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Letters for the Week of September 16, 2015

Readers sound off on public transit, police misconduct, and racial inequality.

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William H. Thompson, Walnut Creek


"Keeping Police Misconduct Secret," Seven Days, 8/26

OPD's Actions Are Self-Serving

Robert Gammon is right about OPD's picking and choosing which information to release on police homicides. I submitted Public Records Act requests for records concerning the police shootings of Demouria Hogg and Nathanial Wilks, the death of Richard Linyard (who is said to have killed himself by squeezing between two buildings during a police chase), and a "wrong-man" chase by armed plainclothes officers that ended with serious injuries and trauma to three people, including a four-year-old. All requests were denied, frustrating the independent citizens' investigations that I and others were working on, because official investigations were pending.

OPD's public relations office told me that the point was to protect the integrity of the investigations. Witnesses' memories and accounts can be contaminated by what they hear others say happened, a real risk if information already gathered is made public.

However, even before the recent private showing to selected journalists of selected portions of some Linyard and Wilks videos "to correct misinformation," OPD has routinely publicized its own narratives of what occurred, complete with photos of suspects' alleged weapons and of the place where Linyard was said to be found.

Two days after the Hogg shooting, several media quoted Steve Betz, attorney for the officer who killed him, claiming body-cam video showed the man apparently reaching for a gun. SFGate.com quoted another police-union attorney a day after the Wilks killing, to the effect that videos showed the deceased pointing a gun at police. (Witnesses we interviewed disagreed with this, but the police are not putting out their statements.)

So not only is OPD contaminating its investigation of itself by putting out what exculpates its officers, it is also showing its evidence to the supposed subjects of interest in its investigations and permitting their attorneys to describe it publicly. I don't think I'd get this treatment if I shot someone, claimed self-defense, and the police had a video that captured it all. In the meantime, the public gets nothing until finally attorneys and the media raise a stink, and then what we get is still what the department decides they want us to see.

Michael Goldstein, Oakland

Police Have Lost My Trust

Police should be monitored at all times. They are in the executive branch of government, but too many act like they are the gods of the legislature, and judiciary, too. They have demonstrated over the years that they can't even be trusted to stop at a stop sign. Yet, during a certain high quota period, a group of officers wrote me a red light ticket knowing I did not actually run the light. If they can be this petty, why should we trust them to tell the truth about the lives and liberty of ordinary citizens? The police in California have lost my trust (and I'm an old white guy).

Gary Baker, San Leandro


Miscellaneous Letter

Time to Make Black Lives Matter

I'm looking for some evidence that Black Lives Matter above and beyond all the letters, editorials, and expressions of outrage that fill the funny papers every day. Who's kidding who: Is there anything at all being done at the local or even regional level to make up for the obvious disparity that's at the very rotten root of all the problems we've been experiencing here in the Bay Area over the last century or so?

Yes, there's been some voting rights legislation and other stuff at the national level, but a lot of that has been rescinded by the Tea Party doofuses, and nothing much locally at all seems to be happening, witness the icky condition of our schools and the correspondingly relentless deconstruction of too many once vibrant neighborhoods. By crisscrossing these once great neighborhoods with monster freeways and other transportation systems aimed at making life better solely for those who can afford to live as far from these pockets of pollution as possible, we've created blight magnets.

And where are all the proposals to try and rectify such obvious disparity? So many have become so expert at pointing fingers and absolving themselves of any responsibility for what is, I guess to them, an inherited condition of disparity dating back to before they were born, so there's simply nothing they can do? Do they have every right to continue on, secure in their particular bailiwick, because it really isn't their job to tinker with "market forces" or whatever else they might believe is driving the economy?

Maybe the closest we ever came to addressing such rampant inequity was when redevelopment was the law of the land everywhere in California, a system that suffered abuse enough by the construction of golf courses and shopping malls in already relatively affluent areas, that anything and everything other than building inner-city equity was the result. Like any other half-Easter Bunny, half-dogpile process, it simply had to crash and burn, taking with it the hopes and dreams of the community groups and Project Area Committees meant to inform the local agency process.

As a lot of those aforementioned finger-pointers could actually be using their middle digit and aiming straight in your direction when you're not looking, maybe we ought to identify someone from outside our region who could waltz in here and help solve our problems, sorta like when the citizens of Rome crossed the Tiber and sought out Cincinnatus to help with their particular imbroglios back during the toga times.

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