Note: This open letter is in response to Mr. Halloran’s most recent newsletter to his rank and file officers.
Dear Martin Halloran,
You and your mob-like leadership of the San Francisco Police Officer Association have proven to be a rotten influence in our beautiful city, preventing us from being the progressive champion we should be. The POA is a para-military organization that fails its creed of being a true union — proving its failure by threatening its members, the public, and elected officials; and taking pride in blocking necessary reforms of the police department. There are good officers that don’t stand with you in your hate-filled positions; and I know, if given the chance, these officers would stand with the community.
I write this letter in response to your immature and sad attempt to discredit an entire community and to suggest that recent killings of black and brown brothers and sisters are either inevitable or the fault of the victims. The letter you published in the June, 2016 edition of the San Francisco Police Officer Association Journal contains a number of lies, falsehoods and misrepresentations. I will address each one accordingly:
1. Victim blaming is not ok. You write: “the death[s] [of Jessica Williams (Nelson) and others] resulted from a failure to comply with lawful commands and an exhaustion by police of all reasonable options.” This is simply false. In every killing since Alex Nieto, all reasonable options were not exhausted. The death of Jessica Williams (Nelson) resulted as a direct consequence of Sergeant Ebd believing he had the right to execute another human being. Stuck in a crashed vehicle, Ms. Williams was attempting unbuckle her seatbelt before she was shot dead. Ms. Williams was 5 months pregnant, and for certain was not going to physically overpower two male police officers. If the officers suspected Ms. Williams had done something wrong, a reasonable option would have been to arrest her -- not to execute her.
We’ve all seen the video of Mario Woods’ execution, we’ve heard the eyewitnesses who saw Luis Gongora’s execution which happened within seconds of the officer exiting his vehicle, and we’ve read the autopsy report, showing the officers lied and actually shot Amilcar Lopez in the back. Each of these leave no doubt whatsoever that all reasonable options were neither attempted nor exhausted. None of these people were a threat to police officers, none of these individuals deserved to die. These are extra-judicial murders, individuals tried and sentenced to death not by a judge, but by the trigger of a police officer; therefore, these officers must be held accountable.
Allow me to provide some context, police in America have killed 479 peoplethis year alone. You and your officers have no right to kill unarmed citizens extra judicially, taking away their right to their constitutional right of due process, if these men were true criminals they should have been tried in court not at the hands of your police officers.
2. Chief Suhr did not deserve to keep his job. You write: “If you look at Greg Suhr’s record and service in the department, he has saved more lives on the street, offered more educational advancements to our youth, and has advanced this department into the 21st century with new tactics”. I’ve looked at Chief Suhr’s record. It’s appalling, truly appalling. It includes involvement in the death of Mark Garcia in 1997; two demotions; a fajita gate scandal and a personal harassment suit that cost the city millions of dollars; he hid two cases of extreme racist and bigoted text messages, did not act on the crime lab scandal within his department; and oversaw the murders of Mario Woods, Alex Nieto, Amilcar Perz-Lopez, Luis Gongora Pat, and Jessica Williams (Nelson).
No other leader could have such a disastrous record and keep their job.
All we’ve seen on the streets is the continuation of a systematic targeting of black and brown people, resulting in multiple executions at the hands of police.
3. The people of San Francisco are being pushed out of the city and you are contributing to the displacement. You write: That it was the “ vocal minority, who are mostly not residents of San Francisco” that were fighting for justice and the removal of Greg Suhr. Let’s be clear, the majority of people who have been organizing against police brutality do live in the city, but what’s even more powerful is that people who have been displaced as a result of gentrification came back to fight for the city they believe in.
Your organization is at the front lines of a concerted and very deliberate effort to gentrify our city. From over criminalizing people of color and the poor, we have very few options but to be displaced or in jail.
In San Francisco, a black male is 11 times more likely than a white male to be arrested and charged for the exact same crime. Is it a crime to be a person of color in San Francisco? The data shows that unfortunately it is crime.
