If you’re lucky enough to get a book published you have to expect that there are going to be those who have the need to criticize your work. Writers really shouldn’t be over sensitive about this; it just falls into the you-can’t-please-everybody category of life. Plus if the criticism is constructive you can learn from it. However once in a while someone will find fault where there really is no fault to be found. For instance there have been a few reviewers (amateur and otherwise) who have found fault with the manner in which the San Francisco police were portrayed in Sex, Murder And A Double Latte. Apparently there are a few who feel that in real life the SFPD would have:
A) Spent more time investigating some of the crimes that occurred early on in the book
B) Arrested Sophie for some of the illegal stuff she did while trying to solve the crimes
C) Treated Sophie with more consideration and respect
D) Just generally been more on top of things.
To those critics I would like to point out a few recently released statistics. Murder is becoming an increasingly popular pastime in the city by the Bay. In fact San Francisco had as many homicides last year as Oakland, which is the murder capital of the country, if not the world. Unfortunately San Francisco’s finest were only able to solve 28% of violent crimes during that same period, a statistic that can be partially explained by the fact that approximately 70% of the cities robberies and assaults aren't even investigated. But to be fair those numbers might not be all that relevant since only 29% of the suspects that the police do manage to apprehend are ever convicted.
So that pretty much crushes criticism A and B.
But lack of investigating isn’t the only reason for San Francisco’s low arrest rate. Police also have to contend with the strong distrust of law enforcement that is prevalent within many of SF’s neighborhoods. Officer Cohn came up with a unique approach to dealing with this problem: he made a home movie, starring a few of his fellow officers, in which he poked fun of Blacks, Asians, Gays, women and the homeless and then posted that video on the internet. I’m not sure what about the situation was more surprising, the fact that Cohn would be stupid enough to put something like that on his website for all to see or the righteous shock and indignation he expressed when people took issue with his conduct.
So that takes care of C.
As for D…well let me tell you a little story about a device found in a San Francisco Starbucks: A few weeks ago one of the Baristas spotted an odd looking item in the café’s bathroom and called the police just to be on the safe side. The police examined it, confirmed that it was indeed a bomb and evacuated the building before “defusing” it. They then told the media that it was a well made explosive and that "If it had detonated, it would have caused damage," and possibly resulted in many injuries and deaths. Then the SFPD did something that surprised everyone, they caught the person (a local homeless guy) who left the device in the bathroom! Furthermore they were able to arrest him (albeit for an unrelated burglary charge, but still!). Again all this was announced to the media.
The police were looking great and they were finally getting some positive recognition…until the forensic team took the time to really look at the device that had been disabled and discovered that it was a highly…corroded flashlight.
That’s right, they defused a flashlight. The homeless guy did leave it in the bathroom and he was really apologetic about the whole thing. He apparently “love(s) that Starbucks." The Baristas there let him “…drink coffee for 50 cents.”
Let me take a moment to say that I am not one of those people who instinctively distrusts police. One of the nice things about writing mysteries is that it gives me the opportunity to interview a lot of them and most are wonderful and highly competent people. I also think they have one of the hardest jobs in the world under the best of circumstances. Nonetheless the SFPD clearly has some problems that it needs to address. And I think we all know what the solution is:
Hire Sophie Katz! Who better to rebuild trust with the multicultural community of San Francisco than a Black, Jewish woman with a Gay best friend? Who is better qualified to reach out to the city’s schizophrenic homeless than a woman who talks to her cat? The police won’t have to worry about providing her with weapons because her friend Dena sells lots of dominatrix sex toys that’ll put the bad guys in their place and those watchdog groups who are continually on the lookout for evidence of police brutality will be gratified to know that the handcuffs Sophie slaps on perps always have a fur lining. Plus Sophie would never ever falsely accuse a fellow coffee lover of trying to blow-up a Starbucks!
But until the SF cops find someone to fill the Sophie role (other than me, the only way I’d be interested in fighting crime is if someone gave me super powers, an invisible plane and a really cool tiara) I would like to remind those who think that the fictional cops in Sex, Murder And A Double Latte are too unrealistic that if anything I was pretty generous in my portrayal of them. I can’t really blame the cops for not taking Sophie seriously because, as much as I love her, from a legal standpoint she didn’t come across as a very credible witness. Plus it’s not like I had the police do something really outrageous like brag to the media about defusing a flashlight.
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