Kamala Harris Hasn't Made Friends With S.F. Cops -- But That May Not Cost Her in the End

Kamala Harris.jpg
Kamala Harris
In many American towns, the debate over the merits of Chevy or Ford pickup trucks is no laughing matter. In a nerdier milieu -- one less likely to cause a bar fight at least -- Apple and PC partisans snipe at each other smarmily. And here in San Francisco, we have our own endless, tail-chasing rivalry: Who's screwing everything up? The police or District Attorney?

That there's truth to both sides' claims won't be received well by either camp, but here's the situation in brief: The District Attorney's office grumbles that the cops' lousy work makes it impossible to prosecute suspects. The cops, in turn, argue that District Attorney Kamala Harris, a striver and candidate for Attorney General, is loath to take difficult cases lest she blemish her political future with an embarrassing loss.

Whatever the case, Harris isn't getting rank-and-file cops' support in her run for statewide office. And she's betting she doesn't need it. Whether you think this influences her decision in cases such as the three suspects recently freed after a cop got a bullet in his face depends on whether you're a Chevy-Ford, Mac-PC, or Cop-DA person.

A cop supporter would say this is yet another instance of Harris' office demonstrating she doesn't have police officers' backs and declining to follow through on a case where a loss would look worse politically than a pass.

"We're not surprised. We're used to this kind of thing," said Kevin Martin, the vice president of the city's Police Officers Association. "Too many people think that officers being injured in the line of duty is part of the job description. San Francisco police are used to having their cases dismissed when they're victims of violence."

Yet the DA's camp could play this as a good thing. Harris isn't getting any political support from the city's cops, so she's not feeling pressure to try iffy cases to win their support (the case in question would likely qualify; DA spokesman Brian Buckelew notes that, "Simply put, there was insufficient evidence at this time" to prosecute the alleged cop shooters).

Either way, the reality is that a successful Harris run for AG isn't coming via the traditional channel of shoring up support from public safety unions.

"She's kind of doing the politics 2.0 thing," said San Francisco political consultant David Latterman. "She's not going to get a lot of unions."

In fact, the powerful Police Officers Research Association of California already gave its blessing to one of Harris' opponents, Alberto Torrico, an East Bay assemblyman. Support from organizations like PORAC is the kissing-babies, presiding-over-pancake-breakfasts type of political element long key to ascending to the AG's office. And it was a sure loser for Harris. So she's gotten key endorsements from well-known police chiefs around the state such as San Francisco's George Gascon, San Diego's William Lansdowne, and former Los Angeles Chief Bill Bratton -- perhaps the most well-known policeman in the nation. This, say political analysts contacted by SF Weekly, could be a winning gambit.

"She's doing what she needs to build her law-enforcement credentials, but realizes the impact of rank-and-file police officer unions can have in a primary is likely to be limited," said consultant Jim Ross. "For her, she's just looking at 'what's my slice of the electorate? How do I maximize that?'"

Adds Latterman, "Can she win? I wouldn't count her out."

Whether the miscreants responsible for that bullet hitting a cop in the face will ever be brought to justice, however, is a question nobody can answer. Regardless, one's worldview already dictates who should be blamed.  

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