San Francisco Columnist: London police don’t have guns, so why do our police need them?

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The San Francisco Examiner published an Op-Ed piece recently which posed the question: “Do the San Francisco Police really need guns for everyday policing?”

The author of the piece, Jaya Padmanabhan compares San Francisco to London citing, crime numbers that are similar via numbeo.com. The piece goes on to explain how police officers in London and Wales carry batons, but not guns.

Padmanabhan also uses SFPD’s own motto to further instigate the matter:

“The motto of the San Francisco Police Department is ‘Oro en Paz, Fierro en Guerra,’ translating to ‘Gold in Peace, Iron in War,’ signifying that in times of peace, the police are public servants, ‘shining brilliantly as members of the communities we serve,’ and in wartimes, able defenders ‘putting others’ well-being above our own,’ as described by The City’s Police Commission.

“But have we become a society of ‘Fierro en Paz, Fierro en Guerra?’ It is the case that the SFPD, like most police departments in the United States, carry iron in peace and in war with San Francisco cops routinely armed with SIG Sauer P226/P229, tasers and pepper spray.”

During these tumultuous times, we in the police community are being attacked on all fronts. Politicians and members of our citizenry are trying to strip us down and take literally the uniform off our backs.

Many in policing have always believed that this job was a thankless one, and this has never been truer than now.

In Seattle we saw the police department stripped of less-than-lethal force options as part of what many local municipalities are calling “Emergency Reforms.” 

Now, according to Jaya Padmanabhan, we don’t need firearms either.

Reading Padmanabhans Column even further, she speaks to Constance L. Rice who is a well known civil rights attorney in California. I was naively expecting Ms. Rice to agree with Padmanabhan.

She did not. She said:

“I don’t think that politically you can do that. Disarming police would expose them to risk in serious situations.”

According to Rice:

“American policing descended from suppression containment, a policy grounded in keeping slaves on plantations and Jews in ghettos in Europe and thus the police have never been able to get away from those cultural origins, of making sure that black people don’t come out of the ghetto, that Latino people stay in the barrio, that Native Americans stay on the reservations.”

“Policing has been historically tasked with maintaining boundaries.”

According to Rice:

“Any reform must start with an examination of the culture of the police force in the country.

“[It’s] not enough to change techniques, it’s not enough to do implicit bias training, it’s not enough to take away their choke holds or their tasers, it’s not the weapons, it’s not the training. It’s the mission and the mindset and the policies that they enforce.

“This mindset needs to be reset.”

The start of Rice’s response was almost a relief.

Almost.

Her continued response shows a much more complex problem between the minority communities and the police. These problems did not happen overnight, however, they are now the problem of the modern police officer so it will be our burden to bear.

Padmanabhan was still unable to understand why disarming San Francisco police officers is a bad idea.

Padmanabhan went on to write:

Rice’s comments are particularly measured and insightful, however, I keep going back to trying to understand why the SFPD must carry guns, while the London police don’t, when the crime rate is about the same in both metropolises and so too, the perils of police work.”

The police are facing danger and uncertainty with every call. Why do we need a firearm?  We are dealing with a criminal population who don’t live by societal norms, nor follow rules, so asking criminals to just put their guns away isn’t an option.

Comparing London to San Francisco is like comparing apples and oranges.

In Brown Type: Do San Francisco cops need guns for everyday policing?

So let’s review. We’ve now got DA Chesa Boudin, the son of two cop killers, letting criminals out of jail and making certain crimes legal, we’ve got some trying to disarm the police department, and, as Law Enforcement Today reported earlier, we’ve got mugshots no longer being shared.

Here’s that report again, in case you missed it.

In a recent move to “stop perpetuating racial stereotypes,” the San Francisco Police Department will cease releasing the mugshots of those arrested unless “they pose a threat to the public,” according to report issued by the Associated Press.

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott was said to have delivered the news on July 1st, and hopes to see other police department around the country mimic the actions taken by the department:

“This is just one small step but we hope this will be something that others might consider doing as well.”

UC Berkeley public policy professor Jack Glaser’s work on racial stereotyping was reportedly consulted by Chief Scott when reaching this decision. Glaser noted through his research that black suspects who are rested are also more likely to have their cases dropped by prosecutors:

“That may be just part and parcel of the same issue that police will stop and search Blacks at a lower threshold of suspicion in the first place and so, their arrests are more likely to be unsubstantiated.”

While it is certainly possible that a “lower threshold of suspicion” can lead to charges being dropped against alleged offenders, there’s also numerous other reasons cases are dropped.

According to Neal Davis Law Firm, cases are typically dropped from procedural mishaps, witnesses refusing to come forth and testify, fourth amendment violations, a bloated case docket, and don’t forget when people have charges dropped by exchanging criminal evidence against bigger fish on a DA’s radar.

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Murdered officer's grave desecrated before headstone even placed

Yet, according to Chief Scott from the SFPD, things like mug shots floating around on the internet contribute to people believing that black Americans have a higher propensity to commit criminal acts.

The police chief, who happens to be black, offered an anecdotal experience to afford a form of substantiating this theory:

“You walk into a department store and you get followed around and the security is looking at you suspiciously. I’ve experienced that.”

But, is the existence of mug shots being available online the only thing, or even a major component to, that could possibly exist that may make some people associate black Americans with a higher likelihood of criminality? From an honest perspective, the answer is no.

There’s the imagery present within popular culture, take for instance popular music artists, that at times prominently romanticizes gang culture and the criminal acts that surround it. Not to mention, FBI crime statistics related to homicide that detail black Americans contribute to over 50% of homicides in America.

Now, while there are numerous police departments across the country that don’t release mugshots of arrestees prior to conviction in general, former NYPD officer Eugene O’Donnell thinks the SFPD is the first to cite ending mugshot publicizing specifically to avoid contributing to stereotypes.

O’Donnell, who now functions as a professor for the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, noted that the adoption of the process should really levy more support under the presumption of innocence rather than concerns over racial stereotyping:

“For a democratic society, we’re very cavalier about people’s rights and the presumption of innocence. We take people’s freedom away and ruin people’s reputations before anybody’s ever made a decision as to whether or not the person committed the offense.”

However, some feel as though that not releasing mugshots to the public could hinder possible victims that may have been affected by alleged offenders arrested.

Nina Salarno, who serves as the president of Crime Victims United of California, was one to bring up these very concerns:

“The only concern for the victims’ side of it is how are they categorizing and who is deciding which ones should be released to the public?”

Salarno’s position does bring up a compelling argument to the vested public interest in releasing mugshots of those arrested, as said releasing of that information does often help with active investigations and additional victims being located.

According to Chief Scott, all mugshots published moving forward will first have to be approved by the SFPD’s public relations team.

Furthermore, the only instances where said mugshots will be broadcasted online and in other mediums will be specific to suspects that pose a credible threat or if police are trying to locate a suspect at-large.

 

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