Clueless Mayor In Toothless Scandal

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Gavin Newsom, the ninny who fills up the official suit of the San Francisco Mayor's office, has done something I never thought possible—made me side with cops in a public controversy. In an emergency night-time press conference, Newsom and Incompetent Chief of Police Heather Fong announced the suspensions of 20 police officers in the city's most crime-ridden district. It's "an extremely dark day in the history of the San Francisco Police Department," says Fong, denouncing "egregious, shameful, and despicable acts" by cops. "Enough is enough," exclaims Newsom, "We have zero tolerance for this kind of behavior." What is this new Ramparts/Len Davis/Dirty 30/"Big Bill" Thompson/Abner Louima/Tulia, Texas-topping outrage? A bunch of yahoo cops made a video mocking each other for being slackers.

Full disclosure: I have a passing acquaintance with Officer Andrew Cohen, the cop at the center of the controversy. I met Cohen back when he was known by his hiphop BKA MC Powder, at a time when white rappers, let alone cop rappers, were rare enough for that to seem pretty hilarious. I interviewed him and had lunch with him a couple times, first with an eye toward mocking him, then—when I found him to be an OK guy who was self-aware and self-deprecating enough to make mockery superfluous—with an eye toward doing an article about cop PR, which I ended up abandoning. (I'm pretty sure F.O.R. Emmanuelle Richard did something on him at some point, though I can't find it.) But while I don't believe Cohen, who pulls an Officer Friendly routine with reporters, is really the "racist, sexist, homophobic" character the mayor is depicting, for all I know he scarfs donuts, steals fajitas, and impersonates panhandlers with the best of them.

But take a look at the mind-bogglingly innocuous movies these cops made. All the videos are here, and Newsom and Fong's press conference is here. You can judge the material for yourself. (Nearly 80 percent of respondents in the CBS news poll found it "harmless," humorous," or "informative," while fewer than 20 percent found it "shocking" or even "mildly offensive." Here are some written reactions.) I say, like most jocular/collegial home movies of this type, it's mostly stupid, occasionally amusing, and shot through with not-unpredictable "funny" song selections. There's an obvious disciplinary problem here in that they appear to have been doing this stuff on public time and with public resources—which I'd expect to be met with a stern warning.

Only in San Francisco could this dustup over injured sensibilities be turned into a nationwide scandal. Newsom is completely clueless and Fong has dithered while the city's murder jumped in the past two years, with the Bayview neighborhood leading the pack in homicides. It's a symptom of the city's incalculable lameness that we can't even generate a scandal that belongs on the same page with the NYPD Naked Cop episode. Now that the public has greeted SF Videogate with a yawn, the mayor is trying the oldest trick in the book—claiming that this is just the tip of the iceberg and promising that there are more, unseen outrages that will really knock your socks off (as long as you don't see them). Is it any wonder Dirty Harry threw away his badge?

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  1. There are cops in San Francisco? I’ve never seen one.

  2. I saw some of these videos, and they were hilarious.

    I’ve lost count on the reasons I’ll never live in SF, but add dumbass mayors to it.

  3. I absolutely love SF, it’s the only American city I’ll live in besides where I’m at now: Phoenix.

    I have to agree with Cedarburg, though, I hardly ever see cops when I’m in the city, which is usually twice a year.

    I saw the videos, too, and the one where the cop runs over a homeless guy is kinda messed-up, but they’re totally juvenile. Sure, reprimand all involved, but there’s no reason to fire any of those guys. Shit, if the worse things cops were doing was making semi-offencive videos on “company” time, I think most of us could live with that. Instead, it’s beatings, planting evidence, lying on reports, kicking in doors on drug raids, ticketing people for victimless crimes, etc – things that are actually expected of them on “company” time.

  4. Tim,

    Don’t be down on your mayor; after all, he’s responsible for negotiating that sweetheart cable deal for you.

  5. Yeah, this controversy is all very silly. I’m already quite happy to have moved across the bay, and this doesn’t rank up there with banning military recruiting in public schools or double-bagging of groceries as reasons to be embarrassed for San Francisco. But it doesn’t make me feel any better for it.

  6. Wonder if the SFPD will come down with a mass case of the Blue Flu?

  7. The videos varied from stupid to a good chuckle. One suspects there were “inside jokes” going on and a not-bad parody of COPS the show, and even a self-effacing parody of cops that are full of themselves. The outrage is stupid.

