San Francisco's war on gangs has been bolstered by grant money. Since 2006, the city has received around $1.7 million in state and federal funding specifically for anti-gang initiatives. About a quarter of that money came from federal programs focused on educating youth (Gang Resistance Education and Training) and offering recreational activities (Project Safe Neighborhoods). More than half of the total, however, came from the state's California Gang Reduction, Intervention, and Prevention program (CalGRIP).

Competing for the grant against many other agencies, the SFPD explained in recent applications that "approximately half of the city's homicides are over gang turf and drug sales." The department's 2009 CalGRIP application declared that "In San Francisco there are roughly 41 identified gangs, estimated to have approximately 1,660 key members." Apparently membership is quickly rising, because according to the 2011 application San Francisco gangs are "estimated to have approximately 2,500 key members." Neither of these calculations resembles the data local law enforcement officials entered into the CalGang database, which states that San Francisco had 465 gang members in 2010.

Identifying gang membership can be a subjective task, and it's easy to guess why the department's application would lean on the criteria that netted higher numbers: The bigger the gang problem, the likelier the grant request will be approved, the more money pours into the police budget. In 2009 and 2011 combined, the CalGRIP initiative brought the SFPD more than $1.2 million, half from the state and half from the city's mandatory match. From that total, 82 percent — around $1 million — covered police overtime pay.


Jacori Bender was 17 years old when police first affiliated him with Oakdale Mob. He was in state prison by the time he turned 20.
Courtesy of SF Police Department
Jacori Bender was 17 years old when police first affiliated him with Oakdale Mob. He was in state prison by the time he turned 20.
“If you’re charged with a gang-related offense,” says Public Defender Jeff Adachi, “you’re gonna get more time, you’re gonna be treated differently, and most importantly you’re gonna be subject to this second-class justice.”
“If you’re charged with a gang-related offense,” says Public Defender Jeff Adachi, “you’re gonna get more time, you’re gonna be treated differently, and most importantly you’re gonna be subject to this second-class justice.”

Bender's gun-possession charge is what attorneys call a "wobbler" — prosecutors can make it a felony or a misdemeanor. Gang enhancements only apply to felonies, though, and that's how Gascón charged him. Gascón offered Bender a deal: The drug and theft charges would be dropped if he pleaded guilty to carrying a loaded firearm and the gang enhancement, which would make him a validated Oakdale Mob gang member. He'd get a one-year jail sentence, almost all of which he'd already completed in the time since his arrest.

Bender refused — a significant risk. Officer Gonzalez would testify that he saw Bender throw the gun; forensics tests concluded that Bender's DNA was a "major contributor" among the samples found on the weapon; the pistol was reported stolen in Fairfield, where Bender lived at the time. Plus, because criminal charges and gang charges are usually consolidated into the same trial, jurors would hear a heavy dose of "gang expert" opinion intended to show that Bender actively participated in gang activities.

"That gang charge — even though it may not carry as much time as the principal charge — often becomes the focus of the case," says Adachi, the public defender.

The DA's gang expert for the case was Leonard Broberg, a veteran Gang Task Force inspector who'd worked hundred of cases in Bayview. During his days patrolling the Double Rock projects, neighborhood youth nicknamed him "the Candyman" because he passed out sweets every Friday. Middle-aged, with blue eyes and a salt-and-pepper stubble, he'd gained a reputation as one of those cops who really seemed to care about the kids, once giving a young woman he'd arrested multiple times a bouquet of roses after she finally kicked her drug habit.

Broberg taught the module on black gangs at the city's police academy. He was a guest lecturer on that subject for a San Francisco City College criminal justice course. He helped compile the Oakdale Mob gang injunction list. He'd testified in more than 80 gang-related trials.

Although he didn't work Bender's gun case, Broberg's testimony spanned four days, longer than any other in the trial. Referring to Bender's "Gang Member Validation" sheet — an aggregation of police report summaries and Field Information Cards, which are essentially notes police officers take while on patrol — the inspector rattled off incidents intended to support the notion that Bender was an Oakdale Mob gang member.

"I need to look at a sustained pattern of behavior," he said. "There has to be a complete evaluation of the totality of circumstances and all of the incidents."

City officials won't label someone a gang member unless he meets at least two of 11 standards, such as displaying hand signs or being identified by a reliable informant. Fourteen of the 20 incidents on Bender's sheet involved "affiliating with documented gang members" or "frequenting gang areas." Which for Bender translates to: hanging out with his friends in his neighborhood.

But Broberg asserted that Bender was hanging out with known criminals: Eric Brewer and Germaine Benjamin each caught an illegal gun possession conviction in December 2009, and also pleaded guilty to a gang enhancement. Keimareea Lake got the same in April 2007. Dimaryea McGhee was convicted of robbery in April 2008. By spending time with these guys, the prosecution argument went, Bender chose the gang lifestyle.

"It's character by association," says Wes Porter, a professor at Golden Gate University School of Law and former federal prosecutor. "How can we ever fairly have a trial on the underlying crime when you put this cloud above that he's affiliated with this way of life, with an organization where they're all bad? It's almost impossible to overcome."

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10 comments
patfan34
patfan34

"But at what point do you have to stop making excuses for him and say, 'Jacori, what are you doing?"

 

So the solution for a wake-up call is to send him to state prison to mingle with actual criminals for four years? Seems like a fine system that we have going here.

SuperWittySmitty
SuperWittySmitty

I guess things here in NYC are very different and also very familiar, in the end. What gets me as the most powerful and the most dangerous: this wanna-be attitude. A huge portion of our urban youth will have to continuously struggle to find success and chances are they will never be part of the "real" gangster lifestyle  and enjoy all the of the perks that come with the status. Yet this desire to at least acquire the trappings of gang life and then flaunt your "achievements" to your neighbors seems to be enough for many, but it also comes with a lifetime of growing resentment when they realize was it and there's no more coming. 

Hodor
Hodor

If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, quacks like a duck.... well, it may NOT be a duck because ducks don't have gang tattoos....nice argument, you boob!

JIPB
JIPB

I think the author forgot to mention that when Bender was arrested in the Cuts, officer Gonzales must have found a loaded gun that someone in Bender's group of friends threw away given the charges.   Tough to arrest someone on those charges without an actual gun.  Oops.

DOOLEY
DOOLEY

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL HELLS ANGELS MC FRISCO AND OAKLAND.

Antonio J. Solano
Antonio J. Solano

Just because they're not organized and don't have jump ins doesn't mean they aren't a gang. He isn't some kid hanging out. He knows who he's with where he's at and what thats all about. He's not innocent at all.

SF Weekly
SF Weekly

Marlon, thanks for letting us know. The link should now be working correctly.

Marlon Crump
Marlon Crump

Actually it might just be something with the computer terminal Im at. Great article!

Marlon Crump
Marlon Crump

I tried to read this story online, but it appears that your site might have be under attack by some virus.

hplovecraft
hplovecraft

"...and enjoy all the perks that come with the status." ??!!

You most assuredly are liberal...

 
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