Supes pass resolution protecting SF Patrol Special Police Officers

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Jane Warner, or “Officer Jane” as she’s known throughout the Castro, had a rough Christmas Eve. It started when Warner, a San Francisco Patrol Special Police officer who was out walking the foot beat, was alerted that a fight had broken out at Trigger, a bar on Market Street. When she arrived, she says she encountered a drunk and belligerent man. “He got more excited and charged the doormen, he pushed me, I pushed him back, and I said, ‘You’re under arrest,’” Warner told the Guardian shortly after the incident occurred. “He started to walk away from me, I drew my baton, I hit him twice, and he turned around and he hit me and I went to block his punch and he broke my arm,” at which point she fell to the ground in pain. “It cracked the bone right between the elbow and the shoulder,” she said.

According to a police report, several San Francisco police officers arrived on the scene shortly after and arrested the man, James Crayton McCullough. But when they arrived at the police station and tried to get him out of the police car, according to the report, he wedged his body onto the floor of the vehicle and allegedly shouted at one of them, “I’m going to shoot you in the fucking head!” Later, he was transported to San Francisco General Hospital because he had a laceration on his head, where he allegedly threatened a nurse.

Before he was through that night, he’d amassed six felony charges and three misdemeanor charges, District Attorney spokesperson Brian Buckelew told us shortly after the incident. He somehow managed to make $250,000 bail. But he was issued orders to stay 150 yards away from Warner, as well as Castro bars Trigger and Badlands. McCullough also received an order to stay out of the entire Castro neighborhood -- a move Buckelew says is highly unusual.

The incident prompted Sup. Bevan Dufty to introduce a resolution to encourage San Francisco Police Chief George Gascon to consider imposing an increase in penalties for an assault on a Patrol Special Police Officer. This past Tuesday, at the Board of Supervisors meeting, that resolution was approved.

Since Warner was assaulted, other incidents have occurred in which Patrol Special Officers were placed in harm's way, according to a press release sent out yesterday by the organization.

San Francisco’s Patrol Special Police, roughly 40 strong, is a private force dating back to the days of the Gold Rush. In a rare arrangement, they’re authorized under the City Charter to patrol different neighborhoods, hired by private clients such as merchant associations, and they adhere to regulations set by the Police Commission. While they aren’t sworn officers, they undergo a training process similar to that of SFPD officers and they make arrests. Warner describes the patrol specials’ model as a form of “community policing” which she says emphasizes crime prevention.

When asked about Dufty’s resolution in an interview with the Guardian last week, Gascon was somewhat resistant to the idea. He said he had a problem with private policing in general. “This is more of a private police model,” he said. “Their uniforms are very similar to the San Francisco Police Department. So, quite frankly to the majority of the public, it is very hard to distinguish between one and the other.”

“I understand where Supervisor Dufty’s coming from,” Gascon added. “These are people that are certainly out there providing public safety services and they sometimes become the target of people that, for whatever reason or another, they don’t want to be subject to their authority. The problem that I have again is that it continues to blur the line of a very unusual process. … There’s no question that in some places there are people who certainly are in favor of having patrol specials. This is not to take away from the quality of service that patrol special officers provide because I think some of them are very professional and they are very courteous and very effective in what they do. ”

While it’s a felony to assault a San Francisco Police Officer, there are no special charges in the penal code for an individual who commits an assault on a patrol special officer. Dufty’s resolution asks the Police Commission and Gascon to provide Patrol Specials with "the same protections that San Francisco Police Department officers and a number of others who are protected under state code from being assaulted in the line of duty.”