After a Chronicle report about police inaction toward a suspect trashing a downtown parklet, crime victims are coming out of the woodwork saying they were blown off too, but Chief Scott blames “serious morale issues.”
The SFPD appeared to do yeoman's work in apprehending the Union Square smash-and-grab suspects last November, but sentiment quickly turned when officers seemingly just sat and watched as a cannabis dispensary was burglarized in a story that surfaced the following week. Fast forward to February, when the Chronicle ran a story about the San Francisco Wine Society’s “best parklet in the city” being trashed by a vandal, with police reportedly questioning the suspect for a moment, but then leaving him and allowing him to proceed.
After the Chronicle published that parklet story, interviewing San Francisco Wine Society owner Danielle Kuzinich, several people contacted the Chronicle with more stories of police seemingly doing nothing over criminal complaints. Each of these stories is anecdotal, but the article also notes that arrest rates over reported crimes are lower than they’ve been years.
My latest column: San Franciscans share more stories about police shrugging off crime, even as it happens in front of them. Of all crimes reported in 2021, police made in years.arrests in just 8.1%, the lowest rate in a decade. “They didn’t want to be bothered.” https://t.co/sIzCOxA9Yy— Heather Knight (@hknightsf) February 19, 2022
“Numerous readers shared stories of police indifference after reading last week’s column about Kuzinich’s frustrating experience — and how it adds to their feeling that San Francisco city government, and its criminal justice system in particular, is broken,” Heather Knight writes in the Chronicle this week. “Yet again and again, San Franciscans say they’re calling for police officers who either don’t show up or brush them off when they do respond. Often, they hear nothing after they report crimes.”
One person tells the Chronicle they saw a mass tagging of a playground in December, a report on which he says SFPD did not follow up. (“When I told them, ‘Hey, I know who did this,’ I was expecting them to be interested in that information,” he said). Another says police were indifferent to the vandalism of an elementary school shed. Yet another had his e-bike stolen in September, and tracked its GPS location for weeks. That person says he never got any proactive response from SFPD, but once he saw the bike traveled to San Jose and contacted their police, the San Jose Police Department had his bike for him in 45 minutes.
“I kid you not — 45 minutes,” that bike theft victim said. “They took my complaint as a real thing, as a real problem. They seemed to believe me.”
SF Supervisor @HillaryRonen wrote a letter of inquiry to SFPD Chief Bill Scott after a series of Chronicle reports — including @hknightsf's latest column — questioned whether police had done enough to stop crime in some cases. https://t.co/4IChlUPMAF— J.D. Morris (@thejdmorris) February 16, 2022
Supervisor Hillary Ronen seems determined to make an issue of this. Ronen wrote in a February 15 letter to SFPD Chief Bill Scott, “I am concerned that the political rift between the Police Department and District Attorney’s Office is causing a deliberate work stoppage by your Department.”
“Unfortunately, the facts show that the problem is getting worse,” Ronen’s letter continues. “According to San Francisco Police Department’s own published arrest data, only 8.1 percent of reported crimes in 2021 led to an arrest. This is the San Francisco Police Department’s lowest arrest rate in 10 years. Further, only 3.5 percent of property crimes in 2021 led to an arrest.”
And this may indeed be a political rift. Sure, there is plenty of angst against DA Chesa Boudin. But that has nothing to do with the SFPD’s laundry list of recent scandals, which include using a rape victim’s DNA to link to accuse her of other crimes. A minority of SFPD officers' tantrums over vaccination mandates did not help them in the court of public opinion.
And Boudin has been presenting the first excessive-force case against an SFPD officer, which has led the force to counter-charging that Boudin buried evidence that supposedly justified a pretty horrible police beatdown. So now the SFPD is refusing to cooperate with independent investigations, a mess that now requires the state attorney general to step in and mediate.
For his part, SFPD Chief Bill Scott said the department has “serious morale issues” because of their beef with Boudin, understaffing, and the post-George Floyd calls for more police accountability.
“Despite the reason that an officer may be in that mental state where they might think it’s not a big deal for them to bother with it, it is a big deal,” Scott told the Chronicle. “And when they don’t do their job, I have to hold them accountable.”
Both sides can pull statistics saying that violent crime increases are the other side’s fault. A separate Chron report shows that drug dealers spend an average of only five days in jail under Boudin, “far less than the average of 18 days spent in jail” prior to his tenure. Ronen’s letter counters that “In 2021, the District Attorney brought charges in 66.94% of the cases your Department has presented to him, the highest charging rate since 2018.”
Either way, the police are using “serious morale issues” as an argument in a way that no other sector of essential workers could. Imagine emergency room personnel not taking patients because of “morale issues,” we wouldn’t stand for it! But the force may feel they have an effective bogeyman in Boudin, and can simply blame him for any public dissatisfaction with their performance.
Related: Violent Crime Rose In SF In 2021, But Burglaries Declined From 2020 [SFist]
Image: @jamisonsf via Twitter