Update: Now with video clips!
San Francisco police chief Heather Fong and mayor Gavin Newsom announced last night that 20 police officers would be suspended for creating or appearing in videos which they said were offensive to minorities and women.
“This is a dark day — an extremely dark day — in the history of the San Francisco Police Department for me as a chief to have to stand here and share with you such egregious, shameful and despicable acts by members of the San Francisco Police Department,” [Fong said.] . . .
An officer at the department’s Bayview Station, who is among those ordered suspended, produced the videos over the past two years using other officers and acquaintances and intended them as morale boosters, he and his attorney said Wednesday night. The officer denied he had done anything wrong, and his attorney said the suspensions were a politically motivated attack on free speech.
Many of those ordered suspended are connected to Bayview Station, including its former captain, Rick Bruce, who went on leave three months ago for unrelated reasons. He appears in one of the videos, which was shot while he was still on duty.
The five videos shown at Wednesday’s press conference with Fong and Mayor Gavin Newsom depict officers, some in uniform, responding to a variety of mock calls. One video shows a homeless black woman railing against white people after apparently being hit by a patrol car, followed by an officer grumbling about having to deal with her. “They get us involved with their business,” the officer said.
Another video depicts an officer ogling a woman he has stopped for a traffic violation. One shows two officers attempting tai chi to vaguely Asian music. The two later go into a massage parlor and radio dispatchers try unsuccessfully to reach them — the suggestion being the two are having sex with masseuses.
One video, with the theme to the old TV show “Love Boat” as the soundtrack, shows various officers saying, “Oh, captain,” and flicking their tongues suggestively. The captain involved, Bruce, flicks his tongue in apparent response — although the officer who produced the videos said Bruce had not known what the shot was to be used for.
One of those depicted in that sequence is the same homeless woman who was earlier shown yelling about white people. Another is a police officer dressed as a transgender person.
In another video, a female officer is shown putting on lipstick in the middle of a mock drug raid.
Newsom called the videos the tipping point that will lead to changing the culture of the Police Department.
“Enough is enough,” said Newsom, who promised dramatic changes, including the creation of a panel to review the entire department’s operations. . . .
Newsom said the videos mocked African Americans, Asians, women and transgender people.
The conduct, he said, “is shameful. It is offensive, it is sexist. It is homophobic, it is racist, and we’re going to make sure it ends.”
Fong said she was first made aware of the videos Tuesday afternoon after a captain alerted her that they had been posted on the producing officer’s private Web site. . . .
Officer Andrew Cohen, 39, who works at Bayview Station, said he was the producer of the videos. He was suspended without pay Tuesday. . . .
The videos that got him suspended “started out as a fun-and-games thing to give a sendoff” to Bruce, Cohen said. “It was supposed to show the cute characters we have at the station, kind of to make fun of ourselves.”
He said the goal of the videos was “to boost the morale of law enforcement” and that they were never intended to be shown outside the ranks.
Cohen expressed amazement that “this micromanaging chief” would be worried about videos with the homicide total for the year nearing 100. “She has bigger fish to fry,” Cohen said. — San Francisco Chronicle
Cohen is also known in the Tenderloin district as “MC Powder,” and in 1998 produced a hip hop CD. He has produced videos since before joining the police department, and also produced Hearts of the City, a video series showing a typical day in the life of a San Francisco police officer.
I was able to locate a Web site for Cohen, but it was down as of this morning. The domain name, mcpowder.com, has been registered since January 2004. So far I have been unable to obtain copies of the videos, though I am told they were screened at last night’s press conference.
Not having actually seen the videos, therefore, I can’t comment much further about this case, but it certainly looks like a stupid attempt at censorship. I would expect no less from Mayor Newsom. If you have copies of the videos in question, feel free to contact me.
Update: KPIX has posted four clips of the videos in question. The videos are of terrible quality, as the city apparently only would let the news agencies point their cameras at a laptop which was showing the videos, and didn’t provide the actual video files themselves.
And now that I’ve watched the videos, they’re terribly funny. Terrible, but funny. I laughed my ass off. Definitely not worth all the attention and suspending 20 police officers, though. Hopefully this will mark the end of Newsom’s political career. And if you have original copies of the media files, contact me.
Update: Also try the San Francisco Chronicle’s video download (QuickTime, 33MB).