Pubdate: Thu, 09 Apr 2015
Source: SF Weekly (CA)
Column: ChemTales
Copyright: 2015 Village Voice Media
Author: Chris Roberts


The San Francisco Police Department worked hard to arrest Cassie Roberts.

San Francisco cops along with Drug Enforcement Administration agents 
staked out Roberts and several dozen other Tenderloin denizens for 
weeks, recording and observing video of them from rooftops and parked 
cars. After a hand-to-hand-drug sale between Roberts and a 
confidential informant wearing a hidden body camera was caught on 
camera, a U.S. attorney went to a grand jury with Roberts' name. An 
indictment was issued, an arrest warrant was signed by a federal 
judge, and later, Roberts was apprehended and charged in federal court.

Roberts is one of the 37 people SFPD arrested from August 2013 to 
February 2015 in a sting called "Operation Safe Schools." Lenient 
local and state sentencing guidelines such as Prop. 47 do not apply 
to federal busts; thanks to federal mandatory minimums, fewer than 
1.4 grams of crack cocaine earned Roberts and 12 others about one 
year in federal prison.

Every one of the people arrested during that sting is black. Almost 
half are women. In Roberts' case, cops passed on busting another drug 
dealer - an Asian woman - so they could nab Roberts. The confidential 
informant rejected drugs from "the Asian chick" to get "the good 
shit" from Roberts, according to court filings.

On its face, this looks bad. As a quick walk down Turk Street shows, 
selling small quantities of drugs in the Tenderloin is an equal 
opportunity pursuit. (Just to be safe, the defense called an expert 
witness who testified that, yes, people of all races sell heroin, 
Oxycontin, crack, and other drugs in the Tenderloin.)

For the SFPD, the timing couldn't be worse. Chief Greg Suhr is in the 
middle of firing or disciplining 10 veteran officers, including a 
captain and a sergeant who exchanged racist text messages with a 
former cop recently convicted on federal corruption charges. The 
content of the messages included: "All niggers must fucking hang;" 
"White power!;" "U may have to kill the half-breed kids too;" and 
"Ask my 6 year old what he thinks about Obama." That on top of the 
all-black arrests paints a troubling picture of San Francisco cops.

At a press conference last week regarding recent law-enforcement 
scandals - the text messages and the two drug lab technicians who may 
have jeopardized cases with faulty DNA evidence - Suhr struck a defiant tone.

A day after telling a Board of Supervisors committee that bias is a 
natural thing - "I have bias, everybody has bias," he said - Suhr 
defended Operation Safe Schools as a worthy exercise that will keep 
children safe.

"The one common denominator" was not race, but "selling narcotics in 
and around schools," he said.

One cop will be investigated for his conduct during the stings, Suhr 
said, but not for racial profiling when making arrests: The 
unidentified officer uttered "Fucking BMs" - short for "black males" 
- - while conducting surveillance. "Ssh, we're rolling," the cop's 
partner admonished.

Not everyone arrested by the SFPD is African-American. Blacks 
comprise less than 6 percent of San Francisco's population, yet about 
56 percent of the people arrested in the city are black, according to 
Public Defender Jeff Adachi. That includes well over half of the 
people arrested last year for felony drug charges.

According to Rev. Amos Brown, the minister who heads the San 
Francisco chapter of the NAACP, San Francisco police have a racial 
problem that is on par with Ferguson, Missouri's. This - the text 
messages, the all-black busts - is proof positive, he told me 
recently. "It's the same as it ever was," he said.

That's an incendiary statement that was marginalized by another 
influential black leader named Brown.

In late March, former Mayor Willie Brown used his weekly column in 
the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle to dismiss Amos Brown's Ferguson 
remarks as akin to 9/11 trutherism (the Chronicle's editors also 
allowed Willie Brown to repeat an old lie: That Amos Brown had used a 
9/11 memorial to blame America for the attacks).

In his most recent Sunday column, however, Willie Brown reversed his 
opinion, devoting the space to "the story that isn't being addressed 
at all, namely that San Francisco is a lot more like Ferguson, Mo., 
than anyone will admit."

Willie Brown's Ferguson flip-flop took less than three weeks.

The 37 black people arrested in Safe Schools appeared to have been 
singled out. They were all repeat offenders known to police with rap 
sheets that read like a criminal's resume: drug possession, drug 
sales, theft, assault. They were not arrested moments after they 
allegedly committed these crimes. Their names were given to a 
prosecutor who then presented the evidence needed for an indictment 
and a subsequent arrest.

Even Suhr's best defense falls flat. he and U.S. Attorney for 
Northern California Melinda Haag praised Operation Safe Schools for 
protecting school kids. But, as defense attorneys pointed out, 
there's a slight flaw: There are no public schools in the Tenderloin. 
And, hundreds of other drug deals go down right in front of public 
schools without attention from federal authorities.

A couple of black leaders are calling on Suhr to do what he does 
whenever a civilian is killed by police: Call a meeting and present 
himself, listen to concerns and address them. That would be better 
than what he appears to be doing now, which is trying to use kids to 
mask a racial bias.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom