The Dragon Force
Part Two


 
Mike Harrington was Foley's partner. They started spending hours staking out the corner and hiding in buildings to watch the street action from the windows to find out what was going on, looking up and down the block with binoculars. They figured with so much happening among so many people, there was no point in hassling everybody. If you pushed them away, they'd scatter; two minutes later they'd be right back like bees to honey. The two young cops watched for hours on end to find out who was dealing the drugs, who was buying, who had weapons. The technique worked. After a couple of weeks, they were arresting the most active of the lot.
They developed informants. Down at the Crime Prevention Unit, informants were frequently passed around, but out in the Fillmore, cops had to develop their own, and there were only six policemen working it. They had to make their own contacts. "For example," as Foley would relate, "informants can help you or burn you. They will too often tell you things for their own benefit. When they're going to be arrested, they'll tell you anything, true or not. But others inform because they need your help. There are victims in the underworld, you see, as well as in the general public. Some inform because they really like you and want to help. Mike and I truly tried to help those who accepted us and who recognized us as working cops, not pushovers who would believe any line they laid on us. I never tried to force anyone into the role of informer. Nine times out of nine, that kind of informant would just set you up to burn you."
The cops were confronted on every side by evidence that they were dealing not only with names and photos on file at the Hall of Justice, but also with fallen humanity. There was one invasion of a known shooting gallery operated by an enormous black woman who threw incriminating balloons stuffed with heroin out the window when law enforcement burst in. Her child, an enchanting 3-year-old girl, wandered among stuporous addicts flaked out on filthy sofas, caressing their needle-bruised arms and cooing "Daddy" to all the men.
Foley and Harrington tried to scratch below the surface and dig into the heart of the problems. They talked to people about why they became addicts, why they mugged, why they cast their lot in the streets. The two cops were hard when they had to be, but when they had to be soft, they were soft.
A common practice among pimps in the Fillmore was lining up runaway girls, black or white, to hustle profitably for them in the streets. A kid on the lam from an unhappy home or on the make for drugs needed money. A fresh young girl of 15 or 16 (sometimes younger) had obvious advantages over a tired hooker of 25 or 30. Her extreme youth attracted swarms of "tricks"--customers. The implied innocence of a youngster, no matter how seasoned she might actually be as a prostitute, was an aphrodisiac commanding a higher price. The chief disadvantage was that if the cops picked her up and found out she was still a juvenile, she got whisked away to Juvenile Hall instead of being sent to jail as an adult. Jail was better. A pimp could post bail and have her back on the streets in no time. Juvenile Hall was a point of no return. The kids usually got sent home.
It was in this field that Foley picked up an enduring nickname. The guys at the station started it when they saw how good he was with these runaways who lied desperately about their age in order to earn booking as an adult prostitute. He rarely failed to see them for the kids they really were and treated them that way, spending a lot of time talking sympathetically and exercising the full resources of his parental instinct. Their tough faades would finally yield under his tender pressure. The girls, having professed to being over 18, would then tearfully confess to a scant 15 or so. Foley would dispatch them to the Youth Guidance Center, contact their folks in locales as far away as New Hampshire or South Carolina, and have the juveniles sent home. Thus, he became "Father" Foley, the priestly cop.
Many of the drug addicts in the Fillmore established close friendships with Foley, Harrington and the others. They developed confidence in the policemen as fellow human beings. They began to understand that helping the cops by telling the truth did not necessarily lead to betrayal. These lawmen were a different breed; they seemed to realize what it was all about, that the street people lived out there because they had to have the dope, that there was no place else for them to go.
It was impossible to imagine how many arrests were made in the Fillmore in those days--robberies, burglaries, prostitution, fences, stolen property, "shooting" galleries (where addicts "shot up"). Many times the police made so many arrests during a shift in the Fillmore that they had to patrol an alternative area where less arrests would be expected. It had reached a point where the beatmen couldn't even walk on the street without grabbing people who were known to be wanted. They had to ease up. They were going to court almost every day. They received so many "captain's commendations" that one station captain said he was going to stop giving them because they were becoming too routine.
