In a report released earlier this month, a police consulting firm suggested San Francisco's finest should slash the number of precinct stations in half to streamline administrative positions and get more patrol officers on the streets.
Costly study aside, one cop offers another way to boost the force's numbers: How about letting seven patrol officers still punished in the VideoGate scandal out of police purgatory? More than two years since they filmed the infamous video that was intended to be a self-parody for the Bayview station's Christmas party, the seven cops are shuffling papers in various "nonpublic contact jobs," awaiting their day before the police commission to face charges including racial harassment and discrediting the department.
The video's producer, Andrew Cohen, says his current $90,000 job in the records room as a "very, very high-paid copy position" is a waste of money and police manpower — especially as the city's murder rate mushrooms.
"We haven't been found guilty of anything," says Cohen, who maintains a blog, Inside the SFPD, which features a counter of the days since the scandal erupted (more than 900 now) as well as snarky letters to Police Chief Heather Fong (aka "Mommy Dearest"). "I'm accused of a comedy video. Take away my camera, not my gun."
Police Commission President Theresa Sparks says the commission has been whittling down the case backlog — 26 dating back to 2002, a source at the Police Officers Association says — and will soon be hiring outside hearing officers to handle cases. "We're expecting to get to them [VideoGate cases] soon," she says. "We've been in discussion with lawyers over the last couple months, so they haven't just sat there."
Even though Cohen says he isn't going anywhere until he sees the cases through (he also has pending lawsuits against the city), he is temporarily off the job on disability. As part of his duties as the self-declared "recycling czar of the records room," Cohen attempted to save a recycling cart from tipping over last month, but instead went down with it and wrenched his shoulder in the process. "I was afraid I was going to be cut by a paper cut," he says. "I didn't think I was going to go down with a shoulder injury."