With car break-ins hitting a five-year high this past summer in San Francisco, and our fair city having the highest per capita property crime rate in the US (something even the New York Times is squawking about), a recent exchange between SFPD Chief Greg Suhr and a Sergeant is raising eyebrows. San Francisco Magazine reports on a department-wide bulletin sent out by the chief telling rank and file officers that they must now start dusting all cars that have been broken into for fingerprints. The order to make this a new standard procedure was not well received by all members of the force, however, and Sergeant Paul Weggenmann of the Taraval Station sent a department-wide response blasting Suhr's "illogical" mandate.
"The city has experienced an increase in the number of auto-burglaries," explained Suhr in a letter dated April 29. "Evidence has shown that this increase is due in part to repeat offenders. In an effort to reduce this trend, officers trained in fingerprint processing shall be tasked with the responsibility of processing 852 vehicles."
According to Weggenmann's response, the illogical part of Suhr's mandate is that officers must dust every single car — regardless of whether or not "an officer determines [it] would be a good candidate."
"I urge you to please rescind this bulletin," penned Weggenmann. "This practice is not only not feasible, but illogical. [...] In 99.9% of 852s no prints are left behind by the suspect," he continued — though, how Weddenmann knows this if most cars aren't currently being dusted for prints, is unclear.
SF Mag looked into it, and apparently this kind of reply-all rebuke of Chief Suhr is extremely rare, and perhaps is reflective of the spotlight that appears to currently be on SFPD's handling of property crimes. With the dusting mandate supposed to go into effect May 1, we may now see officers handling car break-ins with a little more CSI-like flair. Whether fingerprinting all cars will actually have any impact on catching those perpetrating the crime, of course, remains to be seen — if officers even deign to do it in the first place.
Update: It seems that Weggenmann's reply-all missive was accidental, and that he intended to merely message Suhr directly. "I was reprimanded for having hit the 'reply-all' button," he told San Francisco Magazine. "I meant to just hit reply."
As far as the content of the response itself, he's standing by his initial reaction. "My problem with the bulletin is, more and more, we're being told 'shall,' " he explained. " 'Shall' means you have no discretion. It means, if someone reports their car has been broken into, under no circumstances can you not process it."