12/09/2005

P-1 Members respond: The SFPD video controversy

In light of the 2005 controversy sparked by a video showing San Francisco officers parodying police work, we asked PoliceOne members for their thoughts on whether the production was harmless or scandalous. Is the emotionally charged negative response an overreaction to simple humor or is the video actually derogatory and damaging to the officers, their agency and law enforcement as a whole?

The general consensus of those P-1 members who responded seemed to be that the media and the city officials enraged by the video were overreacting, though some thought the officers involved had stepped over the line.

Below are excerpts from a few of the many compelling e-mails we received.

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E-mails were edited for length.

From an officer in Lolo, Montana:

From the clips that I saw, it appeared humorous.  We should be able to poke a little fun at ourselves and our community.  The city administration doesn’t want to admit that their city is, well, "unique."  Having grown up in Northern California and having spent some time in San Francisco, I’ve seen some really interesting things.  I guess there’s a double standard there.  The citizens of San Francisco can do all sorts of weird and outrageous things, but if you’re a police officer there, you can’t even poke a little fun ...

From Texas:

I've heard things said by soldiers and medical personnel in emergency rooms in jest that would have sounded horrible to someone who doesn't understand that humor is a very important "tactic" for effectively managing stress. The department should have said that the officers should have used better judgement, placed a note in their files and that should have been the end of it.  Shame on the department for not standing up for their team, but even more importantly shame on the public and the media for losing their sense of humor...

From an officer in Springfield, Illinois:

So what.  Just cop humor.  They were stupid for posting it on the internet, but I did not see anything other than a little humor.  We have one of the most stressful careers in the world and sometimes a good laugh is good medicine.  No one cares about all the good things we do, but let one "cop joke" out of the bag and everyone comes unglued! I could tell you some good ones, but I have 10 1/2 more years before I can retire ... so we'll talk later.

From another reader:

I can see how this video can certainly be construed as negative and improper.  However, I am also able to see what the true intentions of the officers involved were.  Certainly, Chief Wong understands that too, but politics are involved here.  Unfortunately, in this day and age, police officers, regardless of their intentions, are often hung out to dry when politics comes knocking.  Many, if not most, of our statutes include a mental state as an element.  Is the mental state of the officers not important?

From an officer in Dodgeville, Wisconson:

We all know that since the Rodney King incident, all of LE is under the microscope and as much as we want to boost morale and reduce the stress of the job, we have to find legitimate ways to do so. This stuff at best is done in poor taste. Morals are an important part of the officer image. Whether the individual actually has those morals is irrelevant, the position (uniform) requires the wearer to act morally.

Do what is legal on your own time; do what is legal, moral and uplifting when you are at work. That will keep everybody out of trouble with the media.

From an officer in St. Joseph City, Michigan:

I have to qualify this some, as I only saw a few brief segments of the video and am not sure how I would feel if I saw the entire video. However, I do see some problems with the video; that is they used SFPD equipment (squad cars & uniforms) and the video clips give the appearance that some of the video was shot while "on duty".  I'm afraid ultimately that will doom them...

--> Read a powerful San Francisco Chronicle column related to the controversy

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