Police caught in firestorm over homophobic video

BY admin

December 09 2005 12:00 AM ET

One San Francisco
police officer was suspended and as many as 20
others face disciplinary action after making videos
parodying life on the force that used racist, sexist,
and homophobic stereotypes, city officials announced
Wednesday. "This is a dark day, an extremely dark day,
in the history of the San Francisco Police Department," said
police chief Heather Fong, who called the acts "egregious,
shameful, and despicable."

The skits,
featuring uniformed and plainclothes officers, were intended
as a spoof, according to police representatives, and
much of the content poked fun at the officers. A
lawyer for the creator of the videos denied they were
insensitive and said they were art taken out of context.

But the
department's brass and the mayor were not amused. Clips made
fun of Asians, African-Americans, women, and gay and
transgender individuals, Mayor Gavin Newsom said. He
was particularly offended by a scene showing a white
officer in a patrol car running over a black homeless woman.
"It is shameful, it is offensive, it is sexist, it is
homophobic, and it is racist," Newsom said. "We're
going to make sure that it ends—it ends
immediately."

The department's
internal affairs division launched an investigation
after the videos were discovered on an officer's Web site.
One officer was suspended Tuesday, and more than a
dozen others—including Capt. Rick Bruce, who is
on leave from the department for unrelated
reasons—are under investigation for their
alleged involvement, according to mayor's office
spokesman Peter Ragone.

A special task
force, the city's Human Rights Commission, and the
Commission on the Status of Women would also investigate,
Newsom said. The videos were removed from the Web
site, Inside the SFPD, which was created by officer
Andrew Cohen, who said the vignettes were produced for
the Bayview station's Christmas party. "The guys on the
streets have only one tool to relieve the stress,"
Cohen told KPIX-TV, "and it's humor."

One video, The
Ladies Man,
spoofing the television show
Charlie's Angels, features three gun-toting
policewomen in T-shirts and blue jeans reporting to
Bruce, who sits behind his desk and suggestively licks his
lips. Through the rest of the clip, a street person,
an apparent transvestite, and several others lick
their lips in a similar manner and say, "Oh, captain."

Another video,
titled A Day in the Life of Hamster and Big
Dummy,
was a send-up of a lazy pair of officers who
ignore several dispatches while reading the newspaper,
napping in their cruiser, and practicing martial arts
in a parking lot. When gunshots are reported, they
race off with their lights flashing and siren
wailing—only to show up at a massage parlor the
driver had spotted in a magazine ad.

Attorney Daniel
Horowitz, who is representing Cohen, said some of the
content was sophomoric, but he blamed the mayor and police
chief for drawing attention to the videos, which had
been viewed only by police officers prior to their
being publicized in a city news conference. He
said his client had been slandered. "Maybe it is dumb, and
if it is dumb, who is releasing this nationally? The
mayor and the police chief," Horowitz, who is a
well-known TV legal analyst, said on KRON-TV.

Horowitz also
said the officers simply were having fun and mocking
themselves. "Perhaps Mr. Horowitz is the kind of lawyer who
thinks that a white police officer running over a
black woman is something to laugh at. We think he
stands alone," Ragone said.

A similar flap
arose in June over the revelation that the San Francisco
49ers had produced a training video that included racist
jokes, lesbian soft porn, and topless blonds. The
football team's publicity director, Kirk Reynolds,
resigned after the 15-minute film came to light. Reynolds
said he made the tape to coach players on handling the news
media in a diverse city and that it was never meant
for public viewing.

Cohen, who also
made serious videos documenting the work of officers, was
transferred to the police records department, Horowitz said.
The Web site included a statement that said he had
made videos for years to raise the public's opinion of
the force and raise officer morale. "I believe this
was accomplished," the statement said. "However, I think
that this is where the road ends." (AP)

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