Civil Liberties

Another Grim Reminder Why It Is Always Dangerous to Call the Cops


It's a crummy lesson, alas crummy police officers keep teaching it. Circulating around social networks this week–the first person account was written by a friend of a friend of mine–is this grim (and long) tale from

It's about how when Peretz Partensky called 911 when he stumbled across an injured biker on a San Francisco street, it led to him being shoved, tackled, kneed in the temple, having an existing elbow injury exacerbated, cuffed face down on the street, his hands stomped on, arrested, told he "was going to be a problem," denied medical attention, stripped and shoved into solitary confinement, then let out the next day. When he went to court he had his charges summarily dismissed.

Thomas Hawk / Foter / CC BY-NC


After 12 hours in jail, more than 6 of them in solitary confinement, the process of checking out was unremarkable. I signed a few papers. Retrieved my backpack. Confirmed the contents?—?laptop, wallet, phone, books and keys.

"The charges will be dropped if you show up on Tuesday. If you don't show up, there will be a warrant for your arrest," I was casually informed.

"Deputy, should I have been here in the first place?"


It was almost too good to hear. "Then why did I end up here?"

"You have to consider the source." This phrase I remember verbatim.

"How do you mean?"

"I mean, there are a lot of young cops on the street, trying to make a name for themselves."…..

Officer Kaur's unnecessary escalation of a peaceful situation, culminating in the sadistic stomping on my cuffed hands is a severe professional failure that reflects poorly on the San Francisco Police Department. It does not surprise me that she and several of the other officers I encountered that night are currently in the middle of a lawsuit…..

I painstakingly retrieved all possible documentation, including: the police report, transcript of radio chatter, audio of my 911 call, security footage from Radius restaurant (handed to me freely by the owner), Rebecca's and Josh's feedback, and collected photos from the incident and my injuries.

I presented all of this to the SF Office of Citizen Complaints. The filing party is not allowed to know the outcome due to the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights (POBAR) but may be notified if an internal investigation is initiated. Many months have passed since my complaint, and I have no sense of progress….

 I conclude with several public service announcements:

  • Don't call 911. Obviously, there are exceptions, but the sad lesson is, there are fewer than you'd think.
  • Call Lyft to take you to the hospital. (Worked well when I broke my elbow.)
  • Take such incidents to trial, where justice isn't veiled by the POBAR. It's not a matter of litigious vindictiveness. It's just the only available way. The SF Office of Citizen Complaints is not a valid alternative.
  • Consider wearing a video camera at all times. It has been shown that when police wear cameras and are aware of being filmed, it moderates their behavior. As self reports of the need to use force decrease, so do complaints.