police department.

“An officer was suspended and others face discipline after making videos containing sexist, racist and homophobic material for an office Christmas party, officials said.”, according to an AP story linked via title bar.
I read the article in which Mayor Newsom spouted off. At first glance you would have thought he was talking about the general population of San Francisco, the freaks, degenerate and the gay marriage crowd; but he was directing his remarks toward the makers of the spoof film instead.

"It is shameful, it is offensive, it is sexist, it is homophobic and it is racist," said Newsom. "We're going to make sure that it ends, it ends immediately."

The line that best sums up the lame leadership in San Francisco, both at City Hall and in the Police Chief’s office came from the lawyer representing the suspended officer.

"Maybe it is dumb, and if it is dumb, who is releasing this nationally?" attorney Daniel Horowitz said on KRON-TV. "The mayor and the police chief."

Here in Houston we used to have yearly “in service training”; a mandatory 40 hour block of instruction, hands on training and things like that to keep police officers up to date; I suppose they still do. One year the Department came out with a film intended to improve public relations. One part showed a desk officer working at one of the substations talking on the telephone while a citizen was trying to get his attention regarding a police matter. The officer put his hand over the phone and told the citizen it would only be a minute and to wait in one of the chairs, pointing to the row of chairs across the short distance that were against the wall. The officer then continued his conversation, something about a pending fishing trip complete with laughter about some antics from the last trip, whose turn it was to bring the beer and so on until the citizen grew impatient and approached the desk officer again.

The scene portrayed the officer as “bothered” as he once again covered the phone and instructed the citizen to wait; this time a little more forcefully in his tone. The officer continued to talk about the fishing trip until the citizen had taken about as much as he could. Upon returning to the desk he let the officer know that he was perturbed. Instead of ending the phone conversation, the officer explained in no uncertain terms that if he was interrupted one more time that he’d personally escort the citizen to one of the open jail cells, “Now sit down and shut up!”.

I thought the film gave an excellent view of how not to interact with the public. The officers in the viewing room all laughed and realized that on occasion we all could use a little improvement in our communication skills. I don’t think anyone actually thought that the “Brass” wanted us to take notes, to emulate the scenes or for them to become standard operating procedure. It was a light hearted stab at our own human weakness and nothing more.

Should Internal Affairs gone and opened an investigation as to why the film was made and then shown to a select group consisting of police officers in a training seminar? What would have been the reaction of the general public had the Mayor distributed that particular training film to the local news stations. “Is this what goes on, is this what they are being trained to do?” The Chief standing in front of a camera and microphone echoes his vitriolic sentiments, “This is an outrage and it will stop now!”

I did ride with some Neanderthal senior officers when I was a young cop. One of them on evening shift observed a wino sleeping on the sidewalk on the edge of downtown. The sun had dropped below the horizon as he carefully centered the patrol car, driving ever so slowly to where the wino was now positioned directly below the under belly of the car. I remained silent, not having any idea what form of police work could possibly be involved and not wanting to make any remarks that would jeopardize my future standing with the senior officer. He then flipped the switch that turns on the siren for half a moment. There was a discernable “thud” as the wino bolted upright and then fell back to the ground having bumped his head. My senior partner drove on down the street and was laughing as he looked in the rear view mirror, the wino rubbing the bruise on top of his head.

I filed that away under, “things not to do” and survived the rest of my “training”. I suppose I could have gone to the “brass”, opened up an investigation about the barbaric practices going on right under their noses and had the senior officer dragged through the mud. Instead I decided that it was smarter to leave it alone and complete my training. If the wino wanted to complain he had need only walk; make that stagger, down to the station. It was kind of funny, in a warped sense of what could be considered funny, maybe only to a street cop. No real harm was done and the wino actually thought he’d been done a favor by not going to jail.

Now if you want to talk about something offensive, getting back to that great city of Sin Francisco, that land of fruits and nuts where it’s okay to grope yourself or the person next to you in public, where it’s just fine and dandy to flash your genitals during a parade that has the Mayor in the lead car waving to all his homosexual constituents and openly supports homosexual relations then maybe an investigation would be in order.

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