Why Sgt Barry arrested me

Tue, 11/20/2007 - 00:00
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reprinted from Philippine News September 10 2007

After I obtained the police report of my February 17, 2003 Walgreens arrest (for using a "counterfeit" $100 bill which turned out to be genuine), I learned the identity of San Francisco police Sgt. Jeff Barry. I then connected the dots and tied our last unpleasant encounter in 1995 to his conduct in either directing me to be arrested or in allowing it to happen when there was no "probable cause" to do so.

What I could not understand is why he did so. How could he carry a grudge One friend, who has frequent contact with white police officers like Barry, explained that many of them feel threatened by minorities, especially those they perceive to be superior to themagainst me for so long and to that extent? It was a minor tiff. Because he was in charge of the boy's athletic program at the parochial school our sons attended, I had gone to see him in 1995 to ask him why his basketball coach had not allowed my son to play for even a minute during the three games I went to. And he was upset about a no-guns policy of the City College Board of Trustees (where I sit as a Trustee) which he said endangered the life of his brother-in-law. Although we were both upset at that meeting, it should have been no big deal. So why?

Over the years, a few have suggested that it is in the nature of power to corrupt. When you have the absolute power to humiliate another human being whom you do not like, it can be very difficult to resist the temptation to exercise that power.

Still others have suggested that racism was involved. It was no accident that both Sgt. Barry and Officer Michelle Liddicoet are whites and that I am Filipino. Had I been white, like then Supervisor Gavin Newsom, they never would have even considered arresting me.

One friend, who has frequent contact with white police officers like Barry, explained that many of them feel threatened by minorities, especially those they perceive to be superior to them in qualification and achievement. These damn minorities must be put in their place and lowered a peg or two or more.

Many of these police officers who are of Irish descent, my friend said, went to Bishop Riordan High School because they did not have the grades to go to Sacred Heart or Saint Ignatius. They went to college at either San Francisco State or at the Jesuit-run University of San Francisco obtaining a bachelor’s degree and going no further. Becoming a San Francisco police officer or a fireman is the most they ever aspired to be or could ever hope to be.

That ambition was probably all right back when they knew that they could rise through the ranks to make it all they way to the top, to someday be Chief of Police.

But times changed. Because of “affirmative action”, minorities were allowed to become police officers and firemen and even promoted to officer posts. The opportunities for promotion for the Jeff Barrys of San Francisco were narrowing. They may never make it to chief. All because of “those damn uppity minorities”.

About a week after news of my arrest was published in the papers, I received a call from Chief Earl Sanders, the first African-American police chief of San Francisco. He called to express his apologies for the actions of his police officers.

We had a long conversation as Chief Sanders explained the presence and prevalence of racism within his police force even with him as chief. “Some officers landed on Plymouth Rock,” he said. “Other officers had Plymouth Rock land on them.” We chuckled at that observation.

Sanders explained how racism works. When I’m wearing my police chief uniform, I get respect,” he said. “But when I’m not in uniform, I’m treated like a n____r". He even disclosed that whenever his well-dressed wife goes to Nordstrom’s, “she’s watched like a hawk by white salesgirls who think she’ll steal something.”

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