This Berkeley crime reporter sucks up to Berkeley police (university and city). It's more than a bias; it's abject fear. For most of us—whether for or against cops—our biases stem from fear of authority, according to Alfred Hitchcock.
Have no doubt, cops can be scary. My father used to tremble when stopped by the police for a traffic violation. I don't tremble, but I do fear them. That's where the suck-up begins and for a crime reporter who is constantly interacting with them, the suck-up is a convenient position.
So it is with "fear and trembling" that I embark on this analysis. I have been watching Berkeley cops watching me for 40 years. Thanks to the Planet, I now have a closer view.
I made my first bonds with UCPD during the three-plus-hour take-down of a hapless treesitter in People's Park in January after two ruffians from the park tried to kick the treesitter out of the park to stem what the cops characterized as a crackdown throughout the park. Cops hammered into park users’ heads that an uptick in citations in the park was the result of the tree-sit, saying, according to park sources, that "we're
here more often now, because of the tree-sit."
Hate Man, that 72-year-old drop-out from front-page reporting at the New York Times, told me that university cops told him they'd written more than twenty citations in the park while the tree sit was ongoing. This made sense, because police patrols were increased during the tree-sit.
Whether that cop gimmick whipped up a frenzy in the volatile West end of the park and led to the stabbing in the tree that night is anybody's guess. (see Planet January 31, 2011). Running Wolf, the claimed organizer of the tree-sit, is dead sure police "played" the case, and Wolf taunted UCPD officers the other day for instigating the stabbing incident, as I looked on.
In full suck-up mode I apologized for Running Wolf's taunts on behalf of…whom exactly? See, I feel sorry for the cops of Berkeley sometimes. They take their "fair share of abuse" from overwrought Berkeleyans, some of whom still blame police—who were teenagers at the time—for their violence in People's Park in 1969. Suspects themselves are permitted the most vicious cop-abuse imaginable.
During the recent retirement party for Mario's, a park user, who was suspected of "crashing" the party and subsequently cuffed, called the arresting officers gay child-molesters and rapists. But he was released.
Surprised at his release, I asked why the party-crasher wasn't booked. "Oh, we know him," the officers said.
Knew him or controlled him? Call it cops and robbers or cat and mouse: I call it manipulation. Know this about cops. They must control crime situations and crime scenes. In People's Park and around town, police divide perps (and that's all of us) into cooperators, like me, and non-cooperators, who are quickly identified, and cited repeatedly until jailed out-of-town.
Control was obvious at the periphery of the massive UCPD operation that removed the treesitter from his tree perch last January. Haste at People's Park was cordoned off immediately that night and eventually an adjacent street was closed as well.
Recent police "takeovers" of the mezzanine of the Med, and a week later Andronico's were classic crime-scene control, even though the crime (armed suspects) could not be found.
Kids at home: Don't encroach on the police, unless they are "playing you," as they are playing a perp in the accompanying photos. If you think the perp in the photo is sitting on the hood of an officer's car, it's not an optical illusion. Sunshine, who hasn't been on the streets lately, is allowed to sit cross-legged atop a squad car hood now and then.
But Sunshine is an adorable street character who always cooperates.
When perps cooperate, they are often granted favors and even squad car hood privileges. A cop might look the other way on some petty violations while they might write up others, who are uncooperative. Savvy street kids play the cops for privileges while the cops are playing them back. And so it goes.
I was asked by a cop to stand back when I was "interviewing" her. In full suck-up mode, I always stand back. This got me into a comedy routine recently when I stepped back and into the street to respect the space of two BPD officers on foot patrol.
"Sir, you could be killed in the street," the pretty blonde officer snapped. "Does that mean I'd get mouth-to-mouth?" I asked. "Sir." the blonde replied, "I don't do mouth-to-mouth. I leave that to my [male] partner." Me to the male, "I hope you don't consider your partner's remark a gender slur." He didn't.
Perhaps I am favored to have gotten away with that. But be advised, not all cops have senses of humor as did the clever officer, who announced he was headed to the donut shop across the street to "perpetuate a stereotype" (cops 'n donuts).
Three officers entering the Med recently didn't like my donut joke. "Here for donuts?"
I asked. Two scowling officers told me they didn't like that. And they were on official business at that.
A city officer busting a perp outside Moe's recently told me that he was not required to answer my questions unless "the public safety" was involved. "There is no threat to the public safety," he mindlessly reiterated.
There is always a threat to public safety on the southside. And most officers will talk to me (although this piece may change that).
Ted Friedman did his first crime reporting for his hometown newspaper, the Illinois State Journal-Register, circulation, 65,000, in 1958 in Springfield, Illinois. He was 18.