He's back!

Police say it was a mistake to have notorious Officer Bertrand recently back on the beat busting nightclubs

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SFPD Officer Larry Bertrand outside Sloan nightclub on June 17.

steve@sfbg.com

It's been more than a year since relations between San Francisco's nightlife community and the San Francisco Police Department bottomed-out following a nasty crackdown and pattern of harassment led by plain-clothes Officer Larry Bertrand and Michelle Ott, an agent with the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

The pair's antics included repeatedly shutting down clubs, aggressively raiding private parties, seizing laptop computers and other property, making arrests for minor infractions, roughing up and threatening those who objected to the harsh treatment, dumping out dozens of bottles of alcohol, and, according to one lawsuit, retaliating against those who filed complaints.

There were at least four lawsuits against the city related to the crusade, including one that the city is in the process of settling for $50,000 (involving promoter Arash Ghanadan, who had repeated run-ins with Bertrand) and another federal lawsuit alleging that Bertrand's harassment of legal businesses amounted to a criminal racketeering enterprise. The federal case is headed for trial later this year.

After cover stories in the Guardian (see "The new War on Fun," 3/23/10) and SF Weekly exposed the abuses, and the nightlife community formed the California Music and Culture Association to counter the assault, Bertrand and Ott were pulled off the nightlife beat and things slowly got better.

So when Bertrand appeared back on the beat on a recent Friday night, June 17 — targeting two of the same clubs he allegedly harassed before, Mist and Sloan, and shutting Sloan down for the night on a technical violation — many in the nightlife community freaked out, fearing that their improved relationship with SFPD was over and the bad old days were back.

"My phone was blowing up with texts and photos of his raid on Sloan nightclub. People are livid," attorney Mark Rennie, who works with clubs on permitting and compliance issues, wrote to a group of nightlife advocates in an e-mail titled "Officer Larry Bertrand back on the Streets last night and up to his old tricks."

Complaints were made to new Police Chief Greg Suhr and others in the command staff. The SFPD initially refused a Guardian request for comment on whether Bertrand would remain back on the beat, citing the ongoing lawsuits. But police spokesperson Sgt. Mike Andraychak eventually admitted it was a mistake to have Bertrand busting clubs and said he won't be back on that beat anytime soon.

Andraychak said the new commander of Southern Station, Capt. Charlie Orkes, assigned Bertrand to police the clubs for the night and "he wasn't aware of the history of lawsuits, and so that's why Officer Bertrand was out there that night doing permit inspections ... He won't have Officer Bertrand in that role again, in the interests of good community relations."

Those relations have become much better and more cooperative in the last year, according to Suhr, Rennie, and Entertainment Commission Executive Director Jocelyn Kane. "We're happy with our relationship with the Police Department right now," Kane told us. "That's why [the reappearance of Bertrand] was of concern to people."

During an interview with the Guardian on the morning of June 17, Suhr said he was supportive of nightlife. "I'm pro entertainment and I want the clubs to succeed. It think it draws people to the city and allows us to do a lot of things," Suhr said, emphasizing the importance of clear communications and good relations between clubs and the SFPD. "If we're being fair, consistent, and objective in how we treat situations, the clubs will know how it works."

Comments

Raids for what? What exactly is it they think people are doing in there, operating drug-smuggling tunnels that lead directly to Juarez?
99.9% of people are just dancing, getting shetfaced, and sloppily hitting on other patrons, none of which is illegal (yet). Most bouncers enjoy their work, maybe even a little too much, and do a pretty good job of making sure trouble gets taken care of promptly.
The cops would do a lot more good patrolling outside and around clubs and nabbing the rash of petty crooks breaking into cars.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 30, 2011 @ 11:52 am

If this is how he behaves first chance he gets when he's loosed on the clubs for ONE NIGHT... after all the lawsuits and bullshit he's already called down, what kind of nutcase is he???

