Where’s the Mayor on Body Cams?

I might have a new political hero: San Francisco Mayor London Breed.

The once fiery liberal mayor is now sounding like a law and order hardliner. After the George Floyd murder she came out for defunding the police. Now, after a couple of years of rising murder and crime rates, smash and grab flash mobs, open air drug dealing and homelessness that has gotten out of hand, she’s getting — not so much tough, as sensible.

Breed is introducing a budget amendment to add cops, increase police overtime and bolster the city’s police academy. She’s also supporting moves to enforce felony warrants (i.e., get the bad guys off the streets), add lighting and to pay more attention to quality of life issues, like garbage collection. The other day she went so far as to declare a state of emergency in the city’s notorious Tenderloin District.

This is so significant nationally because Breed is a Democrat who is finally taking crime seriously, instead of trying to just explain it away. “The data doesn’t matter when somebody randomly walks up to you who is on crystal meth and socks you in the face and puts you in the hospital,” she said. “The data doesn’t matter when you are here in San Francisco on vacation and all your belongings were stolen because someone broke into a car right in front of you. At the end of the day, people need to feel safe in this city.”

May all Democrats get her memo.

And Breed is also pushing back against some woke excesses. She is supporting the recalls of three San Francisco School Board members who voted to rename more than 40 schools (one named for that horrible racist Abraham Lincoln) while they showed no sense of urgency about actually opening any of them to in-person instruction. Hard-left District Attorney Chesa Boudin is also the subject of a recall.

Breed may simply be a good politician, but that would be even better because it would mean that she can feel the political winds — even in this far left city on the far left coast — blowing in a different direction. She may be getting the message that the liberal approach to crime and disorder is being rejected even by liberals.

This much is true. If you can’t get the basics right — keep crime in check, keep the streets clean, get the homeless into housing — then there will be little public support for anything else you want to do that might be progressive.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed

Which brings us to our own liberal Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway. Things here aren’t nearly as bad as they are in San Francisco, but credit Rhodes-Conway for adding eight cops in her last budget and for overseeing a promising city plan to get homeless folks out of city parks and off city streets just in time for winter.

One issue she has not led on, though, is police body cameras. Body cams have long been supported by this police chief and the previous one, by the police union and by the NAACP, among many other groups and individuals. But the cameras have been opposed by a fraction of the population represented by hard-left groups like Freedom, Inc. That organization’s director, M. Adams, says flatly that cameras, “won’t give us what we want.”

Here’s what I think she means by that. Take the current case of former officer Kim Potter. The veteran suburban Minneapolis cop is now on trial for manslaughter, but her body cam clearly shows that she made a horrible mistake when she grabbed her gun instead of her taser. She has already lost her job and she and the city of Brooklyn Center will be subject to civil lawsuits. My guess is that the jury in the criminal case is likely not to convict her, in part because the body cam footage is so clear and compelling. She had no bad intent and she expressed immediate remorse. She is no Derek Chauvin.

And that’s a problem for Freedom, Inc. They fear that too often body cams will show cops doing the right thing — or making honest mistakes — and the bad guys being, well, bad, instead of cooperating with their narrative of bad cops and good victims. Freedom, Inc.. doesn’t want the truth; they want to tell their own story.

And our mayor is not standing up to them. She takes no position on body cameras. Now, don’t get me wrong. I probably took too many positions in my time in her job. There’s a lot to be said for picking your spots and spending your political capital wisely. But body cams is just too important an issue for the mayor to sit on the sidelines. If she agrees with M. Adams, well, I think that would be wrong, but at least she would be taking a stand.

The better idea is to follow London Breed’s lead. Stand up for law and order and common sense. Realize that even a liberal constituency wants to feel safe and does not like disorder. Realize that being against crime is not being for racism, for cryin’ out loud. Divorce yourself from the slim minority of hard-left activists — and probably get reelected.

Welcome to the 302nd consecutive day of posts here at YSDA. Have a good weekend, and thanks for reading!

Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

7 thoughts on “Where’s the Mayor on Body Cams?

  1. You put words and ideas into Freedom, Inc.’s mouth. Are those their actual statements or your guess at their underlying rationale?

