quentin kopp

Commentary – Quentin Kopp

In Pursuit of Justice

By Quentin Kopp

In the 1960s, Yale University professor Allan Bloom noted “… the closing of the American mind,” referring to grievance-mongering, identity politics, and empty sloganeering. Professor Bloom would identify easily too many present American minds. 

I refer first to the heralded notion of “defunding” police. As predicted in a June 9 Wall Street Journal editorial, “… political drive to defund police” risks a return to the high-crime era of the 1960s and 1970s that damaged so many American cities. That applies to San Francisco, which suffers supervisors who berate police and ostracize them politically. 

At least half the supervisorial candidates in District 7 refuse any campaign contributions from the police and sheriffs’ unions. Law enforcement remains a local obligation. Here, the defunders control. Watch crime increase. 

Simultaneously, questionable police conduct has intimidated county prosecutors like those in Solano County, who requested the California attorney general replace the Vallejo Police Department and district attorney to investigate a potential destruction of relevant evidence regarding the killing of a male last month. Most people don’t understand the criminal law system. The attorney general rarely appears in Superior Court, the state’s trial court. If a Superior Court conviction is appealed, the attorney general represents the people of the State of California, the plaintiff in every criminal case. That means the attorney general’s lawyers are well qualified in appeals of criminal convictions, but not actual trials. 

The mainstream media ignores that historical fact and nature of the California Department of Justice. The comparable ignorance of courtroom procedure regarding bail for an accused appears also mystifying in light of dreadful 2018 legislation eliminating bail in favor of a computer-driven algorithm supposedly capable of advising Superior Court judges of the odds of an accused reoffending before trial or failing to appear for pretrial hearings. Bail is not ordered by a trial judge without a hearing if one is requested by the defendant’s lawyer or the district attorney. At such hearing, the defendant can produce testimony and other evidence to persuade the trial judge he or she will appear for pretrial court proceedings and not commit any crime before trial. It’s an open process, used by any criminal lawyer worth his or her salt! 

Fortunately, California voters will be able on Nov. 3 to repeal that legislation with Proposition 25 (yes, there will be 25 state ballot measures). Together with the state chairwoman of the NAACP and United Crime Victims, I’m one of the three voter information handbook argument sponsors of passing Proposition 25. (People are befuddled to learn the NAACP supports repeal.) 

In San Francisco, deputy sheriffs are not police officers in the commonly understood sense because San Francisco is a City and County. We have a Police Department, unlike the 57 other California counties in which the sheriff performs police duties in unincorporated areas. Here, the sheriff manages our jail and provides bailiffs in San Francisco Superior Court, deputies at San Francisco General Hospital, and other city activities for security purposes. 

Incidentally, CNN reported last month that in Florida, interior designers need 1,760 training hours for a state license, while police officers need only 770. In Louisiana, a manicurist needs 500 hours for a state license, and a police officer needs 360 hours to execute law enforcement responsibilities. Barbers need 1,528 training hours in North Carolina, but police officers need only 620 hours. Is that bureaucracy or stupidity?

A depressing aspect of American culture (besides “cancel culture,” which I’ll discuss next month) is our educational system and what biased teachers and left-wing college faculty have accomplished over the last six decades. The story of political party one-sidedness in universities is well-known, but the results in attitude toward freedom of expression and threats to a free press increase. 

A Harvard professor observed in May: “To determine what is factual and true, we rely on certain building blocks. Start with education. Then there’s experience ….  above all, we rely on evidence.” The idea of objective fact is undermined “all in pursuit of political gain.” He identified a systematic effort “to disqualify traditional independent arbiters of fact” from court proceedings, historians, scientists (see “Bone Spur” Trump’s public denunciation of Dr. Anthony Fauci), medical professionals, subject matter experts of every type. 

Meanwhile, a 2020 poll found only 63% of adults contend they are “extremely” or “very” proud of being an American, the lowest since 2001. Republicans, 76% in 2019, show only 67% are extremely proud and merely 24% of Democrats are extremely proud. A November 2018 poll found that 76% of Republicans agreed that rights of the unborn should be protected, but 49% also agreed the government should not “prevent a woman from making her own decision.”

The stock market appears unpredictable, but remember the advice of humorist Will Rogers before he died in an Alaskan plane crash in 1935: “Don’t gamble; take all your savings and buy some good stock and hold it till it goes up, then sell it. If it don’t go up, don’t buy it.”

Quentin Kopp is a former San Francisco supervisor, state senator, member of the SF Ethics Commission  and retired judge.

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