When politicians get stars in their eyes, especially if it involves 1600 Pennsylvania Ave in Washington DC, then local city budget restrictions get ignored.
In San Francisco, California, then Mayor Diane Feinstein was a fast rising star in Democratic politics in 1984. Due to some very advanced mopery and political dopery she was able to get the Democratic National Presidential Convention placed in her home town.
Accordingly, before the nationally televised event, all sorts of civic preening was in order. The brand new Moscone Center was basically dipped in new glowing white paint, even though the structure was only built three years prior. New furniture was replaced with newer furniture, and the entire PA system which had only been used a few times was also replaced.
The final touches involved re-paving the entire 12 square blocks around the Center, after which special squads of huge noisy street cleaner vacuum trucks were on 24/7 patrol lest a scrap of bird dung fall on the new asphalt.
After reviewing a pay-day lineup at the SFPD Southern Station just before the event, Da Mayor was aghast at the “shabby and disgraceful” uniforms she saw lined up before her. She then asked the captain what was going on?
She was told that the Board of Supervisors had cut the Uniform Allowance for the cops over two years ago, and this rag-tag look was a result.
The resultant mayoral head explosion was said to shock even pigeons in Union Square, seven blocks away.
Memos went out, purchase orders were faxed, and fiscal caution was thrown into the wind with a speed that had even veteran cops amazed. The only Uniform Supply store in town had to hire three more tailors, two additional clerks, and actually put a registration table in an alley next to their store.
Guys and gals loaded up on uniforms they would probly never wear because when the City gets generous, you toss everything you can get into the trunk of your patrol car.
(Note: Four years after I retired in 2008, I STILL have unused pants and shirts in my closet.)
Not to be outdone by the cops and street paving people, the entire Park and Recreation Department, (in conspiracy with the City Gardeners Union), turned the very urban concrete jungle around Moscone into what looked like a very ancient-looking rain forest.
The entire South of Market area now resembled an Amazon River field trip.
Of course being as how this was California and specifically San Francisco, social and political knife-grinding was going on in other less official venues. Every looney-tune organization in the world was buying a bus pass here, and subsequently setting up full time revolutionary encampments in the now-ignored and abandoned city parks.
In the time after I graduated from the police academy, I had been subjected to an in-service training hour on riot control maybe once every 18 months. Now however, we had multi-hour formation drills, and “re-fresher” demonstrations almost weekly.
Riot training was re-named “Crowd Control Maneuvering” to appease the double-talkers in the Public Relations Office at Silly Hall. In that era, three cities in the United States had the most crowd control issues. Demonstrations, protests, and public posturing in front of the symbiotic media cameras occurred mostly on a daily basis in New York, Washington DC, and San Francisco.
We pretty much had experience with all manner of public idiocy all too often. This partially explained why our riot uniforms were so well worn, as were our Kevlar helmets and 36 inch ash wood batons.
While we were practicing moving in bizarre formations such as “Wedge Right,” “Line Movement to the Rear,” and my favorite, “Prepare to Engage” (which had a shouted vocal element of Hoo Rahh!!!), our soon to be combatants were also drilling and prepping. The rumor mill from the neighboring Berkeley cops was that hundreds of empty beer bottles and gasoline cans were being stored in basements and car trunks.
Oh goody, Molotov cocktails for an upcoming Happy Hour.
Continuing this unprecedented fiscal orgy, was the delayed, but now fast-tracked purchase of a “Mobile Command Post.”
Dubbed “ the Chiefs Camper Van.” a very impressive three axle trailer was soon parked where it had a commanding view of the Convention Hall and coincidently, the best Mexican restaurant in the area.
Also nearby was the “First Amendment Gathering Zone.” After studying history books no doubt, this protestor friendly area was encircled with multiple metal fences and barricades that were more restrictive than the Berlin Wall.
The Media Center was cleverly located waaay out of sight and earshot of this rabble on the other side of the Center. The better to have a backdrop of beautiful buildings and equally as beautiful politicians spouting platitudes no doubt.
The cops were sequestered in a huge underground parking garage between the two noxious groups. We had our own less glamorous double wide, which seeing as how we were literally underground and in the dark, was nicknamed “The Troll Farm.”
Left to our own relatively unsupervised mischief, things quickly got out of hand.
As expected, the SWAT teams (“The Door Busters”) got into trouble first. Both A and B team members set up folding chairs on the sidewalk in front of the garage. After liberating some large cardboard signs from protestors who were being “detained” and therefore no longer needed them, began “rating” female passersby’s on a one-to-ten scale.
A statuesque red head with a tight dress and high heels would merit multiple 9 or 10 level rating signs. A voluptuous blonde with a deliberate cat-walk stroll would get the same notice. It was good, clean, very sexist, fun.
Until some bland overweight female aide who was wearing a drab Pendleton shirt complained to her puritanical congress person when she got a 1 rating that is.
The SWAT teams were unceremoniously detailed to local roof-tops to “overview the event” after that.
Meanwhile, back at the Chief’s Command Resort truck, Park and Rec had encircled the entire Police Complex with trees and hanging plants to continue to beautify the area. Captain T, who I had personal experience with when he was my supervisor at Mission Station decided he wanted to see what was going on instead of feeling like he was visiting a National Park.
Park and Rec supervisors declined to heed his orchard relocation requests, so a call was made to nearby Fire House Five for assistance.
The echoes of a chainsaw echoed only briefly in those concrete canyons because the clear cutting of 20 or 30 expensively placed mature trees doesn’t take much time when done vigorously after dark.
Captain T was given the command of the roof-top SWAT teams shortly after that.
While us ground-ponders were chasing screaming protesters, and then eating City supplied brown bag lunches of cold baloney sandwiches and boxed apple juice, some astute political types were lined up four deep at a mobile Margarita bar on wheels about a block away.
Governor Walter Mondale got the nod as the Democratic Presidential nominee, while Geraldine Ferraro beat out the home town favorite Mayor Di Fi for the Vice Presidential slot.
I’m happy to report that by proper planning, most of the dress shirts and pants that I trunked home during that event still fit, while the happy overtime pay I made helped pay off my second mortgage.
You gotta love local politic$.