Video Scandal Rocks S.F. Police

Jaxon Van Derbeken, Rachel Gordon, and Trapper Byrne, San Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 8, 2005

About 20 San Francisco police officers will be suspended because of their alleged involvement in what the mayor and police chief describe as videos that mock minorities and treat women as sex objects, the officials said Wednesday night.

“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,” Chief Heather Fong said at a City Hall press conference.

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 doing Tai Chi to vaguely Asian music. The two later head 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 “Charlie’s Angels” 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.

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Newsom said the videos mocked African Americans, Asians, women and the transgender community.

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.”

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