    Tim — Love the content and purpose of the post, but could the links be limited to maybe 2 – 4? Links are kind of like George Harrison songs on a Beatles album, good, necessary, and entertaining, but ought to be judiciously limited.

  8. Instead, it’s beatings, planting evidence, lying on reports, kicking in doors on drug raids, ticketing people for victimless crimes, etc – things that are actually expected of them on “company” time.

    Amen

  9. The videos are no big deal, other than being a waste of time and tax-payer money, or at least a visible waste of time and tax-payer money. I thought cops had the good sense not to tape themselves goofing off.

    But in any case, it’s a reminder of what giant pussies San Franciscans are. That’s why their lovely city on the bay is being devoured by homeless people.

  10. WRT to the running over incident. It is clearly staged and for what it purports to show, not very well done. It actually reminded me of a skit from Mr Show: Drunk Cops. The extra layer of irony seals it. Anybody who is disturbed by that needs to turn in their irony badges.
    I would agree that they are using city property, but I don’t think it is clear whether it was actually done ‘on company time’.
    Quite a nice showing of a lack of a sense of humor by the mayor and chief of police. Fine, don’t laugh at it if it doesn’t fancy you, but its not serious stuff.

  11. Whenever I start to think Boston is getting egregiously self-important to the point of embarassment, I think of San Francisco. Thanks for some more ammo.

  12. “I absolutely love SF, it’s the only American city I’ll live in besides where I’m at now: Phoenix.”

    SF and Phoenix praised in the same sentence – now there’s something I never thought I’d read!

  13. Being from Oregon, I’ve long known that California is broken. Thanks for the reminder.

  14. I guess they figure that punishing cops who have a sense of humor–albeit a cheesy one–is somehow the best way to ensure we have cops who don’t violate people’s rights. The more humorless prigs have authority over us, the freer we will be!

    (Actually, I could see Ayn Rand making a serious argument in favor of humorlessness as a virtue. But I digress.)

  15. Love the content and purpose of the post, but could the links be limited to maybe 2 – 4? Links are kind of like George Harrison songs on a Beatles album, good, necessary, and entertaining, but ought to be judiciously limited.

    You don’t have to click all of them, you know.

  16. Not as good as “Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys.

    Not even close.

  17. I wish I could remember the exact quote, but one SF official was on a news show yesterday talking about this video and said something to the effect of, “we have zero tolerance for acts of intolerance.”

  18. Jennifer,

    Not only do you digress, but you make an unsupported assertion. Furthermore, the way you qualify it (“I could see”) is meant to protect you against the charge the assertion is unsupported.

    Never mind actual evidence though; I guess I’m just being humorless.

  19. I could see both sides of the argument. I’ve been in work situations where in-the-trenches black humor was essential to esprit de corp, and even to our sanity.

    But, these guys are very public employees, and they should have realized that *everything* they do in a uniform has potentially very public implications. The Bayview-Hunter’s Point is a downtrodden community where people feel spit on and abused by society, cops included. There’s no reservoir of good feeling there toward the establishment. This is what the public should reasonably expected the cops to have thought about before they did their parody.

    And every bit of humor contains a nugget of truth. It would be impossible for cops not to get soured on the character of the perps and skels they deal with daily, and maybe on human nature in general. But that cynicism and despair is something they need to deal with within and among themselves, so that they lighten the baggage they carry every time they go out on detail.

    So, while I’m not outraged by the attitudes implied by the humor, or the occasional dark joke resulting from it, I’m very disturbed by a mindset that thinks this kind of defensive response to job pressure is something to celebrate and commemorate with a recording. The insensitivity of not recognizing the implications of wearing a uniform adds to my anger. I think a formal reprimand for all involved is appropriate, as well as some resources to help cops peel off some of their mental and emotional armor on a regular basis.

  20. Tim,

    Enjoyed the play on the famous headline.

  21. okay let me say something from Amsterdam/Netherlands. Sorry for my stupid English.
    My opinion:
    how about tasteless.
    Is it funny to ridicule homeless, coloured & other minorities?
    Is this the moral of the average American Police officer? Chilling! No wonder that with such a mentality, there are excesses across the borders, like Abu Ghraib and Guantanomo Bay. Maybe the suspended officers can get a job at those two locations. Not local, but World Success guarenteed.

