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What “woke people” are missing

The numbers you cite might not mean what you think they mean
Are the most vociferous criticisms of the police coming from people citing misleading statistics? Photo: geralt

“Hey Sarge, I’m rotating into my weekend. The bad guys will know I’m off and are probably going to run wild. See if you can keep the district intact until I come back.”

What type of police officer would make such a boastful statement? Well, I have said that myself a couple of times. You can get away with things like that when it’s commonly known to be the opposite of the truth. Secreted in my hyperbole was a mocking jab at the 1 percent of the 1 percent of U.S. law enforcement officers who take themselves too seriously and harbor the delusion they alone can disrupt the criminal trade. The kind of officer that would kneel for nine minutes on a man’s neck to feather his ego and demonstrate to two vulnerable rookies this is how we handle the streets, Probies! 

As Americans demonstrated their outrage over the murder of George Floyd, many overlooked law enforcement’s shared emotion: embarrassment. All law enforcement officers are ashamed that one of their own was so cruel and insecure that he stole a life and caused reputational damage to the centuries of altruistic police work accomplished by 99.9 percent of police officers. 

The Woke People — along with the Chronicle, The San Jose Mercury News, and the Mission Local website — have leveraged the George Floyd narrative to incorporate San Francisco Police Department as racists, primarily based on the ubiquitous citing of data about the ratio of SFPD’s uses-of-force, arrests, and enforcement statistics that occur on a five-percent demographic segment of San Francisco’s population. 

However, none other than District Attorney Chesa Boudin has refuted the veracity of the ratio of police activity versus San Francisco’s 5-percent population denominator. In a June 26, 2020 tweet, Boudin cited a FiveThirtyEight article that stated: 

“We’re going to get mathy. There are two main ways that researchers approach this problem by using the ‘population denominator’ and an ‘encounter denominator.’ Using population denominators might not lend itself to an apples-to-apples comparison.”

Thus per the article, as SFPD staffs the Bayview District with 50–75 percent more officers than the Richmond District, shouldn’t the city expect that SFPD officers are going to have more “encounters” in the Bayview District and does that not create the apples-to-oranges comparison that Boudin tweeted against? 

Similarly, SFPD officers almost never drive up to or walk into a violent robbery or homicide occurring right in front of them. Instead, SFPD officers rely either on citizens to flag them down or on 911 calls. Per my recent public record request to the Department of Emergency Services (911), their response, strangely, was that they do not track or analyze 911 callers’ suspect descriptions. Per another public records request, SFPD charted that 75 percent of the recent robberies and homicides committed in San Francisco were by suspects of all colors. This raises the question: How can the public expect SFPD to encounter suspects in proportion to the population, when officers’ encounters are controlled by citizens’ descriptions to 911, which are extremely racially imbalanced? 

While the Woke People harp on that the 5-percent denominator as justification for defunding SFPD, a Gallup Poll cited in The Wall Street Journal (August 13, 2020) found that 61 percent of Black Americans surveyed want to see police presence in their neighborhoods remain the same. 

Those survey results tie to what SFPD officers have been anecdotally sharing: “It’s amazing, during the middle of the demonstrations, I’m driving through the housing developments and on one side of the street, gangsters acknowledge me with the nod, and on the other side an old lady waves to me. Then, I drive through the Mission, and a white girl with a baby stroller scowls at me.” 

While many of the Woke Groups grew up in suburban privilege distanced from an integrated urban school education, SFPD police officers are both empathetic and frustrated with the lack of improvement in the socioeconomically imbalanced areas of the city  ⎯  where they meet kids who have never seen the Pacific Ocean.

As the Woke People flee their city experiment to telecommute from distant places, it is disingenuous for them to use overly simplistic slogans and deceptive arithmetic fractions that even Boudin considers misleading, to preach defunding law enforcement on those of us remaining. The urban communities deserve 100 percent of the responsibility of grading the quality of police service they receive and to dictate the level of police staffing they are comfortable with. 

Lou Barberini is a CPA. Send feedback to [email protected]

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