How do you think this guy behaves the rest of the time? Even if he's not abusing people at night clubs, who else will he be abusing? Do you REALLY want to deal with this out of control jerk pulling you over for an ordinary traffic stop?? He's got to be a nightmare wherever he goes, they should keep him chained to a desk like a rabid dog or get rid of him entirely.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 30, 2011 @ 2:23 pm

So, i guess Suhr and the entertainment commission havent walked down 11th street on a friday or saturday night? its a lovely nightime hotspot, if you could survive without getting stabbed, stomped or shot.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 30, 2011 @ 2:45 pm

On that street every Friday and Saturday night, hardly as dangerous as you make it out to be.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 15, 2011 @ 7:19 pm

I don't go out much any more, but I love the clubs in the area.

Just don't bring a car, you'll get your windows smashed in which the SFPD does NOTHING about except file your police report into the abyss of bureaucracy. (I've had it happen 4 times in 3 years)

Hey dummies, you're doing it wrong. The problem is outside the clubs down the street, not inside the club. I know, I'd rather be inside the club than outside too, but it's not my job to keep the public safe from harm or theft.

I think the club owners should pool their money to hire security OUTSIDE (vigilantes), make arrests, and then bill the city for services that the police aren't providing.

There, now the public outside and club goers inside are safe. Problem solved.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 30, 2011 @ 3:26 pm

Vigilance Committee is the historic response to gov't corruption in SF. Just sayin'

Posted by Guest on Aug. 11, 2011 @ 3:16 pm

First of all, shame on Sloan for reporting that they got "shut down" by not only SFPD, but Bertrand. How about they report the truth and admit they got shut down my SF Fire?? Yup, that's right...they were naughty and did some illegal things that SF Fire wasn't too happy with, so they shut them down.

As for Mist, Mike Quan needs to get off his high horse and stop running to his little good-for-nothing attorney, Mark Rennie. Rennie likes to jump om like a knight in shining armour, but what really does he do?? He sends a letter about Bertrand's presence being unacceptable? Really? I think Mike Quan needs to keep in mind that the police are permitted to do walk-throughs at any time. I worked with Bertrand that night and not once did he interact with the staff except to advise them that we were walking through. Are Mike Quan & his staff so cocky in their position that they can now start being dishonest about things and start making things up, just to look like the victim? They've played the victim long enough. Neighbors near and far can all attest to Mist being a problem and in the past and in the present. It's only a matter of time before something serious happens. And I hope Mike Quan is responsible.

Posted by Get it right on Jul. 04, 2011 @ 4:29 pm

My understanding is that Sloan had completed everything the Fire Department asked for and was supposed to get its final permit sign-off that day but that it got delayed, and by then it was too late to hire Firewatch again, as they had been doing on previous nights. And while it was the FD's call, I was told it was Bertrand who called in the FD after doing a permit check on the business.
If you were really Bertrand's partner that night, perhaps you could verify or dispute that version of events and identify yourself for our readers. I'm also a little troubled by your characterization of Rennie and Quan (and your hopes that Quan is responsible for "something serious" happening), which seems to support the view that many cops are hostile to nightlife in this town. Is it really appropriate for you to exhibit such animus toward these two individuals?

Posted by steven on Jul. 05, 2011 @ 11:30 am

To Get It Right: At least when Jim Dudley does surreptitious PR for the Department he does it in a smart and calculating way-- You should leave the right wing propaganda to the experts. Quit blaming the SFFD for MadDog Bertrand's actions that night. According to the Sloan manager the SF Fire officer told him that night that "your place looks fine but we have this cop riding us to shut you down. Sorry".

The new Chief, Greg Suhr, and Commander Corriea must really drive the old hardliners crazy. They actually understand the importance of the "other 9 to 5" to the economy of San Francisco, and are out to build upon the spirit of cooperation between nightlife and the SFPD started by Chief Gascon. "Public servants" like Get it Right and Larry Bertrand are a blight upon the great San Francisco Police Department. As for that "good-for-nothing attorney Rennie" and Mike Quan they played a big part in taking Bertrand off the street-- twice. Thank you Mike Quan and Mark Rennie for a job well done.

Posted by Tommy Gunn on Jul. 06, 2011 @ 12:28 pm