A report by the Coalition on Homelessness found that 70% of homeless people had been forced by law enforcement to move from public spaces -- what kind of heartless city do we live in? I’ll give you a prime example of how the homeless -- which are also San Francisco residents -- are being criminalized. In Luis Gongora Pat’s case, who by the way was also displaced, there is a video of police officers slashing the tents of homeless witnesses who would have testified to Luis’ innocence. This officer behavior rested on the grounds that the homeless were violating the “Sit/Lie” ordinance. This is a clear example of the criminalization and harassment of poverty that takes place every day in this city.
Mr. Halloran, you and your organization must start caring about protecting life more than you care about protecting property — which has become the sad reality in our city.
4. I lost 25 pounds in 17 days and I wish you would have joined us. You write: “We now have the “Frisco Five” who led a so called “hunger strike” and demanded that the Mayor fire Chief Suhr. They continued this “hunger strike” while they were being nourished by fellow activists at Mission Station.” After 17 days of not eating food we were hospitalized. I lost 25 pounds, suffered from serious emotional and physical issues, and am still recovering. But you are attempting to distract from what really happened— in 17 days, the city of San Francisco cleansed this city, at least momentarily, with pure love and showed that the power of the community, when united, can move mountains. What we did was not sole reason Greg Suhr was fired, he was fired because of the organizing and power showed by average people and the strength of the coalitions like Justice 4 Alex Nieto, Mario Woods, Amilcar Perez-Lopez, and Luis Gongora Pat.
The five of us went on a hunger strike not for political theatre, but to show that after Luis Gongora Pat’s death, we were not going to stand for any more. From the sounds of it, you seem intimidated by the strength demonstrated by the people who exercise their first amendment right — don’t be; those chants you hear are our ancestors speaking justice through us. We’ll all be better off as a result of justice, I promise.
Mr. Halloran, I wish you would have joined us on our spiritually cleansing hunger strike, perhaps you would have lost the heavy burden of hate that sits in your soul.
5. Finally, big money is running our city and you are their enforcer. You write: “Who is running this city and who are our elected representatives answering to? The squeaky wheel from a vocal minority of non-city residents, or from those who live and work and raise their families here and who have voted for our elected officials?” You even go on to suggest that we are “anarchists.” The anarchists here are the influential minority of big money interests who believe they can skirt the law everyday. Where are you when they break the law?
You say it’s wrong that elected officials are listening to the people who are exercising their first amendment right. So are we to not listen to conscious residents who fight for justice? Seeing the examples of your organization, maybe the answer to that is NO. Calling officers in SFPD “snitches,” who should actually be lauded as brave whistleblowers for standing up against racism in the department, is the culture of suppression and code of silence that perhaps you want everyone else to follow? That will not be happening.
We know that change only comes when the people speak truth to power; and power concedes nothing without demand.
To conclude, you end by asking “Okay San Francisco, now what?”
Let’s start with these:
- The community have binding input on the next San Francisco police chief.
- Independent investigations into everyone one of the killings at the hands police under Chief Suhr’s reign.
- District Attorney George Gascón must indict and charge the police officers involved in the Amilcar Perez Lopez, Mario Woods, Luis Gongora, and Jessica Williams shootings. And if found guilty, these officers must go to jail.
- Police Commission must adopt a new Use of Force policy requiring de-escalation and deadly force as absolute last resort. Additionally, Tasers must never be adopted in San Francisco — we will not allow another tool of abuse that has never proven to decrease killings by police.
- Lastly, we must ensure that Ed Lee is either held accountable to the people of this city, because Jessica Williams’ blood is on his hands. He must actually represent the people, not the money, of San Francisco.
Let it be known, the POA cannot continue to bully our city. It ends today and I will make sure it.
Hunger Striker for Justice and Candidate, District 9 Board of Supervisors