23-Mar-2010 (Tue)
Wherein Bertrand gets another love letter from the press!

Hello, I have returned from South By Southwest, and am again incredibly depressed by the stark contrast between a city that actually values music and nightlife, and my own.

There are two great articles in today's Bay Guardian, the first of which is the cover story:

The new War on Fun:
Party people, watch out: undercover cop Larry Betrand has declared war on San Francisco nightlife

The personal War of Fun by Bertrand and Ott seems to have galvanized and united the nightlife and festival community like never before, leading to the creation of a new California Music and Culture Association and prompting threats of a federal lawsuit alleging the ABC-SFPD collaboration is a racketeering scheme designed to harass, disrupt, and extort people engaged in otherwise lawful activity.

The myriad horror stories associated with Bertrand and Ott have also finally begun to draw attention from the Mayor's Office, which has quietly pushed the SFPD to rein in Bertrand and change its policies on raiding parties and seizing property. State Sen. Mark Leno also has gotten involved, brokering a March 12 meeting between club owners and Steve Hardy, director of ABC (which, in addition to cracking down on nightclubs, has recently announced a campaign against fruit-infused liquor). [...]

The question now is what Hardy, Mayor Gavin Newsom, and Police Chief George Gascon -- who has ordered some crackdowns and wants greater authority to discipline problem officers -- is going to do about it. [...]

The list of local nightclub clubs that have been recently targeted by Bertrand and Ott and subjected to ABC sanctions is long. It includes Great American Music Hall, Slim's, DNA Lounge, Mist, Whisper, the Room, Vessel, Azul, Butter, and Club Caliente (which closed down after its mostly Latino customers were scared away by repeated raids).

"Using the now familiar pattern and ruse of ABC authority, these raids have been without warrant and without probable cause, under the pretext of finding liquor violations," attorney Mark Webb wrote in a claim against the city. [...] Webb said such behavior isn't legitimate police work, but unlawful harassment. In fact, this experienced litigator said it's far closer to the shakedowns and extortion rackets familiar to him from the start of his legal career in the late 1970s prosecuting organized crime cases in New York City.

That's why he's threatening to bring a novel lawsuit against the city and ABC under federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act, a law designed go after the mob, but which has since been adapted to target entities ranging from the tobacco industry to the Los Angeles Police Department.

And an editorial:

End the nightlife crackdown:
Harassing parties and clubs shouldn't be a priority for a cash-strapped city's police department

Police Chief George Gascon has asked for more authority to crack down on rogue cops, and has vowed to clean up the small handful of bad actors who are giving the department an ugly reputation for violence and abuse. But before San Franciscans are going to trust the chief, he's got to show some evidence that he's serious -- and cleaning up the mess that is Southern Station's crackdown on nightlife would be a great place to start. [...]

It's a pointless waste of law enforcement resources. In a city where a significant number of murders remain unsolved, where merchants complain about street-level crimes that could easily be addressed by foot patrols, and where the chief complains that he lacks the funds to address all the problems he's facing, we can't fathom why stopping nightlife is a top police priority. At the very worst, some participants and promoters might be guilty of holding an event without the proper permits -- but nobody's getting robbed, assaulted, or killed. And the tactics used by the officers are needlessly violent, sometimes brutal. [...]

Mayor Gavin Newsom needs to get involved too, and make a clear public statement that harassing parties and clubs isn't the top priority for a cash-strapped city's police department.

Photos of last week's Hubba Hubba Revue are up, too.

3 Responses:

  1. strspn says:

    This comment from the SFWeekly "Turning the Tables" article really sums it up:

    Cops who get in the spotlight because of problems -- whether it's their fault or not -- need to be re-assigned to alternate beats. "The appearance of impropriety" hurts good cops trying to do their everyday jobs. Like it or not, good police work depends on trust from the community. When a couple of high-profile cops get a bad rep and start causing trouble for the rest of the force, they need lower profile jobs.

  2. fantasygoat says:

    It's nice to see some good news for a change!