Wes thinks no one read this guy’s comment, and he’s probably right. Honestly, it’s the only useful thing ever published on this blog, so check it out:
And, number two, taggers, the homeless, “Quality of Life,” and public safety in general.
This, for me, was easily the most interesting conversation to observe and take part in. Two police officers spoke about this issue, one somewhat more than the other. The language they used was very, very disturbing. Specifically, the word “disappear” was used over and over. For instance, the first officer to speak repeatedly expressed his desire that “taggers” and other presumed scum would “disappear” after being arrested and processed. He also asked people who see tagging in action to not approach the taggers because you could get assaulted. So now we have created an image of violent taggers, probably black or brown, who need to be arrested, processed and disappeared. This sentiment was echoed throughout the evening by the almost totally white crowd. By the way, I’m white.
For instance, a woman representing a DP community group, Dolores Park Works, also spoke about the issue. She started off by saying that her group deals with issues that “we can all agree on.” She went on to mention tagging. To state it simply, I do not agree with you. Also, two candidates for Superviser introduced themselves near the end of the meeting. Each focused on public safety, “Quality of Life” issues or crime, whatever you want to call it.
First of all, why do police officers come to community meetings with weapons? There is no reason to have a gun at a community meeting. This militarized approach to discussions and community safety is very troublesome to me, moreso when rampant insensitivity and ignorance are displayed by the people in possession of those weapons.
Second of all, people and problems do not just “disappear.” The police and others spoke as if an arrest of someone tagging was and is the ONLY appropriate and possible response. They basically said, “Just call us, we’ll arrest them, and its done.” The first candidate used the phrase “Quality of Life” at least once. The second candidate for Superviser, an assistant district attorney (ADA), continued by mentioning that she had personally been involved in the cleanup and presumed disappearance of all the bad people from 16th and Mission. I guess the point was, she’d do the same with all the bad people in DP.
This is thinly coded talk about targeting “poor” folks and especially “poor” folks whose skin is darker than mine. California’s jails and prisons are bursting. We are in the middle of a terrible budget crisis. Bevan, the officers and others repeatedly expressed dismay at having to spend $50K a year on graffiti removal. But how much is spent on processing people through the court system? Given the tens of thousands of dollars that it costs each year to incarcerate only one person, I can’t help but think that arresting taggers costs taxpayers waaaaaay more than $50K. Is this the best way to spend our money? What is the cost to families and kids who are separated when someone is incarcerated? What about re-entry into the community?
As the first officer clearly stated when I asked him about arresting homeless people in DP, they are jailed and released and we just do the whole thing all over again. This is not a solution or even an attempt at a solution. This is a harsh and short-sighted response to deeper issues that our community faces, many of which revolve around issues of income and skin color.
Using the word “disappear” in a law enforcement context in a community with a large Mexican and Central American population is ignorant and insensitive. Both Mexico and the nations of Central America have been and are plagued by disappearances, which are used by law enforcement to murder and get rid of people who are seen, for whatever reason, as nuisances. That the room was almost totally white comes as no surprise. What was the PR firm hired for? Could the same discussion about disappearances and Quality of Life issues take place in a room with more people who are not white?
Also, as a defense attorney, I can assure everyone that the picture described by the officers and the ADA is rarely as tidy as they would like it to be. The problem does not end when someone gets arrested. For any number of reasons, cases linger, are delayed, get dismissed and generally just go in a direction that is not nearly as straightforward as the picture presented.
So why not have a place in DP where people can write/tag/create murals?