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Four Boys


Kate Chatfield

Four boys in my daughter’s middle school planned something to do to the new boy at school. They had been taunting him since the beginning of the school year. However, one day after school, they invited him to play basketball with them on the playground. He did. After playing for a while, they ended their game. They invited the new boy to go to the corner store with them on their way home.

First, they said they had to go to the bathroom. The new boy walked into the bathroom with them. There the four boys gathered around him and asked him why he was a “fag.” They pushed him around inside the bathroom. He tried to grab his backpack and go but the boys grabbed it. They took out his school sweater. He tried to grab it but they held it away from him. Then they put it on the floor between them and urinated on it while he watched. They zipped up their pants and walked out laughing, saying he could have his sweater back.

The new boy told his parents and they called the principal. The other students heard about it, which is how I came to hear about it. I was appalled. My daughter was nonplussed. She interacted with these boys every day. She was not surprised.

Some slight discipline ensued.  They may have been given after-school detention. I imagine their parents had to purchase a new sweater. These sets of parents, who referred to  their sons with pride as the “four horseman,” smiled at their boorishness, their routine meanness, and their brutality.

There was no reason for these boys’ particular bullying of the new boy, other than that he was vulnerable and thus, an easy target. The bullying was the point. There were ancillary benefits to them– they continued to dominate other children. Perhaps individually, these four boys were likeable. But together they sought out those they could harm and they inflicted harm.  Throughout the rest of middle school, these boys continued to inflict harm on others with impunity.


A “Buy/Bust” Operation

In a buy/bust operation, a police officer dresses as a homeless drug user and seeks to buy a few pills or a small amount of narcotics from a street level drug seller.  The officer has in his pocket cash that has been pre-marked. The officer will approach the seller and ask to buy pills, or whatever narcotic he believes the person has to sell. The officer will hand over the marked money and take the street drugs. There are officers stationed in a window of a building or on a roof above the street where the transaction occurs. These “cover “officers photograph or videotape the transaction and narrate the transaction to a waiting arrest team.

After the undercover cop buys the drugs, he walks around the corner. The cover team gives the signal to the arrest team – 2 or sometimes many more officers– who come in for the arrest. Police cars arrive, sirens blazing. The seller is put on the curb. The seller is searched. The marked money is seized as are any other pills or the small amount of drugs the seller may have. If the seller has other money on him, often the officers take this and divide it among themselves. The police take the seller to county jail for booking. There is no attempt to investigate the seller’s source of the drugs, to go up any chain, to make some bigger dent in drug operations in the country. The arrest and incarceration of the street level seller is the end goal.

Police target vulnerable individuals in these buy/busts. The seller is often homeless, often a substance user. Police target Black and brown sellers. Often, the seller is a youth who has been trafficked from another country to sell drugs on the street. In the San Francisco Tenderloin, these dealers are boys trafficked from Honduras.

These cases are tough, if not impossible, to defend, given the photographic evidence and the marked money and the law that has outlawed certain drugs and that cares not for the reasons that people use or sell drugs on the streets ~ the poverty, the desperation, the lack of options. If a defense attorney is good and can make a plausible motion to suppress evidence, they will make the motion. It will likely be denied. So, there’s little else to do in such a case other than to engage in plea negotiations.

Sometimes, the person spends months  in county jail. While personal possession is no longer a felony in California, possession with intent to sell or the sale of drugs – no matter how small the amount – is a felony. If there are prior sales offenses, the length of a sentence can be grossly disproportionate to the “offense.”  There can be a prison sentence.

Whether or not the seller is put on probation after a county jail sentence or on parole after a prison sentence, the seller is “on paper” and thus subject to a “four way search” – a search of the person, personal possessions, automobile, or residence ~ at any time, day or night, with or without probable cause. Anytime the police see him again, they can jack him up again, for any reason or for no reason.

These buy/busts do nothing to “solve” anything. When a seller is arrested, there are other sellers to take his place. Everyone involved knows it’s not a solution to anything. Arresting someone and throwing him or her in a cage is just like urinating on a sweater. There is no reason for the police officers’ particular bullying of this seller, other than that the seller was vulnerable and thus, an easy target.

The bullying is the point. There are some ancillary benefits to the force ~ by engaging in these antics that manufacture arrests the police drive up “crime” rates. By driving up the “crime” rate, the police can continue to dominate the streets and a city’s budget. Perhaps individually, these officers are likeable. But together they seek out those they can harm and they inflict harm.  Throughout the rest of their careers, police officers will continue to inflict harm on others with impunity. 






Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
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