It was during his patrols of Japantown as a respite from the problems of the Fillmore that Foley first encountered Chinese gang kids. Youths no longer welcome in Chinatown by reason of their outside-Chinatown connections had begun to hang around Japantown. Sadly neglected in the years following the Second World War --when most of its residents had been either repatriated to Japan or interned in American detention camps--Japantown was undergoing a building boom and repopulation in the late 60's and early 70's.
As the standard of living in Japan rose to highest in the world, Japanese and Japanese-American investors sank fortunes into upgrading the tenement-like area into a showplace community replete with a modern Japan Trade Center and the first-class Miyako Hotel, crowned by the Peace Pagoda symbolizing friendship between the two formerly antagonistic nations. But Foley's exposure to the gang kids was at this point no more than cursory.
After Foley had walked the beat in the Fillmore for three years, a new unit was commissioned at the stations. Formerly, an Anti-Burglary Unit had worked in each district (two officers on the day watch). That had been going on for a number of years. Now it was decided to start an Anti-Robbery Unit to work primarily at night. Foley and Harrington were selected for this job by their station captain. They also performed special assignments on the Prostitution Detail. The Anti-Robbery Unit was designed to combat robberies occurring in the streets and in businesses, and all felonies occurring in the Northern District.
It was a choice assignment. They worked in plainclothes and developed their own cases. They staked out (located themselves near a site where a crime might take place or a wanted person appear), developed suspect patterns, or "M.O.'s" (methods of operation), and made a lot of arrests. Foley had been putting off the day watch for some time because he enjoyed working nights; there was so much action around. He worked with all the Details down at the Hall--Homicide, Narcotics, Assaults, Juvenile. It was exciting.
Then, at the end of the 60's, new police-sponsored programs were begun. One of them was started by the Youth Services Bureau for school visits. The Black Panthers, in their own schools, had used their famous coloring books to create a negative attitude toward policemen. The Department ventured to reverse that and place police in a positive light. Foley talked to school classes once or twice a week during off-duty, daytime hours. He marveled at the change from negative to positive these visits made. The kids asked legitimate questions and developed an interest in understanding police work the way it really was. Foley pulled no punches. He graphically explained law and the life of a policeman in different ways adapted to age groups ranging from elementary school up to high school.
There was also a Juvenile Diversion Program created for first-time offenders--kids picked up on a misdemeanor or light felony. The program diverted them into a community organization, usually in the district in which they lived, for a six-month period. That agency worked with the juvenile directly rather than sending him up to the Youth Guidance Center. This kept the youngster out of the court system where it was possible to learn the ropes of criminality and, thus, to discover how easily the system might be beaten. Such exposure made for repetition or compounding of the first offense. During these six months, the kids were required to report in two or three times a week and to be active in the program. Foley dealt with both the families and the agencies used by Juvenile Diversion. One of his duties was to check into the agencies to make sure they were decent and legitimate and not out to scam money. All the while, he continued to pick up cases as they came along, working at night and visiting schools in the daytime.
After having been teamed with Harrington for six years, Foley then moved on to Joaquin "Jack" Santos for the next three years. Santos, of Nicaraguan family, was a good cop. He had his own style, and Foley had his, but they blended well. Santos had also worked the Fillmore beat, sometimes, on a random basis, in tandem with Foley as a "beat team." Handsome Jack Santos stood 6 feet 4 inches tall in his stocking feet, a big man who dwarfed the average-height Foley. Santos was known for his fiery disposition; Foley's image as father-confessor to teen-age prostitutes never deserted him. Despite the differences in their personalities, they balanced each other well and made a lot of cases together. They proved merciless in hunting down wanted persons or crime perpetrators, anywhere inside or outside the city.
In June of 1977, the day watch opened up at the Anti-Burglary Unit and the captain, Con Murphy, later to become Chief of San Francisco Police, asked Foley if he wanted to work it. At last he had an opportunity to spend nights with his family and even have weekends off for a change. His wife was ecstatic when he took on a day shift from 7 to 3. It meant dinner with the family, watching his kids play baseball and soccer, attending P.T.A. meetings--home life. It seemed like a dream after 11 years of night work. He had learned a lot about law enforcement, but maybe now the time had come to relax his professional devotion a bit.
Then came September 4, 1977.
 

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2000 Brockman Morris