    AN article ?n the web-SFChronicle cites Andrew Cohen who says: “There’s no slander here, no racism, no nothing,” he said. “I don’t have a racist, prejudiced bone in my body.”
    Goodness me, I’d really want to know HIS definition of ‘slander & racism”.
    I’m quite worried about people who consider themselves as not having a rascist, prejudiced bone in their body, AND being capable to make such degrading movies.
    Maybe there’s Hollywood potential here. How about an Oscar?
    Or a medal of honour from your “hasta la vista, baby” governer, Schwarzenegger.
    The world, your country in particular, is falling apart if shameful behaviour isn’t even recognized anymore. Not surprising that Bush is the president of the U.S.A.
    A head of state who”s a moron, rules over morons.
    It’s downright Disgusting.
    If we”re unable to see in any other (whether a junk-beggar or a managing-director> another brother we should question our humanity.
    God Bless everyone on our Planet Earth.
    PS: Use your brain before you reply.
    I’m not interested in Neanderthal comments.

  22. Jennifer

    Making cheap shots at someone so important to reason and libertarianism is not only irresponsible, it’s dumb. I now take you less seriously. Congrats.

    To the larger issue, if they are making funny videos on company time, at least they aren’t, well, Lowdog said it best.

  23. Sweet, 2 shout-outs to my comments on one thread. And here I thought you guys didn’t read my silly ramblings! 🙂

    Sherill – ok, I’ll give you tasteless, but so what? It’s not like no one is recognising the childishness of these videos. It’s like locker-room humour. Do I commend these people? Look at my previous comment for the answer (hint, the answer is no).

    Here in this country we do recognise free speech (still, sort of). The worse thing they did was use public resources and “company” time, if indeed, it was on “company” time. Those are things that should be handled by the department.

    Firing the officers involved, I think, is excessive. How many police officers don’t get fired for excessive force and whatnot? Go after the truely bad cops – the ones who lie, who beat suspects, who steal, who are crooked. If they aren’t doing those things, them having a bit of juevenile fun doesn’t really concern me.

    Doesn’t make me think of them as geniuses or model citizens, necessarily, but doesn’t make me think they’re bad cops necessarily, either.

  24. Sher, let’s make sure the potty don’t stink on your side of the atlantic before you start making broad generalizations.

    Or is that a generalization about broads, as Dante Smith would say? Oops, can I say that now? I might be brought to trial in the Hague International Court of Taste.

    Yes, the Dutch are a great and functional society with no problems whatsoever… they especially rule at protecting the filmmaking relatives of Vince Van Gogh from getting stabbed in the street by Islamist Fanatics for nothing more than practicing his art.

    But damn you all have some tasty mayo.

  25. Sherill,
    I have not seen anything to suggest that anybody was singled out. Have you ever seen a roast like they do at the Friar’s Club? Basically, everyone rips into the inductee, as well as anybody else on stage, and everyone is expected to take it in good humor. In most cases, it is almost certainly in good humor. However, you could just as easily pull together all of the jabs from one racial group to another and “prove” the whole thing is racist.
    I saw a whole host of groups (white males chief among them) being parodied for sloth, vanity and assorted ignorance; and that was the stuff they were trying to make their case with!
    If we can’t poke fun at each other, then surely the racists have won.
    ps – that last line was a joke. can’t be too safe, apparently

  26. Making cheap shots at someone so important to reason and libertarianism is not only irresponsible, it’s dumb. I now take you less seriously. Congrats.

    Did you actually READ any biographies about the woman? Complaining because I imply Rand lacked a sense of humor is like a Christian getting huffy when someone points out that the Bible allows slavery, to say nothing of demanding conformity on a libertarian site.

    But I take you no less seriously than I already did. De nada.

  27. Yes, the Dutch are a great and functional society with no problems whatsoever… they especially rule at protecting the filmmaking relatives of Vince Van Gogh from getting stabbed in the street by Islamist Fanatics for nothing more than practicing his art.

    Yeah, unlike America where NOBODY gets murdered for bullshit reasons.

  28. So, stone throwers at glass-housed stone throwers should consider moving?
    To take it another way, all houses have glass (metaphorically) and the stones are already flying.

    My intiution says that you get a free toss at glass-housed stone throwers to try to remind them of their own situation. I would not be able to defend that very well, though.

