Support Your Local Police: Cops Ask Permission to Accept Key Chains and Pistols

Categories: Law & Order
Everyone harbors suspicions that police are enjoying deep discounts on coffee and donuts all over the city -- and, as department spokeswoman Sergeant Lyn Tomioka tells us, they usually are. But it's protocol to never accept anything for free. If the clerk insists, the common practice is to toss the price into the tip jar.

There's a sound reason for this. It requires a ruling of the Police Commission in order for a cop to accept a "gift" of any value. A police officer must petition his or her commanding officer to accept a gift or money, and the request will then be forwarded to the commission. The process, as Tomioka knows well, can take months.

So it may not be a big surprise that just about all of the requests to accept gifts cops have made since 2004 can be enumerated in a blog post. Let's check out who's getting what!

Some of the more interesting gifts went to individual officers:

  • Last year, Sergeant Paget Mitchell accepted a photograph of the Golden Gate Bridge from photographer Michael Addario and the San Francisco Street Artists. The gift was to thank Mitchell after she was beaten and put in the hospital by a homeless man at Justin Herman Plaza who'd been annoying the artists.
  • Captain William Davenport accepted a $300 photo of the 49ers from unnamed citizens of the Southern District in 2004.
  • Three inspectors accepted a $250 gift certificate to snazzy Boulevard Restaurant, and a $26.95 book from an anonymous citizen in 2004.

The Oddest Gift award goes to the Japanese Consulate, for donating a Browning 380 handgun for the police range's collection in 2005.

Many of the largest monetary value gifts involved officers traveling to see sporting matches in order to plan for events here in the city. 

  • Five officers including then-Chief Heather Fong received lodging and meals valued at $4,500 from the Chinese Public Security Ministry during their trip to China to prepare for the 2008 Olympic Torch relay through the city.
  • Four officers accepted tickets from Major League Baseball to attend an All-Star Sunday event in Pittsburgh back in 2007 to prepared for the All-Star Game in San Francisco last year. Two of the four also were given airfare and lodging by the league.
  • Another officer accepted $800 in expenses by the NFL to attend a training seminar in Chicago about security issues at major venues.  

Some of the donations come from corporations that have an interest in the police stopping theft.

  • The retail theft unit is authorized to accept an undetermined amount of funds from Target Corporation through their Law Enforcement Grant Program to buy computer and security video editing equipment.
  • The Sharper Image donated a $799 Sony Handycam to the Tactical Investigations Unit in 2006.
  • Walgreens Corporation donated a $2,000 Dell lap top to the retail theft unit in 2005.
Or non-profits that want to see an end to graffiti:

  • The San Francisco Clean City Coalition donated $2,500 in Home Depot store credit to the graffiti abatement unit, and two computers and a printer valued at $2,300 in 2004. The non-profit played Santa again the next year, donating more than $6,000 in computers and surveillance technology. The verdict on whether this has helped rid our streets of tagging is still out.  
Some gifts seemed to be essentials to running a police department:
  • San Francisco-based Annuzzi Concrete Service donated 36 traffic safety vests, saving taxpayers $792. 
  • Earlier this year, the Mounted Unit received $1,000 from Wells Fargo Bank for its special fund, and $5,000 from Karen Fireman. Back in 2008, the unit received $5,000 from San Carlos-based Maloney Security, Inc.
  • Three notebook computers from Dell Incorporated, valued at $4,784 were gifted in 2008 for use in the Bureau of Inspectors.

One gift pulled at the heartstrings. The parents of the late Officer Darryl Tsujimoto donated $5,000 to the K-9 Unit in honor of their son, who died of a heart attack during a training on Treasure Island in 2006.

Then there's the animal donations. In 2007, the police accepted a $9,000 dog named "Pyro" from an officer for the K-9 Unit, and another $9,000 canine named "Gadol Ram" from the California Office of Homeland Security to sniff out explosives.

To conclude, the winner for Most By-The-Book Officer goes to department spokeswoman Tomioka, and we're not just saying this because she's the person who picks up the phone when we call. She requested permission to accept a rose key chain with a value of $20 from St. Dominic's Church after accompanying a pilgrimage across the city. Apparently, she'd rebuffed gifts from the church for years, but they finally dropped the key chain off at her office while she wasn't in.

She petitioned to be able to accept the key chain, and got the commission's approval in April 2008, some 10 months after receiving the gift. Bureaucracy at its finest!

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