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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

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News + PoliticsThe SF police union is embarrassing itself and losing...

The SF police union is embarrassing itself and losing its clout

More and more politicians are running away from the SFPOA endorsement, and for very good reason

Slowly, but with increasing momentum, the San Francisco Police Officers Association is losing its political clout.

At one point, not that long ago, the POA was among the most sought-after endorsements. Candidates for office at every level wanted the cops on their side. Shameless mailers used police stars, pictures of police officers, pretty much anything that said “law enforcement” to let the voters know that the men and women in blue had given their stamp of approval to a candidate.

Not anymore.

The cops are going after a 49ers quarterback, which just makes them look dumber. 49ers promo photo
The cops are going after a 49ers quarterback, which just makes them look dumber. 49ers promo photo

In fact, when it became clear that the POA was spending money to support Josh Arce, a candidate for supe in D9, Hillary Ronen put out a fundraising statement touting the fact that the police union, “a group that has consistently stopped all reforms and defended racism and excessive use of force – is supporting my opponent.”

Everyone I talk to in local politics these days says the same thing: By staking out the most unreasonable right-wing positions on reform, the POA is making itself irrelevant.

It’s odd that the POA hasn’t figured this out (and neither have the candidates the cops are backing). Nobody is touting Mayor Ed Lee’s endorsement these days; it’s pretty clear that he’s a net negative.

But the POA keeps digging itself in deeper and deeper. And pretty soon, the union will lose what little clout is has left, because no politician will want to be associated with it.

In fact, the POA’s strong support for Toney Chaplin, the acting chief who wants the permanent job, would have been a big deal at one point. The rank-and-file want a “cop’s cop” for chief; the Police Commission and the mayor would take that into account, and try to avoid offending the POA.

At this point, I think the POA’s support can only erode Chaplin’s standing. (Not that his comments in Matier and Ross Sunday helped; the guy sounded like he was ducking questions and had something to hide).

And now it gets even worse, to the point of absurdity: The POA is attacking the 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, over his decision not to stand for the national anthem.

In a letter to the president of the 49ers, the union tries to divert the issue of police violence against people of color by talking about “8,000 murders that African Americans inflicted on one another in 2015.” The letter says that Kaepernick has “disrespected police officers for no apparent reason.”

I don’t even know where to start.

Except to say that Kaepernick is right about the national anthem – it has some pretty seriously racist roots. Francis Scott Key was furious that Black slaves had joined the British army (where they were accepted and promised freedom) and gone to war in 1812 against the leaders of a nation that kept them in chains.

Nobody goes beyond the first verse of his famous poem, but if you do you get the point pretty well.

When I was in High School, during the Vietnam War, a lot of kids refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. A few right-wing teachers made a big deal of it, which just encouraged more rebellious teens to remain in their seats. In the end, the administration agreed that there was a free speech issue here, and it was never a huge deal. The whole discussion got more students interested in what was happening in Vietnam – and all these years later, does anyone seriously want to argue which side was right about that war?

Kap is doing something pretty unusual for the NFL (and pro sports in general). He’s taking a political stand. Good for him. I hope he wins back the starting job and takes the Niners to the Super Bowl.

At which point the POA will look even dumber, if such a thing were possible.

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Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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