  29. If this video is the worst that San Franciscans have to complain about then they all need to shut the hell up. And if anybody is sincerely offended by the video and wants to make the cops regret having made it, then it seems to me, after watching bits of it, that the thing to do is this: every single time you see a San Francisco cop, bat your eyes exaggeratedly, then say “Ooooooh, Captain” in a breathy high-pitched voice, and then do that stupid tongue-rolling thing the cop did in the video.

    Within a week theywill all be so embarrassed they’ll quit.

    Fucking whining idiot tattletales don’t even know how to take care of their own damned selves anymore.

  30. As a San Franciscan, I find this whole thing hilarious. This is just PC run amok. We have a mayor with the ability and desire to out-pander any congressman and an incompetent police chief. Both are grandstanding to shore up their Moonbat bona fides. Anyone outraged by this video needs to watch more Comedy Central–call it de-sensitivity training.

  31. I conspiracize that this is just another attempt for Gavin Newsom to LOOK AT GAVIN NEWSOM! I mean isn’t his hair awesome, or how impishly cute his grin is? I mean, gee, this isn’t any way for him trying to get to a higher office is it?

    Blaggh!
    He’s just the lefty flip-side of prudism and I hope he doesn’t get any farther than mayor…

  32. How dare you cretins suggest that I don’t have a sense of humor?

    Look, I’ll tell a joke: An altruist walks into a bar, and an Objectivist beats him up. The Objectivist makes an eloquent ten-page speech proving that his behavior is justified.

    Excuse me, I laughed so hard I peed myself!

  33. Look, I’ll tell a joke: An altruist walks into a bar, and an Objectivist beats him up. The Objectivist makes an eloquent ten-page speech proving that his behavior is justified.

    Humor comes from the unexpected. The reason THIS joke is funny is that everybody knows the Objectivist’s speech would have been thirty pages long.

    Heh heh heh. An Objectivist blathering on for only ten pages? Comedy gold!

  34. Jennifer:

    See, the reason the speech was only ten pages long is that some other guy at the bar was talking about the “altruism” of the heroic firefighters on 9/11, and the Objectivist had to make a whole new speech to explain that those firefighters were actually rational individualists.

  35. See, Ayn Rand? That’s another reason you have a reputation for being humorless–never explain a joke’s punchline.

  36. A priest, a minister and a rabbi walk into a bar.

    The bartender says, “all three of you are corrupting the people with your theistic doctrines. Get out!”

  37. I don’t get it.

  38. Hey, I have an idea! Let’s make a funny video about humorless Dutch Objectivists trying to stop this outpouring of vicious satirical comedy. We can call it: “Ayn Rand Puts Her Finger in the Dyke”!

  39. This is a cut-and-paste of something I wrote a couple of months ago, after I read The Fountainhead for the very first time:

    Ayn Rand once said that Dominique was herself in a bad mood. Considering what Ms. Rand’s marriage was like (she’d actually make her husband write term papers on his thought processes and crap like that, when he dared to disagree with her), and considering Dominique’s portrayal of the Ideal Female Sex Role, this is how I imagine Ayn Rand’s sex life with Frank O’Connor:

    “Listen, you altruistic marry-me-so-I’m-not-deported piece of shit, I want you to dominate and subdue me, like a real man! Right now! You’ve got ten minutes, loser, and if I haven’t been forced to surrender to your superior male will by then I’ll fucking emasculate you. Stop cowering like that, you pussy!”

    Since I understand the late Ms. Rand spoke with a Russian accent, I always imagine her talking like Natasha Fatale, too. “After ve haf masochistic sex ve kill moose und skvirrel, dahlink.”

  40. It is absurd to think no one is allowed to laugh at themselves and their job. If none of us are able to joke and mock ourselves let alone our work environments superiors at work there would be more people going “postal”. Anyone participating in the videos did so voluntarily.

    There are dozens of comedy shows PAID to create this type of humor . . . is that the problem, no one made money off of this?

  41. There are dozens of comedy shows PAID to create this type of humor . . . is that the problem, no one made money off of this?

    I think, in all seriousness, that it’s related to the anything-tasty-or-fun-is-bad-for-you mentality: a belief that to see the lighter side of anything or anyone must be the exact same thing as holding it in utter contempt.

    Really, from what I saw of the video the cops protrayed themselves as foolishly–if not moreso–than anybody else. But to hear the idiots complaining about it, you’d think the cops went and remade Birth of a Nation.

