On the hook - Page 3

SFPD's expensive war on small-time druggies

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Addicts are often busted for selling drugs after undercover cops offer many times the street value for small amounts

One of Irwin's clients, a homeless man, was charged with selling narcotics after he scraped out the contents of his pipe to sell 1/1,000th of a gram of crack to an undercover officer for $20. In a rare twist, the case was ultimately settled on a misdemeanor possession of narcotics.

Inspector Robert Doss, who served as the decoy in that case, has earned substantial amounts of overtime while going undercover to buy drugs, according to a court transcript. In 2009 Doss earned $35,488 in combined overtime and "other pay," which includes time spent testifying in court, according to a San Francisco Chronicle database of municipal salaries.

 

ON THE STREET, OFF THE STREET

The Tenderloin is frequently targeted for buy-busts, with 65 percent of open cases as of June 13 having taken place in that neighborhood. The Haight ranked second, with nearly 12 percent of cases, and the Mission followed with 10 percent. Shortly after District Attorney George Gascón was sworn into his prior post as police chief in 2009, he announced a concerted effort to clean up the Tenderloin, and Klement maintains he's seen a surge in cases stemming from buy-busts there ever since.

Drug dealing in the Tenderloin often makes the news as a source of frustration to merchants and residents. "You try and explain to the people of San Francisco that it's okay for people to have open-air drug markets right in front of their stores," Suhr said.

Yet Klement maintains that what is essentially a quality-of-life crime should not be treated as a felony. "There's a lot of pressure from people who are invested in businesses [in the Tenderloin] who would love to see that neighborhood become the next Hayes Valley," he said. "But what they don't realize is that people are paying with prison for that agenda."

Once someone has been labeled a drug dealer in the eyes of the law, he said, it becomes more difficult for them to access drug treatment — not to mention get a job, qualify for a student loan, or find housing.

Roberts' case nearly went to trial. If convicted, she could have been sent to prison for a minimum of three and a maximum of 17 years due to extra penalties from prior convictions. On the eve of the trial, however, the case was settled on a possession charge for a year in jail, a rare outcome. Klement was hoping to have her placed in a treatment program.

Asked if she knew of others swept up in undercover operations, Roberts gave a wry chuckle and gestured to the jail corridor behind her, indicating that nearly everyone there had been taken down in similar fashion. Klement noted that the targets of the buy-busts are almost exclusively people of color, saying, "You walk into the holding cell and you think you're in Alabama or Mississippi, not San Francisco."

In an editorial on the subject that he wrote a couple years ago, Klement noted that by contrast, predominantly white middle class people with a fondness for illegal drugs are rarely targeted because they aren't the ones selling drugs on the street. "The hard truth is that the police ignore most of the middle class drug use and dealing occurring out of private homes in every neighborhood or other public venues in the city — bars, nightclubs, concert halls. More drugs are being transported to Burning Man as we speak than will probably be seized during Gascón's entire crackdown."

For Klement, it's just another symptom of a broken system. "A lot of these people are repeat players because we don't have the right interventions at the right time," he said. "We don't understand addiction."

 

Comments

These drug busts are a waste of money and resources, as is the baiting of sex workers and their clients. SFPD should focus their efforts on violent crime and large-scale criminal enterprises --- not survival drug deals and sex work.

If SF wants to address real crime --- violence and issues like human trafficking it can --- but this requires police to earn the trust of those in a neighborhood --- not only business owners and condo dwellers --- but homeless, drug users and sex workers.

Real crimes are solved by knowing your community, hard-nosed detective work, and tools like surveillance, statistical and technical analyses with judicial oversight. Of course maybe this won't generate the numbers political types are looking for ...

Posted by q on Jun. 22, 2011 @ 11:07 am

Thanks Rebecca,

Just spent an hour high-lighting your work for presentation. Loveit. "War on crumbs"? Great. "$300,000 in officer pay" to bust one lame asshole 'before' you add in the costs of defending and prosecuting them? Wonderful data.

"65% of busts in Tenderloin"? I love the observation by defender Tal Klement that in order to gentrify Mid-Market people are needlessly going to prison.

I especially like your quote that, "More drugs are being transported to Burning Man as we speak than will (sic) probably be seized during Gascon's entire crackdown.". Steven Jones will be happy that you're directing the forces of the law to clean up that nasty thing in the desert.

I look out my window over the Gay Pride route through the heart of the Tenderloin and my universe agrees with your pronouncements.

Go Giants!

h.

Posted by Guest h. brown on Jun. 22, 2011 @ 11:09 am

Thanks Rebecca,

Just spent an hour high-lighting your work for presentation. Love it. "War on crumbs"? Great. "$300,000 in officer pay" to bust one lame asshole 'before' you add in the costs of defending and prosecuting them? Wonderful data.

"65% of busts in Tenderloin"? I love the observation by defender Tal Klement that in order to gentrify Mid-Market people are needlessly going to prison.

I especially like your quote that, "More drugs are being transported to Burning Man as we speak than will (sic) probably be seized during Gascon's entire crackdown.". Steven Jones will be happy that you're directing the forces of the law to clean up that nasty thing in the desert.

I look out my window over the Gay Pride route through the heart of the Tenderloin and my universe agrees with your pronouncements.

Now what do we do?

I'd recommend we elect our Police Chief.

Go Giants!

h.

Posted by Guest h. brown on Jun. 22, 2011 @ 11:11 am

I use to think like that before I moved to the neighborhood. Any decent person living in the loin comes to appreciate cops real fast. And they are *not* busing sex workers ether.

Posted by outhere on Jun. 26, 2011 @ 9:42 pm

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