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Letters to the Editor 

Week of Wednesday, October 6, 2004

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What's the Harmon That?

Effectively infiltrated: Thank you, SF Weekly, for bringing your readers a dose of the hilarious Harmon Leon [Infiltrator]. I've been a fan of Leon's since I discovered his book, The Harmon Chronicles, a couple of years ago. His pet psychic column ["Friend's Best Man," Sept. 29] was sidesplittingly funny. I hope he will be "infiltrating" on behalf of SF Weekly for a long time to come!

Sue Trowbridge
Albany

Because HBO wouldn't sell out to us: We have Ali G.

Why do we need the Infiltrator?

Lisa Tsering
Oakland

Line by Line

A detailed defense of the Federal Protective Service. (Not that it needed one.): In reference to the article "Homeland Sinecurity," by Matt Smith [Sept. 1]:

"When I met Barry Mallek last week, he was already a couple of hours into a day of defending America from terrorist threat. Still, he seemed to be bored. When he saw me approach, he unfolded his body from a chair and smiled.

"'This is the only place they have an empty chair,' he explained, motioning to a desk on the first floor of the Federal Building. 'If I didn't sit there, I'd be standing around all day.'"

Mr. Mallek is a "trainee," as is every police officer who came before him who has not attended or met the criteria of training required by the Federal Protective Service (FPS) or, for that matter, any law enforcement agency. As such, until a slot at the federal academy is found, or until a waiver is granted, he, as did all before him, will sit or stand as he pleases. The "trainees" before him, including my husband, used their time, sitting or standing, to study FPS policies and procedures, the California Penal and Vehicle Codes, and the appropriate Code of Federal Regulations.

They also filed reports and did other clerical duties, thus allowing the regular police officers more time to patrol.

"Fellow employees, who learned that Mallek was Jewish, began making comments such as 'Who's his rabbi?'"

In police jargon, a "rabbi" is an individual police officer's mentor, typically older and of higher rank and someone who helps the officer progress in his or her career. It is not meant as derogatory and in fact is accepted as a term of respect.

"Fortunately, redneck Southern cops don't form the first line of law enforcement protection against terrorist attack."

Southern police officers do form the first line, at least in the South, and I respect and admire them, as I'm sure the citizens they serve would agree.

"'If I were made to go to the basic police academy again, like I did in 1970, that would be a waste of money,' he says. 'I've got 2,500 hours of formal training at the basic police academy, the federal law enforcement academy, special agent training. I've been certified for the laws of South Carolina, and the same thing in Georgia.'"

My husband, 46 at the time he was hired by FPS, had over 2,000 hours of formal police training and had attended four academies. In over 20 years as a police officer, he has enforced the laws of seven states, the military, and the federal government. However, he accepted, without whining, having to meet and complete any additional training mandated by his new employer.

"It used to be that, if the feds screwed something up, you could blame individual, incompetent agencies like the INS or the Federal Protective Service."

Compared to other federal police agencies of their size, the San Francisco office of the Federal Protective Service consistently leads the nation in arrests. They made over 1,000 last year in and around federal property in the Bay Area, and that number will double in 2004 at the current rate. Additionally, the overwhelming majority of their arrests are what are known as "on-view." In other words, the police officer is patrolling his or her assigned beat (not sitting in a chair or taking two-hour breaks), sees a crime occur, and makes the arrest.

Anyone who knows and understands police work will tell you this is much harder than making an arrest stemming from answering a call-for-service. It is called "self-initiated" police work and the number of arrests made by the relatively small number of officers assigned to the San Francisco FPS is a testament to their diligence and hard work.

I cannot speak for Mr. Mallek's employment issues with the federal government, except to say he does not seem to "fit in," no matter where he goes. But I can speak for my husband and the officers he works with.

They have volunteered and been sent to wherever they were needed, including New York City the day after Sept. 11, 2001, an assignment taking them from their families for several months.

Last November they were in San Diego during the wildfires, assisting the local law enforcement agencies, protecting property from looting, and supporting the staff from FEMA.

They were in Florida doing the same duties for the victims of the hurricanes.

They provided security and anti-terrorism duty at both national conventions.

They regularly train and work with the SFPD and other local law enforcement agencies.

And they serve and protect the people in the Bay Area, seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

So frankly, Matt Smith's statement -- "Do you hear that, Mr. Terrorist Bent on Attacking U.S. Government Facilities? The Department of Homeland Security is on the lookout for you." -- is actually quite accurate.

As for the police officers of the San Francisco FPS, the difference between them and Mr. Mallek is that they accepted their time as "trainees" as part of paying their dues.

Oh, and they actually work for their $60,000.

Elaine Dos Santos
Cupertino

A Guest Column

On Friday, Sept. 24, while Latino politicos were holding a press conference on the steps of City Hall to denounce a degrading Sept. 15, 2004, SF Weekly cartoon by Dan Siegler, Mission District children, students, parents, and activists were picketing outside of SF Weekly's offices, demanding an apology.

These children and families, a majority of whom are from the Mission District's 30-year-old Mission Education Project Inc. (MEPI) program, were furious with Mr. Siegler's parody of Mayor Newsom's efforts to take back the Mission. Siegler used negative stereotypes of Latinos as the whipping stick to get his point across, stereotypes that were insensitive, hurtful, and irresponsible to the hardworking families and individuals who struggle daily despite a slow economy, the lack of legal documents, a financially strapped school district, and violence in the community. Rita Alviar, the MEPI executive director who organized the pickets at a second protest held on Monday, Sept. 27, was angry that the editor saw no insensitivity in Siegler's use of the Mission and the stereotypes as a way to attack the mayor.

Claudia Aquilar, a senior at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory, stated, "While gangbangers and teen pregnancy are problems in our community, there are many college-bound kids, and the editor should understand the circumstances surrounding these negative situations such as poverty and racism." Rosa Negrete, a parent of two participants in the MEPI program, stated, "There is a beautiful diversity in the Mission District; we are not all from Mexico but also from many different Central and South American countries."

"While problems do exist," she continued, "many families struggle on a daily basis to raise their children as best possible with the hopes that their children attend college and become successful."

Participants of the protest spoke with Editor John Mecklin on Friday, and a contingent, along with District 9 Supervisor Ammiano, met with Mr. Mecklin on Monday. While he would not apologize publicly, he did offer us the opportunity to write this column.

The participants in the protest still want an apology and feel SF Weekly should become more familiar with the Mission and write about the baseball and soccer teams, hardworking families, the friendly atmosphere, and the many success stories and individuals that the Mission District has produced.

Hopefully, the children and families who participated in the protest have learned that we need to continue to hold the press' "feet to the fire," create our own Latino press, and not assume anyone is going to highlight our successes unless we do it ourselves. The fight for justice continues.
-- Mauricio E. Vela

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