  42. Ah yes, Jennifer, there is ample evidence to suggest that Ayn Rand swore that much, right? Oh, I forgot, you read a Rand biography, you know all. And if the bio you refer to is Barbara Branden’s pack of lies, you should read James Valliant’s refutation sometime.

  43. “But in any case, it’s a reminder of what giant pussies San Franciscans are. That’s why their lovely city on the bay is being devoured by homeless people.”

    Pussies. That’s funny.

    Uh, you do know that homelessness is WAY DOWN after Newsome’s widely hated (by the left) “Care Not Cash” program? Folks on the street decided it wasn’t such a great place to be without the cash GA checks every month.

    It’s hard to call Gavin a tool of the left after he instituted that program. Maybe you’re just still worked up about the gay marriage thing.

  44. So where did the homeless go, Portland?

  45. Ah yes, Jennifer, there is ample evidence to suggest that Ayn Rand swore that much, right? Oh, I forgot, you read a Rand biography, you know all. And if the bio you refer to is Barbara Branden’s pack of lies, you should read James Valliant’s refutation sometime.

    Actually, the point was more the disconnect between Rand’s depiction of the proper female role in sex versus what her personality would suggest she herself was like in bed, particularly with her not-exactly-a-Randian-hero husband. Mea culpa: I probably made up the bit about her threatening to kill moose and squirrel, too.

  46. “what her personality would suggest she herself was like in bed”

    From your comments here, I would assume that you are assumptive and domineering, but I wouldn’t make that assertion based on “suggestions”. You, however, have no such qualms on declaring someone’s sexual personality based on lies, rumors or nonfiction (and lacking in sexuality) writings.

    That last comment is a clever dodge; suggesting that I missed the point and that your humor was lost on me. It’s not, it was just un-funny, mean-spirited and, as you suggest, unfounded. Call me a humorless Objectivist, but I am growing tired of the more-than-occasional barbs you and other posters toss at a dead woman. A woman who was an intelligent and vociferous attack dog for liberty.

  47. Mayor Newsome and his affirmative action police chief, Heather Fong are both scheduled for surgery to have those large sticks removed from their respective butts.

  48. To me those videos looked like an amateur version of CHIPS. I guess SF next step is to seize all copies of that show as “hate propaganda”.

  49. Call me a humorless Objectivist, but I am growing tired of the more-than-occasional barbs you and other posters toss at a dead woman. A woman who was an intelligent and vociferous attack dog for liberty.

    And you see no irony in an Objectivist demanding a level of conformity? “Don’t ever poke fun at people who pointed out why Communism was bad.” To say nothing of the fact that my one-line statement may have gone all but unnoticed had you not made such an issue of it?

    I can understand a Christian insisting that Jesus was without flaws, but an Objectivist saying this about Ayn Rand has some inherent contradictions, don’t you think?

    From your comments here, I would assume that you are assumptive and domineering, but I wouldn’t make that assertion based on “suggestions”. You, however, have no such qualms on declaring someone’s sexual personality based on lies, rumors or nonfiction (and lacking in sexuality) writings.

    I haven’t written and published a bunch of sex scenes implying that the only “rational” sexual relationship is one where the woman is repeatedly dominated by a much larger man who refuses to take “no” for an answer.

    But hell, let’s forget about sex for a minute. Can I point out the contradiction of her writing The Fountainhead and spending an entire book talking about how everything must be functional, and purely decorative flourishes like columns and scrollwork are evil destroyers of freedom, and yet on the very last page of the book Dominique wears (presumably functional) high-heeled shoes when she visits her husband at a high-rise construction site? Don’t worry about any safety issues, though–as she rides the flimsy elevator up to the top to a steel building frame she “puts her high heels firmly on the floor,” which is of course a standard safety rule for people who wear high heels to high-rise construction sites.

    Honestly: Rand opened her own self open for disdain with her insistence that “Objectivism is so well-reasoned that if you accept any of it, you must accept ALL of it.” So of course a comment like that makes any internal contradictions all the more glaringly obvious. Kind of like a guy who brags about what a freethinker he is and then in the same breath insists that he cannot take seriously anyone who doesn’t take Rand seriously.

  50. GAVIN NEWSOM is a wussie fool he runs as mayor in HANOI ON THE BAY americas most left-wing city in the nation they realy need another big earthquake there

  51. your country in particular, is falling apart … A head of state who’s a moron, rules over morons. It’s downright Disgusting. …

    I’m not interested in Neanderthal comments.

    Uhh … OK.

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