Saturday, April 21, 2012

Sheriff Mirkarimi, Shut Up

For more months than I care to remember, I've been reading the San Francisco Chronicle's coverage of the Ross Mirkarimi case.  For those of you not so informed, here's the 50,000 foot view:

S.F. Supervisor runs successfully for County Sheriff.  Sheriff-elect, not yet in office, grabs wife by arm and bruises her in a heated dispute.  Wife complains to neighbor, who videotapes her (including bruise).  Neighbor takes video to police.  Sheriff-elect says it's a "private family matter."  Sheriff-elect indicted for domestic violence, cops a plea for unlawful imprisonment, takes office.  Mayor suspends sheriff pending Ethics Commission Review.

San Francisco's well developed and active domestic violence prevention community went ballistic at that "private family matter" remark.  This is what domestic abusers always say, it's the classic response.  It hasn't been legally true in the U.S. since 1871, although enforcement has been very variable around the country.  The sheriff-on-leave has gone public recently in several detailed and vocal defenses of his position.  If you really want to read the details, just Google "Mirkarimi" - I don't think there's anyone else in the news with that name right now.  He was even on Michael Krasny's Forum on KQED for an hour.

I have one piece of advice for Sheriff Mirkarimi.  Sheriff, button your lip and zip it up tight.  Shut your pie-hole, and let your lawyer do the talking.  Because you convict yourself every time you open your trap.

Mirkarimi thinks his problem is that the mayor has unjustly suspended him from "his job," and referred his case to the Ethics Committee.  He has problems, but that isn't one of them.

His first problem is that he doesn't think he did anything really wrong.  He's apologized.  He's taken responsibility.  He now thinks that everyone should forget and forgive him, if he only explains himself enough.

His bigger problem:  he doesn't realize (or won't admit to himself) that the Sheriff's job isn't really "his."  The Sheriff is an elected official in San Francisco.  He ran for the job and won; the people voted for him.  Ask yourself if he would have won that election if this incident had happened, say 3 weeks before election day.  You know the answer. I don't think he's ever considered the question.

Why do I care?  I don't even live in San Francisco.  I care for two reasons.  One, I have close female relatives who have been abused by their husbands.  I've never been a victim, but I know victims.  And this guy reminds me of those men.  Two, I care about even-handed law enforcement.  And you can't have a man enforcing the law who thinks it's OK for him to break it, as long as it's just a little chip off the edge.  If the crime involved here was theft, or murder, we wouldn't even be having this discussion.  But it's only domestic abuse, so we get to listen to the Sheriff try to explain how misunderstood he is.

No, sir.  You are not misunderstood.  I understand you all too well.