San Francisco Chronicle reporter John Koopman is an ex-Marine who did stints in Iraq “embedded” with U.S. troops in 2003 and 2006. Now Koopman has a new assignment: “The Badge,” a weekly series of stories about San Francisco cops at Mission Station, a busy police district. The paper describes Koopman and staff photographer Brant Ward as “embedded” with the police, but the reality is more mundane: they hang around the station house, go on ride-alongs and produce soft feature stories and photos that aim to reflect the human side of police work.
The four “Badge” articles and five blog items that have appeared to date have been routine pieces about such subjects as roll call, arresting street prostitutes, a sergeant who is an animal lover, and an officer who killed a suspect and says she would do it again, if necessary. The stories lack a critical edge: one describes officers making a dubious vehicle search, while another portrays police as hassling street prostitutes just to get them off the streets. Neither story mentions the possible civil rights violations involved, or the impact of such abrasive enforcement tactics on the Mission District's heavily minority population. One critical comment on the Chronicle's Web page contended that the police department should “pay for advertising like anyone else. How about 'embedding' with victims of excessive force?”