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Will San Francisco Ever Get It?

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.

Marty Ficke blogs primarily on federal law enforcement matters, with a particular expertise in financial crime, counterfeit goods, smuggling and conspiracy operations in port. Read More
  • TS

    As a long-time resident and lover of SF, I do share your frustration at certain knee-jerk liberal reactions that have little basis in sound policy (the USS Iowa situation was a particularly galling bit of idiocy). Regarding the expanded powers for SFPD officers, however, you write, “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.” If this expanded authority violates CA state law, the problem is not with SF, but should be taken up in Sacramento, if this cross-designated authority is in fact so necessary to law enforcement. Also, San Franciscans have a healthy and all-American suspicion of expansive law enforcement powers, and of authorities who demand our trust and obedience without providing evidence that it’s warranted. What you’re asking for is unlimited police power, and then saying “trust me, we won’t abuse our authority.” This city attracts free-thinkers who choose to live as they like at the edge of the continent. We appreciate our cops, but no one should have unlimited powers to spy on us.

  • sfmarko

    We “get it” Marty perhaps it’s you that needs to wake up…  This is America, where we have the full right to express our feelings in our communities.  Love it or leave it, isn’t that what your forefathers from the ’60′s era used to say?

  • john donohue

    I know Marty I am dismayed and personally feel awful that my fellow San Franciscans haven’t embraced the terrorists are everywhere look under the bed now meme.
    Perhaps you could put in a good word to your friends at PNAC and arrange another False Flag Event or something….