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Newsom Under Fire For Releasing Homophobic, Racist Video

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Newsom Under Fire For Releasing Homophobic, Racist Video

by Mark Worrall, 365Gay.com San Francisco Bureau

Posted: December 15, 2005 3:00 pm ET

(San Francisco, California) San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom says he was right in releasing a tape made by police officers containing homophobic and racist skits and that it will help preserve the integrity of the force.

Newsom ordered the suspension of more than 20 officers after the video was discovered on the website of one of the officers. In announcing the suspensions last week Newsom made the tape public. (story)

Since then the officers have maintained the mayor is on a witch hunt for political gain.

Not so says Newsom. "You can't just turn a blind eye to the insensitivity in these videos,'' a visibly angry Newsom said Wednesday.

The mayor also rejected arguments that the tapes were never meant to be shown publicly and simply contained in-house police jokes, saying he didn't ``think it was fun and games'' to laugh at minority stereotypes.

Newsom was responding to allegations made by Officer Andrew Cohen, who produced the video, and his lawyer.

Cohen, who faces charges of conduct unbecoming of an officer, appeared at a hearing Wednesday.

He said that he had intended to show the video at the station's Christmas party as a send-off for a retiring captain, and it was never meant for public viewing.

Daniel Horowitz, one of Cohen's attorneys said that the officer was in the process of removing the video from his website when Newsom and Police Chief Heather Fong released it at last week's press conference.

"This is all about people joking around, and it got out of hand because the mayor released it publicly,'' Horowitz said.

Horowitz said Newsom was engaging in "politically correct opportunism.''

He did not explain why the video was put on the website that the public had access to in the first place.

Horowitz said that the video was clearly marked "for comedy purposes only.''

The tape featured uniformed officers parodying stereotypes of gays, transsexuals, Asians, Blacks and women, and was produced on city time while the officers were supposed to be working.

Newsom disputes that the tape was "comedy" and said that that not all of the video has been made public. He said that for legal reasons city lawyers determined some of the content should be withheld.

Newsom called the material which has been held back from public viewing "outrageous" and said some of the footage includes an "Abu Ghraib-type skit that was done with African-American officers in cages".

"If this occurred in any business in the private sector, none of us would criticize the company for direct and swift action,'' the mayor said.

Of the 24 officers who were suspended last week eight, who were considered to be less involved, were allowed to return to work. Another eight are waiting to hear if they could return to work as well.

©365Gay.com 2005

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