Saturday, February 03, 2007


Mostly from being on-scene for riot police activity at SF State in 1968-69, I became aware of a particular issue regarding badges.

Preparing for action, the riot police (then called the Tactical Unit, more commonly the ‘Tac Squad, which became in some circles Attack Squad) would don helmets and gloves. They hadn’t gone the full coverall route yet. Also, they would remove their badges and put them in their pockets. The police claim they did this because the badges could be grabbed by protesters and used to pull the cop off balance.

At the time, the badge with it’s prominent number, was the only individual ID visible on a police uniform. Without badges it was impossible to tell one officer from another. Thus the cops, when skirmishing with demonstrators were acting under the protection of anonymity.

Naturally, protesters and the leftwing press complained loudly and often about this practice, which complaints went unheard.

Unheard until the Niners won the Super Bowl. Talk about hick!

San Franciscans celebrated the unexpected success of their heretofore droopy NFL franchise, by gathering in the streets around Columbus and Broadway. The sheer number of celebrants posed a crowd control challenge and SFPD had riot-outfitted officers there aplenty.

So, when portions of the crowd needed controlling, SFPD did their usual night-sticking, no biggie. Except, the crowd wasn’t all lowlifes. In fact, a couple of crowd members who were introduced to Mr Billy Club happened to be next door neighbors of Mayor-by-bullet Diane Feinstein.

This couple wanted to lodge a complaint, but guess what—no badge numbers, no way to identify which cops meted the excessive force. Boo-hoo for rich people.

It wasn’t but a couple of months before SFPD’s riot uniforms included prominent cop numbers on riot helmets and cop number patches sewn onto the overalls.

With some reforms you wait and wait and then they happenrealfast.

So, it took a Super Bowl victory to obtain this tiny reform. I guess we’ll never know who killed Lester Garnier.

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