Suave and Sofissthticatid (Brrap)
Officers Tracey Boes and Kevin P. Murray stepped up to the lectern at the San Francisco Police Commission meeting and took their punishment like the contrite meatheads they were.
Each looked as downcast as possible and mumbled exactly the same statement: "I accept responsibility for my actions and apologize for any discredit I brought on the department." The union representative for the officers assured the commission that what Boes and Murray had done was an "isolated incident," and that nothing of the sort would ever happen again.
The officers then beat it the hell out of the room, apparently trying to salvage whatever dignity they had left. Considering what they did to deserve their 90-day suspensions, I can't blame them.
On a drunken night in Clovis -- and can any story end well that begins so? -- Boes and Murray stumbled over the line between lawman and lawbreaker and earned the most severe punishment a cop can receive in San Francisco, short of termination. They have been ordered to undergo an assessment process where they'll be probed for hooch problems. If the department so deems, the two young officers -- Boes is 30, Murray 28 -- will have to enroll in substance-abuse counseling.
If hooch abuse has reared its ugly head, treatment is always prudent. But in this case, an amendment to the usual protocol may be in order, an amendment only a smartass columnist can provide: The public telling of the saga of Boes and Murray and Clovis, Calif.
I sing the drunken shanty of Officers Boes and Murray for two reasons.
First, there's the matter of sheer, unadulterated fun. What these meatheads did in Clovis was so stupid, undignified, and unbecoming of San Francisco police officers that it raced past the reaction of outrage, and straight into the category of dark humor. Because laughing darkly is something of a San Francisco custom, I feel duty bound as both a journalist and a San Franciscan to recount the officers' buffoonery in elaborate detail.
Anything else would be selfish.
My second reason for delving into the Clovis incident has to do with preserving the careers of two apparently decent, hard-working, brave, young, and foolish police officers. By publicly placing dunce caps on them, I hope to deter future debacles of the Clovis variety. By advising them on the manly art of drunkenness, I hope to make the disasters that do occur less public.
The hallowed tradition that puts off-duty cops in their cups at bars late at night is one that ought to be celebrated. But the activity has to be done right, and Lawdy Miss Clawdy, Officers Boes and Murray are sorely in need of guidance on doing drunk right.
On July 27, 1997, Boes and Murray traveled to Fresno to compete, as members of the SFPD soccer team, in the Police Olympics, a competition featuring departments from all over the state in a host of athletic events. When they got there, the two officers learned their game had been canceled. They decided to hoist a few cool ones to celebrate their off-duty status, taking a cab to a Fresno dance club, where the available entertainment apparently was not to the officers' liking.
Boes and Murray wouldn't talk to me, so I don't really know why the Fresno dance club wasn't copacetic from their points of view on that evening. What I do know is they later settled into a bar in Clovis, a suburb of Fresno with a population of 72,000, a police force of 81, and four bars (all on the same block) to choose from. The officers selected one that oozed sophistication -- In Ka Hoots is its name -- and entered the establishment intent on consuming additional alcoholic beverages.
Once In Ka Hoots, they spied a table of three twentysomething Central Valley lasses and decided to focus their manly attentions on them. The last tumblers on the ancient machinery of folly had clicked into place. The night was headed south of stupid.
Undeterred by the obvious 3-to-2 ratio problem, glassy-eyed, full of wit only they could appreciate, Boes and Murray invited themselves to a seat at the table, attempting to elicit conversation from Christine, Melinda, and Kim, the fair damsels of Clovis.
The damsels weren't biting. In fact, they were so uninspired by the slurred patter of Boes and Murray that the young women changed tables.
Now, we all know police officers are taught the value of persistence as part of their academy training. In this case, however, it appears the training may have been too effective, seeping into the social lives of Officers Boes and Murray, for no sooner had the fair Christine, Melinda, and Kim lit at another table, then the officers followed.Once again, the wit of Officers Boes and Murray went over like a days-dead pelican at a beach picnic.
At this point, the officers had two basic choices: They could tuck tail and retreat. Or they could gamely press on in the face of rapidly diminishing odds of victory.
Our boys were game. The damsels weren't.
Table to table, Boes and Murray pursued the three women until finally, perhaps in a fit of desperation, one of our official representatives to the Police Olympics said something that offended the young ladies. Actually, the statement offended the ladies a great deal. In fact, they found the comment to be so offensive that when it came to the attention of the bartender, he decided it was time for Boes and Murray to leave. "Whatever was said so upset the young woman, she couldn't tell the officers what it was," says Micheline Golden, a spokesperson for the Clovis Police Department.
I was curious. What utterance could be so obnoxious, so repellent, that a woman well past the age of consent would not repeat it to an officer of the law?
Perhaps Boes' slavish adherence to Jean-Paul Sartre's division of the "I" and the "Me," as explained in his landmark 1937 existentialist study of consciousness, The Transcendence of the Ego, had offended Christine's more humanistic philosophical grounding?
Or could the problem have been caused by Murray's stubborn belief that deconstructionist analysis of James Joyce's Finnegans Wake misses the point of the great but difficult work? Did his common-sense take on the novel collide with Melinda's arch, postmodern sensibilities?
