On Guard: Does SF have a Ferguson problem? 

click to enlarge Last week's protest at SF City Hall drew hundreds. - EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • Examiner file photo
  • Last week's protest at SF City Hall drew hundreds.
Last week, San Francisco’s black community took The City by the collar, pulled tight and said, “Look at me.”

And what we’re seeing is a black community that is not only dwindling — it stands at 6 percent of The City’s population — but is also angry and disenfranchised.

During last week’s protest that took over City Hall in the name of racial equality, many demonstrators made one specific allegation.

“San Francisco, you say you’re not Ferguson but we say you are,” Phelicia Jones shouted from the steps of City Hall. She was referring to the Missouri town where an unarmed young black man, Michael Brown, was fatally shot by a white police officer last year.

Is that true of San Francisco? Your gut reaction may be to say no, pointing out the liberal values of the Police Department — such as allowing people to gather en masse on April 20 every year to smoke marijuana in Golden Gate Park.

A recent incident I witnessed offered some insight.

I was leaving the office late one night with a colleague and we came across a crowd of black teens, with some adults, surrounding a police car on Market Street.

An officer shut the door and drove off before I was able to see who was inside, but bystanders showed me video and photos. A black teenage girl scuffled with police over something that I never found out. The photos did show that the girl was injured and bleeding. At this point, her father and mother showed up, and the first thing her father said was, “My daughter got Ferguson’d!”

There you have it: Ferguson is now a verb. And how have police Ferguson’d the local black community lately? Perhaps most egregiously are arrest rates and jail populations.

Black people make up only 6 percent of The City’s population, yet 47 percent of arrests were of black people between 2009 and 2014. And more than 50 percent of the jail population is black (and no, they are not mostly from out of town).

And of course there is the whole bigoted text message scandal in which officers disparaged black people and others.

So what can you do about being Ferguson’d, San Francisco? One place to start is in diversity training and recruitment.

At a Board of Supervisors committee meeting Wednesday, the Police Department is expected to present the state of safety services, and insiders say officials will discuss hiring more officers. This is no secret, as police have pushed for this for the past year.

But if advocates and the public are paying attention, they will show up and make some requests of their own.

If the police want more recruits, we should make sure these recruits represent the best the SFPD can be — and stop making black San Franciscans feel Ferguson’d.

On Guard covers issues concerning The City’s political left. It prints the news and raises hell each Tuesday. Email him at joe@sfexaminer.com.

About The Author

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Born and raised in San Francisco, Fitzgerald Rodriguez was a staff writer at the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and now writes the S.F. Examiner's political column On Guard. He is also a transportation beat reporter covering pedestrians, Muni, BART, bikes, and anything with wheels.
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