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Mulch 

Wednesday, Jan 29 1997
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Willie's Watching the Detectives
The dismissal of brutality charges against S.F. cop Mark Andaya has led to an unusual outpouring of public grief and anger aimed at the Police Commission. Andaya was one of the officers who beat robbery suspect Aaron Williams in 1995, after which Williams died in custody. (see "Dead Heat," May 15, 1996).

Mayor Brown is understandably concerned about the credibility of his commission and the outrage in the African-American community. (Williams was black.) But an idea that he's weighing to improve the police discipline process may only further confuse, and possibly damage, the system.

A source close to the mayor says Brown is considering replacing the Police Commission with private hearing officers (mainly lawyers) who would hear cases and make reports to the commission. Commissioners would then rule on whether to discipline officers.

"I think the mayor is committed for one reason or another to the neutral hearing officers," the source said, adding that Brown apparently wants to bring more expertise to the hearing process.

But there's a problem: It's difficult, if not impossible, to make informed decisions about the credibility of witnesses if a commissioner does not see the testimony. To be fair, the mayor's idea is just that, an idea, and it's certain he will consult with all interested parties -- the ACLU, the police officers union, community groups, and the commissioners -- before placing something on the ballot, as required by the city charter.

Still, the Andaya turmoil and the search for solutions shows that the city, which places a high premium on good relations between the police and the public, is still struggling with a rickety system of police oversight.

-- George Cothran

The Welfare Ax Makes S.F. Bleed
In just over a month, San Francisco's county-funded General Assistance welfare program has added 400 people to its caseload. That is a marked turnaround from the previous 12 months, during which GA rolls dropped steadily by more than 1,500, to roughly 12,000.

The new recipients are those who applied for GA after being cut off Supplemental Security Income Jan. 1 under new federal rules, which ban benefits to those disabled by drug and alcohol addictions.

Dorothy Enisman, of S.F.'s Department of Human Services, says that the GA rolls are likely to continue to climb. As early as August the city's welfare caseload could more than double, when new welfare reform rules remove SSIbenefits from as many as 13,000 elderly and disabled legal immigrants. The estimated cost: more than $30 million a year.

-- T.S.

Berkeley Guides Stumble Off the Map
After five years, 40-some-odd editions, and several trips halfway around the world, the Berkeley Guides have lost their walking shoes. Fodor's, which published the bratty budget travel books written by UC Berkeley students and grads, told the six full-time editors that it would discontinue the series permanently last month.

"We've been losing money since the beginning," says Executive Editor Sharron Wood. Fodor's President Bonnie Ammer refused to confirm that the Guides were discontinued. Her only statement was: "We have a line of '97 guides on the shelves." As for '98? "No comment."

Wood says that Fodor's has discussed publishing the material under a different name in the future. Ammer denied it. Either way, it's likely the only Berkeley guides seen in coming years will be the people in the powder-blue jackets who help out tourists downtown.

--

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