Monday, March 18, 2013

At Mediation, SF Gay Cop Admits He Lied

(Capt. Bob Moser, Castro Benefits District executive director Andrea Aiello, and Police Officer Chuck Limbert, Nov. 1's MUMC meeting.)

When police officers lie, public safety and trust are betrayed, and if it's a cop who happens to be gay and the liaison between the department and the LGBT community there's an additional degree of betrayal.

On Friday, March 16, San Francisco police officer Chuck Limbert of the Mission/Castro station finally appeared before the Office of Citizen Complaints of the Police Commission, to deal with the complaint I lodged against him on November 5. My complaint questioned whether Limbert told the truth when he claimed he was off-duty on November 1 at the monthly meeting of the Merchants of Upper Market Castro, a private organization.

At the one-hour mediation session, after I restated my complaint before mediators Bill Hafferty and Tamara Lange, and fellow activists and co-complainants Rusty Mills and Bill Wilson, Limbert readily admitted he lied at the MUMC meeting.

"I was not accurate in what I told you. I was on duty," Limbert said.

Upon questioning from me about why he lied at the meeting, saying he was acting as a security guard and hostess with the mostess telling folks where to sit, how to behave, to stop videotaping or snapping photos and drawing attention to the fact that he was out-of-uniform and in street clothes, Limbert offered lame excuses.

First, he had been so stressed from working long hours the previous day and into the wee hours of Halloween night in the Castro and was operating on only a few hours sleep he was confused about whether he was getting paid for the hours he was putting in for MUMC. Second, because so many merchants had expressed fears that public space advocates and nudists would be in attendance, he decided to help out MUMC. Limbert never stated precisely what fears his merchant friends had that forced him to lie.

If the stress was so burdensome he couldn't recall whether he was being paid by taxpayer funds for his time, he should have just stayed home since clearly by his rationale his mental capacity was greatly diminished.

Considering the Mission/Castro's police captain Bob Moser would be there along with two uniformed cops inside the meeting room at the Eureka Valley Recreation Center, and 8 to 10 additional cops were stationed outside the center, was it necessary to have Limbert also present? Just how much taxpayer-funded private security and hostessing services was (and still is) provided by the SFPD to MUMC?

Limbert said he treats everyone fairly and equally regarding Castro community disputes, as both a cop and a gay man who lives in the neighborhood. I scoffed at this new inaccuracy, pointing out he had just admitted he lied in November and that his lie and actions at MUMC's meeting were clear evidence he is biased and partial toward that group.

"The Castro is harmed by the police gay liaison further fracturing the already highly-factionalized neighborhood," I said to Limbert. "We've been lied to by MUMC, falsely claiming they have a written agreement with the city to solely control the flagpole. Now, on top of MUMC's lies, we have you copping to lying."

Since we now know Limbert lied about such a basic matter as being on-duty, it calls into question everything else he has done in past and being the self-appointed "Mayor of the Castro". For years, he's thrown his weight around as a gay cop and made threats to arrest activists not breaking any laws but who are upsetting his merchants buddies. MUMC says jump, and Limbert colludes with them and asks how high.

When he explained he's worked inside the department -- from the top brass down to the new recruits -- to educate colleagues about who's who and what's what in the Castro and larger gay community, I shuddered with dismay. Not helpful to have this cop who's gay and an admitted liar poisoning the thinking of other cops. The distrust I have toward Limbert extends beyond him to the entire force.

This development showing how one component of law enforcement in San Francisco serves at the beck-and-call of MUMC, is cause to reexamine the recent behavior of another such component, the District Attorney's Office, in the matter of the SodaStream pro-Palestinian demonstration in December.

You'll recall activists went in to Cliff's Variety Store, owned by Terry Bennett who is the president of MUMC, to protest the sale of Israeli-made soda machines and sing songs. The store's workers were caught on camera assaulting and pushing the activists, who filed complaints with the Mission/Castro police station and which were passed over to the District Attorney's Office. As I reported in February, the DA has not brought charges against the workers at Cliff's.

Why did it take more than four months for the mediation to happen? In mid December, mediation was held with Capt. Moser, activist Rusty Mills and myself with the OCC and Limbert was supposed to be there. Two hours before the mediation, Limbert contacted Moser and the OCC to say he was sick with the flu and couldn't attend. After the new year began, he was out on sick leave for an extended period and I assured the OCC that whenever he was back on duty, we still wanted mediation with him.

There will be no departmental punishment meted out to Limbert over this. The mediation services of the OCC are designed to foster communication and better understanding in such community conflicts. Limbert's file will simply be marked stating a complaint was lodged against him, details and outcome omitted.

If you've had dealings with Limbert, or any member of the SFPD, and think you were lied to or otherwise question their actions, please get in touch the Office of Citizen Complaints. Click here to visit their web page and learn what their duties are and how to file a complaint.

I wonder what Harvey Milk would think of the collusion between Limbert and MUMC, and how the general LGBT public is constantly lied to by the Castro's "Mayor" and merchants.


Rusty Mills said...

My own contribution to this OCC complaint was to present evidence that Sgt. Limbert has a long history of disregard for truth in his dealings with the public. My colleagues in the urban nudity movement and I have had numerous interactions with Limbert in which he used false statements about the law in attempts to intimidate people. In response to my allegations at the OCC hearing, Limbert gave evasive excuses and attempted to change the subject by mentioning extraneous incidents involving other people at other times.

However, when one clears away the smokescreen Limbert attempted to hide behind, there remains a fairly clear explanation for his playing loose and easy with the truth -- at least, in his dealings with his nudist adversaries. He was under tremendous pressure from higher levels of the police department to "do something about the nudists in the Castro". Limbert has been the police "liaison" officer for the LGBT community. Although the urban nudists are mostly non-gay, the city's prudes simply assumed that urban nudity is a "gay thing", and therefore Limbert became the SFPD's "front man" for dealing with the "problem" prudes were having in the Castro district.

Lying about the law in order to intimidate people is a common tactic used by police everywhere. I don't know whether this tactic is taught to police trainees in the police academy in San Francisco, but it is certainly taught to new officers by older officers, since this tactic is used routinely by officers all over the city. So when Limbert, over a period of years, told numerous people that they were violating California's "indecent exposure" law by being naked in public, he was knowingly lying about the law, but was also following an unofficial police department policy.

To be fair, I think Limbert was in a difficult position. The deranged prudes who were complaining to the police and to city politicians about the urban nudists were numerically small, but they more than made up for this by their hysterical behavior. In our society there is a long, sad tradition of giving undeserved consideration to the preferences of prudes, and this translates into an expectation that non-prudes must give up their rights and freedoms so that prudes can feel comfortable. Consequently, when a few blue-nosed nitwits have tantrums over something like nudity, the politicians and police take steps to placate them. Limbert was caught in the middle, needed to show some "results", and so he gave in to the temptation to bluff and bluster. In the process, however, he lost his credibility.

Anonymous said...

Recent revelations of Limbert's misconduct have brought shame to the Gay community. His attempts to hide crimes committed by what I assume was a friend and a fellow police officer put him in a position to be blackmailed by others to hide their crimes at worst and afraid to report crimes by other officers at best.