"There are no bad people," Stanley Roberts says casually as we navigate between blankets in Golden Gate Park, "just people behaving badly."
It's Sunday, April 20th: marijuana's unofficial high holy day and I'm meeting my favorite local newsman on Hippie Hill in Golden Gate Park. Stanley has been a fixture at events like this for the past few years, anything where people can be found quietly bending the law. With word that authorities would be cracking down on the ad hoc celebration this year, it seemed like there would be no shortage of fodder for Monday night's People Behaving Badly segment on KRON4. By noon, Stanley had more than enough footage of white people with dreadlocks, unlicensed vendors, makeshift bongs, edibles for sale, some guy sitting alone smoking out of an apple, and a kitten.
The police presence inside the park was surprisingly low, given the trashy history of the event and the hype from Supervisor London Breed's office last week. Instead of trying to snuff out the event, SFPD's policing strategy was to protect the neighborhood and keep things safe in the Upper Haight. I know this because Stanley's been chatting up every cop we pass and every single one of them is a huge fan of Stanley's work. "In China," Stanley would tell me later over a beer, "I'm known as 'the Catcher of Evildoers.'" His Big Dog t-shirt reads "I'd like to care, but my Give-A-Damn's busted."
All told, eleven people were arrested at Sunday's stoney event, although none of those were caught on film. Four of those were busted for sale or possession of marijuana and two were for possession of opiates. At one point, as we traversed the crowd, Stanley called it: "You know there are a couple guns out here." Sure enough, two of the arrests at the event were for loaded and concealed firearms. The man knows his subjects.
The attendees, some of whom came from as far away as Turlock or Reno or Yuba City just to smoke up in a park, they all know Stanley too. Every ten yards or so, someone is calling out, "Yo! It's Stanley Roberts!" or "Oh shit, it's that People Behaving Badly guy." Despite his reputation as the Bay Area's resident hall monitor, everyone loves him. To get busted behaving badly — or in this case, just mugging for the camera while enjoying some recreational pot smoking — is an honor that people actually seek out. People know it's only a matter of time before they get busted behaving badly themselves, so why not just make it look good for the camera? Only one angry spectator told Stanley to fuck off based on his work. After the camera stops rolling, however, vendors want to hand us pot brownies and free nuggets of weed the size of radishes.
According to the Chronicle, there were still mountains of trash left behind yesterday — it'd be impossible to say that a modest local news segment radically altered anyone's behavior — but for Stanley, who attracts a legion of hater-fans, it's just another day on the job.