December 8, 2005

San Francisco police suspended over video sketch

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - San Francisco is suspending 20
police officers who participated in video sketches portraying
police ogling women, ducking emergency calls and going to a
massage parlor on duty.

But the lawyer for the officer who produced the tape said
that it had been intended as a parody and that officials had
overreacted to an attempt at edgy humor and "social

Attorney Daniel Horowitz said on Thursday the San Francisco
Police Department should expect a lawsuit if it did not reverse
course on the suspension of officer Andrew Cohen, who made the

Mayor Gavin Newsom called the tape, which had been prepared
for a Christmas party and leaked on the Internet, offensive,
sexist, homophobic and racist.

Newsom urged investigations by the city's human rights
commission and a second city commission on the status of women.

Police Chief Heather Fong said on Wednesday, when the
suspensions were announced, that the public release of the
videos marked "a dark day" for the San Francisco police

The skits portray officers in the predominantly black
Bayview-Hunters Point district as unresponsive to emergency
calls but eager to make drug busts. The skits also portray male
officers as sex obsessed.

One skit has officers going to a massage parlor while on

But Horowitz defended the videos as a form of "social
commentary" and said Fong's reaction showed how out of touch
she was with rank-and-file officers.

"She wants everybody to think this is a happy police force
and it's not," said Horowitz. "They feel very resentful."

Newsom appointed Fong, the first Asian woman to head a
major U.S. police force, in January 2004.

She assumed office in the wake of the police department's
"Fajitagate" scandal in which top officers were accused of
covering up a street brawl over fajitas outside a bar. The
fight involved a son of the former police chief.

Fong was not immediately available for comment.

Horowitz said the filmed skits attempted to use edgy humor
to show how police at Bayview Station were viewed in the

"The officers feel perceived they're stereotyped," Horowitz