I had the good fortune of vacationing in San Francisco for a few days in 2008. The city was everything I anticipated – beautiful, historic, diverse, multi-cultural, tourist friendly and easy to navigate.
But as nice as that city is, I remain disturbed by its liberal, anti-military reputation, and I must admit that I continue to wonder if they will ever “get it.”
Not long ago, members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors introduced a resolution to ban the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels from participating in “fleet week” (a tradition dating back to 1981) because of “noise pollution and the pro-military message and recruiting efforts that come along with the annual visit.”
In 2007, the San Francisco Film Commission denied the U.S. Marines permission to film a recruiting commercial on the streets of SFR. Subsequently, the Commission granted permission with the requirement that no Marine be in the picture. The Marines filmed an empty SFR street and later superimposed Marines into the picture.
Previously, the retired USS Iowa was banned from relocating in San Francisco Bay by SFR City Supervisors citing opposition to the war in Iraq and the federal government’s position on gays in the military. Junior ROTC has also been banned from SFR high schools because it is considered to be an avenue to encourage enlistment in the U.S. military.
All of this came to mind a few weeks ago when I read about the San Francisco Police and Human Rights Commission hearings on the Police Department’s participation in Joint Terrorism Task Force operations in San Francisco. The SFPD joined the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in 2002 and currently has two officers assigned to the TF. The hearings were designed to specifically address the FBI Domestic Investigations and Operations Guidelines that allow the JTTF to commence an investigation/surveillance without a direct nexus to criminal activity.
The SFPD officers assigned to the JTTF are “cross-designated” as federal agents providing them the same authority and protection as their federal counterparts. This “cross-designated” authority appears to be in conflict with California State law that requires an investigation/surveillance be predicated on a direct nexus to criminal activity. In essence, while operating as a “cross-designated” officer assigned to the JTTF, the SFPD officers would be granted the “expanded” federal authority while working on JTTF cases, particularly regarding intelligence collection, so important to national security, and more often than not, conducted without a direct nexus to a crime. Simply, “cross-designation” allows the federal authority to take precedence over the state/local authority.
My perspective, while Special Agent in Charge for ICE in NYC, was to get as much federal, state and local legal authority for our Special Agents as possible. The more authority, the more tools they possessed to complete the mission. Not authority to be abused but to be used in the furtherance of their duties to protect every one of us from criminal and terrorist activity.
I wish that the residents of San Francisco and the SFPD wanted the same for their law enforcement officers. I wonder if they will ever get it.