    I do think it would be helpful to actually understand why it is that there are people that are anti-police. I mean beyond slogans, and the obvious idea that criminals don’t like police. I’ve seen reasonably credible studies that measure more distrust and disapproval of police than I’m comfortable with in a functional democracy, more than can be chalked up to the fringe or career criminals. I would like this to change.

    I have yet to see an actual credible and fact-based explanation for why this sentiment exists. I have my own theory but it’s just my opinion. There are enough yahoos like me writing out our interpretation of the rationale behind other people’s thoughts without taking time to genuinely learn from people themselves about why they think what they think.

    I know, I know, here I am looking for root causes, when this post is actually about politics. But if more cops = less crime the data would show it but it doesn’t. If more people in jail = less crime the data would show it but it doesn’t…. But since this is politics and optics none of that matters.

    So long as a politician has plausible deniability results don’t matter. Crime goes up — I hired 8 more cops not my fault! Next time I’ll make it 16, vote for me again! Crime goes down — see, those 8 cops I hired solved our crime problem. Vote for me again! God bless the public servants who really try to do the right thing and act out of genuine public concern. No nice words for those that are only after personal power/money.

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    1. Rollie,
      I must respectfully decline the invitation to join you in your hallucinations.

      Cops arrest criminals, and serve to deter the ones that they don’t, thus less crime. The more criminals in jail, and not on the streets, the less crime. Logic and common sense will serve you better than “data”, which is often gathered and assembled with a purpose in mind.

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      1. I agree that data is too often gathered with a purpose and bias, and that research should be viewed with scrutiny. I agree that police should identify and apprehend criminals. But come on, there would be SOMETHING, SOMEWHERE that shows a simple relationship between the number of police and crime rates. Who’s being delusional here? Even though no data shows it I still believe it to be true….

        There’s a general range of personnel needed to answer calls for service and investigate crimes. Marginal changes around that range have some impact to the function of the department. But to think it will have a tangible, broad impact on crime is wishful thinking. There should be a practical, business case made for more or less police, not slogans.

        Now, huge swings in the numbers of personnel (let’s say > 30%) I do think could make some impact. But there will be other consequences as well, and without wider coordination and improvement in the education, corrections, social service arenas the reduction may be temporary.

        Use a little more logic and common sense. Why is it that even when we have more arrests crime doesn’t go down? What is it about our society that makes it so your common sense isn’t verified?

        Wait for it….. it’s the Liberals fault! 🙂

        Could it be that there are drivers that lead to criminality that have little to do with the criminal justice system?

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      2. Remember, I’m talking about reality, not politics or optics or slogans. Things aren’t as simple as more cops = less crime.

        Consider a homicide. It’s not strictly the number of police assigned, it’s also the cooperation of potential witnesses/sources. You could have one detective or 50, if nobody’s talking you have no case. I’d rather have one Lt. Colombo on the case than 50 knuckleheads. Someone who can gain trust and get cooperation. 5000 cops with poor community relations skills will be less effective than 2000 with good relationships.

        Consider the hiring process. Suppose Mayor A budgets for 50 more officers next year. They tell the Fire and Police Commission to hire the next 50 on the eligible list. What if the eligible list is on #350 out of 400? Now you’ve just hired the least qualified cops and saddled your city with them for the next 20 years and gummed up an efficient promotional process with a poor stock of candidates. But the politician can say they hired more cops.

        Are 50 of the worst candidates better than 10 of the best? Because after the Mayor promised 50 cops I guarantee they won’t wait over a year until a new recruitment and testing process can be held to get the 50 best instead of the 50 worst because the average voter doesn’t think of this stuff. It can’t be dumbed down to a slogan.

        And that’s assuming that the assessment and recruitment process is even doing what it’s supposed to, which I won’t even get into here…

        Sorry life isn’t as simple as your “common sense” wants it to be. I wish it was. Because behind “hire more cops” is a lot of unglamorous and unseen work that all has to be done perfectly and too few politicians pay enough mind to those things.

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  2. As the former Mayor, you, more than all others, realize that a TRUE test of leadership is recognizing a problem BEFORE it becomes an emergency.

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