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Bayview residents petition Police Commission
for peace

By Brent Begin, Bay City News Service

August 24, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - Several residents of San Francisco's Bayview District attended last night's police commission meeting and expressed concern over what they called a recent surge in violent crime in the area.

One resident, who broke down in tears, told the story of how her 4-year-old son can discern the difference between the sound of gunshots and fireworks.

Another speaker held an enlarged picture of a stop sign on Innes Street with a bullet hole in the middle. The sign is only a few hundred feet from where a double homicide occurred in broad daylight less than two weeks ago.

All of the residents, men and women of differing racial and ethnic backgrounds, called on the commission and police to put an end to the murders and shootings, which they blamed on drugs and gang violence.

But according to Deputy Chief Morris Tabak, this year's homicide numbers do not reflect a trend of gang or drug violence; they are more the result of the failure of the criminal justice system as a whole.

Tabak cited several components beyond police work that "need to step up" such as probation monitoring, aggressive prosecution and the juvenile system.

"When you're not putting the heavy felons away in prison, then they're out in the population committing more crime," said Tabak, who also cited a nation-wide phenomenon of rage in contributing to the city's homicides.

Commission President Louise Renne also acknowledged the failings of the court and probation system. She provided a rare response to the public comment at the beginning of the meeting.

"Week after week we hear these stories," Renne said. "It troubles us immensely."

She went on to say that the solution to the violence would come from more than just putting more officers on the streets, and she hinted that a major change was in the works.

"You won't see it in a week or two, but, hopefully, things will change soon," she said.

Police Chief Heather Fong also responded to the emotional group of speakers.

"The level of violence is unacceptable," Fong said. "What the community feels is as if they are under siege. They are not the only ones who are very frustrated, and the message in our communities has to be that if you violate the law, there will be a consequence and action will be taken."

Also, in closed session, commissioners discussed withdrawing two disciplinary matters and allowing Fong to discipline the officers on an administrative level.

The first matter, regarding Officer Huitier Choi, was continued until next week. Choi is under investigation for allegedly letting a hit-and-run suspect who dropped a bag of crack cocaine walk away from a crime.

The commission voted to relegate the second matter, regarding Inspector Kevin Whitfield, to the chief's level. Whitfield was arrested in November 2003 for allegedly beating his nephew after he got in trouble at school.

According to commission secretary Sgt. Joe Reilly, the commission many times withdraws disciplinary actions because not enough evidence has been collected to prove a case.

Commissioner Joe Veronese was absent from the meeting.

Copyright © 2006 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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