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T H E   E A R


March 18, 2003


Because they could...

“The key to understanding the day-to-day attitude of the San Francisco Police Department is perfectly illustrated in the recent Tom Cruise movie Minority Report,” says the longtime SFPD operative, now retired, who is The Ear’s inside source on such matters. We’ll call him Deep Blue

“The ‘pre-crime’ unit is exactly the way cops are taught to regard citizens - snap judgments determine if they’re ‘dirty’ or not. If you’re ‘dirty’ - boom, that’s it, you’re guilty.

“That explains why the two young guys were treated as punks outside the Union Street bar that night,” he says, referring to the Blue Light confrontation which has snowballed from a cop-induced “incident” into the coverup that has unraveled the entire SFPD infrastructure.

“Beyond that,” he says, “Why did they beat the shit out of those kids?

“Because they could get away with it! They could do just about anything short of murder - that’s the tradition, reinforced by the Blue Code of Silence. When you operate under the ‘wild west’ rules you’re trained to follow, it’s always the cops’ word versus the victims’. Your partner backs you up on the streets and in the paperwork, where you simply lie and write up the police report to place the blame on the victim - always. Then the charges are routinely dropped for lack of evidence - the D.A. would never be able to prosecute - and the victims are usually just happy that it stops there, despite their injuries and humiliation.”

And until the Blue Light Fight, it happened to one cop with astounding frequency: 16 incidents in 13 months where his actions resulted in citizen complaints. Not once was he reprimanded, thanks to père.

Translate that mentality into the top brass:

Nominal Chief Earl Sanders routinely moonlighted in the early ’70s for a private bounty-hunting outfit. While on duty as a policeman, he shot and killed a suspect while working simultaneously as a bounty hunter. He suffered no consequences, because he could get away with it!

In Saunders’ case, his rapid rise through the ranks under Willie Brown dates back to 40 years ago, when he worked the streets of the Western Addition and the Tenderloin. A big part of his assignment was busting the numerous prostitutes who walked the streets. To whom did he refer them as a post-arrest lawyer? The slick young attorney who’d hung his first shingle out in the neighborhood - one Willie Brown, Esq., with whom Saunders was able to build up a certain mutual... trust. Brown’s early practice thrived because of the arrangement, and their fast friendship continues to help Saunders to this day. He never had to take any Police Academy tests beyond the rank of sergeant - all the rest were “acting” appointments which obviated such tests, until his ultimate assignment as Chief of Police.

Why did Captain Greg Corrales, the Mission Station commander who’s now accused in the Blue Light Fight Coverup, feel free to beat up victims, costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawsuits in the ’80s? Or shoot out the lights, drunk on an off-day, while testing a gun he was purchasing, in the Communications Room at 850 Bryant Street? Or famously throw back tequila shots with live bullets while on-duty?

How could suspended Deputy Chief David Robinson double-dip on his paycheck, collecting both his SFPD pay and a fulltime check from the federal government on assignment to the Drug Enforcement Administration, and not suffer consequences? Or, years ago, shoot an endangered species with impunity while hunting on vacation?

Because he could get away with it! And in this case, by playing the infamous “race card,” charging he was being singled out as an African American.

Most frighteningly by far, right now, consider the case of Alex Fagan, Senior, the new Acting Chief of Police (who just escaped indictment by the skin of his teeth).

Why did he pick a fight in the early ’90s, while drunk off-duty, with a CHP officer and not worry about his career? (He was ordered to do alcohol rehab.) Because he could get away with it!

And unique even in the prevailing “wild-west” code of justice, why was he able in the same era to get drunk, cause, and then walk away unscathed from two traffic accidents on the same day?

Because he could get away with it.

Now that his bellicose offspring is in hands beyond his control - the best efforts of the SFPD brass notwithstanding - and in the hands of a civilian jury of regular citizens, fair play finally gets a chance.

But a new code of ethics simmers the blood of Fagan Sr.: whereas in the Bible, “‘Vengeance is Mine,’ sayeth the Lord,” let there be no doubt that the newly empowered Acting Chief has it in for the District Attorney. Terence Hallinan is the number-one target in Fagan’s figurative gunscope.

Says Deep Blue: “Who knows what tricks are up Fagan’s sleeve, but I’d be extra-careful if I were Hallinan. Fagan can be one vicious sonofabitch.”

And forget about any “pre-crimes.” Because Terence Hallinan is not “dirty” but filthy for the already-committed crimes of trying to make officers accountable to their oath, Because he could! becomes Not on my watch!

* * *

Who Says the ’60s Are Dead?

One last, quite disturbing Because he could!ism. The Office of Citizens Complaint has announced that it is asking the Police Commission (that shamefully toothless Pro-Willie Rubberstamp) to investigate documented reports that plain-clothes cops were ordered to monitor the website of and march alongside what they deemed potentially anti-war demonstrators at the last three peace marches… oh, without telling the Chief of Police, by way (one of those pesky formalities). Or the Deputy Chief of Investigations. Who did do the ordering: none other than Deputy Chief Greg Suhr, one of the Blue Light Fight indictees.

Stylin’ to the occasion, the gung-ho leader of the battalion is one Lt. Kitt Crenshaw, sporting a Che Guevara pin in his beret.

“Venceremos!” anyone?