Alas, we will never know. Neither the officers nor the young ladies returned my phone calls.
It is clear, though, that the untoward remark drew the bartender and another patron of the bar into a set-to with Boes and Murray, which brouhaha spilled out onto the sidewalk in front of In Ka Hoots, where a passing Clovis patrolman, Officer Ron Lichti, saw the ruckus.
According to the SFPD's charges against the officers, "[Boes and Murray] were described by the arresting officer as intoxicated, with red and glassy eyes, unsteady on their feet, and speaking with slurred speech with obvious chips on their shoulders."
When the cops show up, you face the same limited choices as when the fairer sex explicitly declines an advance: dignified retreat, or heroically stupid perseverance.
It's with a heavy heart that I report Officers Boes and Murray once again chose the less dignified path, refusing Officer Lichti's thoroughly professional request that they assume a prone position. Moreover, and despite Officer Lichti's request, off-duty Officer Boes had a sudden brainstorm: It would be a real good idea to remain standing and try to sneak around behind Officer Lichti -- repeatedly.
So Lichti whipped out his pepper spray and doused the meatheads. And they got on the ground.
When one's dignity has been thoroughly assaulted -- by the cold shoulders of three Clovis damsels, a bartender's rebuff, and the firmly applied force of a legally ordained peace officer -- a moment or six of quiet reflection might be called for.
But Officers Boes and Murray did not feel reflective.
No, Officers Boes and Murray thought their in-custody status was a trigger, of sorts, for a formal notification to Clovis authorities. And Boes thought it'd be best if this notification was delivered with a liberal dose of the word "fuck."
Boes was outraged that the Clovis police would fucking take the word of a fucking bartender over the word of fucking fellow police officers. He kept hammering on this fucking point over and over, says Golden, the Clovis police spokeswoman.
Duly informed that they had SFPD officers in custody, Clovis Police called San Francisco and told police superiors what Boes and Murray had done. Five hours later, our chastened boys were released. Charged with disturbing the peace, both officers later pleaded guilty and paid $250 fines.
Drinking a wee bit and then screwing up a vast amount doesn't necessarily make you all bad. In the interest of balance, then, I feel compelled to report that shortly after they were released from Clovis Jail, Boes and Murray helped lead the San Francisco Police soccer team to a first-place statewide victory.
I talked to Murray's police "rabbi," Capt. Frank O'Malley, who has known the officer since he was 19 years old, and he said Murray is a fine lad and one of the best Irish football players in the country, the son of the late Dan Murray, one of the most famous Irish footballers of all time. (The sport is a cross between soccer and rugby, O'Malley told me.)
He is also brave. Last year, without any backup, he chased a perp down a dark alley and took a loaded automatic pistol out of the creep's hand as he was trying to shoot. Murray has been rightly recommended for a medal of valor.
Boes is also a good officer, according to his captain, Michael Yalon. "He's one of the hardest-working cops under my watch. His arrests almost always lead to convictions."
Bearing in mind that Boes and Murray are young and, apparently, dedicated, I will now suggest some safe-drinking strategies for these two officers -- and all their colleagues at the SFPD -- just in case they wish to have careers that outlast this millennium. Or this weekend.
How a Cop Should Get Sloppy Drunk
Location is important. Always pick a familiar setting if you're going to get a heat on, a bar where the people know you're a decent human being when sober. With this knowledge, they can place your slathering, open-mawed idiocy in broader context.
If you're forced to drink in a strange town, follow the "When in Rome" standard. Stop, look around, and take your social cues from the locals. If they aren't chasing drunkenly after reluctant females, don't do it yourself, unless you happen to be in a Serbian-controlled war zone.
Judicious companionship choices can be the difference between a great drunk (i.e., one you will tell your grandkids about) and an exceedingly bad drunk (e.g., one where you leave a Clovis jail in the morning with a tremendous hangover and your career in shreds).
After a certain level of alcohol consumption, do not approach women; if approaching must be done, let them approach you. Then, you can tell godforsaken lies about drinking because your partner got killed, and let sympathy steer the course.
Of course, during good, solid snorting drunks, the best policy is simply to leave the ladies alone, sit with fellow officers, get plowed, and pursue any of these conversational options:
1) We do all the dirty work, the thankless and dangerous work, the kind of work the damn soft-belly brass doesn't have the stones to do, and they're too busy kissing ass with the brass above them to try if they wanted to, anyhow.
2) Damn liberal politicians mollycoddle the criminals with low bail and light sentences so they can get elected to higher office while we're left here to clean up their damn mess.
3) Damn union, always in bed with the brass. When's the last time we saw a decent raise. And I ain't talking about this damn 3 percent cost-of-living crap.
4) I could have passed that damn inspector's exam, but who has the time to study raising kids and walking a beat? Besides, what's the use? Probably get bumped by some relative of the district commander, and who wants the headaches, anyway? Real police work doesn't happen behind a desk. It happens pounding the pavement.
I know following my advice will never lead to anything as exciting as getting sloppy drunk and chasing uncooperative skirt in a Central Valley cow town. But the consequences of not following my advice can be severe: You could have your next disciplinary hearing on the night some smartass columnist has his social plans fall through and decides to drop by, just to see what might be shaking at the Police Commission.