News Roundup for Tuesday, July 11, 2016

San Francisco Police Department Moves Toward Reform Following Investigation

A year-long investigation into racial bias in the San Francisco
Police Department found that the department needs reforms to provide greater transparency and oversight and rebuild trust with the community, according to a blue-ribbon panel report released Monday.

The report found evidence that police were more likely to search
black and Hispanic people without consent than any other group, but less likely to find any contraband on them, according to Anand Subramanian, executive director of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Transparency, Accountability and Fairness in Law Enforcement.
“This is a red flag for potential racial bias,” Subramanian said.

The panel also found that the department lacks oversight that
could help uncover or correct racial bias. On an internal level, officer discipline appears to be weak and the department lacks staffing for data analysis or policy development. At an external level there is no oversight body tasked with making sure the department adheres to its policies or that those policies are working, the report found. “The stakes are too high for the city to not prioritize regular and robust oversight,” Subramanian said.

Complicating the panel’s task in many cases was a lack of usable
data. The department continues to track data on officer interactions and use of force largely on paper and in a form that makes it nearly impossible for an outside agency to analyze or determine if any patterns of racial bias exist, the report notes.

The panel was convened by District Attorney George Gascon in
May last year following the revelation that 14 officers had been connected to racist and homophobic text messages uncovered during a criminal investigation of an officer.

Work was led by three retired judges from outside of San Francisco
and conducted by eight teams of attorneys, all of them working on a pro-bono basis. Panel members Monday emphasized that while Gascon had launched the process, he had not directed their work, which included interviews with around 100 police and city officials and community members, the review of thousands of pages of documents and consultations with outside experts.

Panel members identified the police department’s “good old boy
club” atmosphere and culture as key issues to be addressed.

Retired Judge Ladoris Cordell, former Independent Police Auditor
for San Jose, singled out the San Francisco Police Officers Association for what she said were efforts to prevent officers from speaking to the panel and its insistence that any racism reflects isolated incidents and not a problem with the larger culture of the department.

“The findings of this report show that for all practical purposes
the San Francisco Police Department is really run by the POA,” Cordell said. “The POA leadership sets the tone for the police department and historically it’s been an ugly one.”

Police union President Martin Halloran, in turn, slammed the panel
as a biased “kangaroo court” selected by Gascon, with whom the union has clashed in the past. He called the report “divisive at a time when San Francisco sorely needs unity between police officers and the community we serve.”

“On Thursday, a sniper in Dallas took aim at police officers and
murdered five in cold blood,” said Halloran. “Today, George Gascon is taking aim at police officers in San Francisco with half-truths and distortions.”

Panel member and former federal Judge Dickran Tevrizian said he
found the union’s response “very, very offensive.” He noted that the nation is in a “healing process,” but that both first responders and community members need to “temper their feelings” and words for that process to take place.

“The recommendations that we made in this report are not rocket
science, it’s just good police practice, and so I get offended when the Police Officers Association buries its head in the sand and won’t even pay any attention to the recommendations that are contained in this report,” Tevrizian said.

It remains to be seen what impact the panel’s report will have on
ongoing police reform efforts. The Police Commission last month approved a revised use of force policy in response to controversy over recent police shootings that emphasizes deescalation and prohibits practices such as the carotid choke hold and shooting at moving vehicles. The panel’s working group on use of force policies contributed to that revision, officials said Monday.

The police department is also currently undergoing a review by the
U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services, expected to produce a report later this year. While the review is nonbonding, officials with the department and the mayor’s office have vowed to implement the findings.

Police Monday released a statement saying that the department
would analyze the panel’s report and forward it to the justice department for inclusion in its own review.

The mayor’s office released a statement thanking the panel for its
efforts and emphasizing reform efforts already underway, including increased implicit bias and cultural competency training, investments in body cameras and funding for deescalation training.

“We will continue to work collaboratively with the community to
improve leadership, transparency and accountability within the San Francisco Police Department and strengthen policies, procedures, training and equipment to keep both residents and police officers safe,” Deirdre Hussey, the mayor’s director of communications, said in a statement.

More information on the blue-ribbon panel and the full report can
be found at the following link.

Petition Filed For Recall of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf

Citing a litany of grievances, from displacement of residents to
violent crime and an ongoing sexual exploitation scandal in the Oakland Police Department, a group of activists announced their intention Monday to circulate a petition to recall Mayor Libby Schaaf.

Leigh Davenport-deBoer of the Anti-Police Terror Project stepped
into the city clerk’s office in Oakland City Hall Monday afternoon amid a crowd of fellow activists and reporters to begin the process to recall Schaaf.

The filing only begins the process toward a potential recall
election. To put it on the ballot, the group will need to collect more than 20,000 signatures — 10 percent of the Oakland electorate.

Cat Brooks, another petition organizer, said she couldn’t say
whether they will be successful in gathering the necessary signatures.

“The level of discontent is high. The people in the hills are
happy, the developers are happy,” but the poor and minority populations of the city “are sick and tired of being sick and tired,” Brooks said.

Schaaf, speaking to reporters Monday at an unrelated announcement
of new youth assistance programs, said she respects the democratic process and the right for her constituents to question her effectiveness.

“I welcome the opportunity to have my record examined and what
I’ve accomplished in Oakland in the past year and a half,” Schaaf said.

Among the many reasons the group gave for wanting to recall Schaaf
are what they called a poor response to displacement, violent crime and ongoing scandals in the Police Department.

They cited an investigation underway by the mayor’s office to find
information leaks about internal affairs investigations to reporters, including leaks that revealed an expansive scandal into whether police officers sexually exploited a teen girl.

They also said that Schaaf mismanaged the departure of police
Chief Sean Whent, which she said was unrelated to the widening investigation despite news reports to the contrary, leading to the appointment and departure of two successors in a week.

Davenport-deBoer said she suspects the exploitation scandal “is
the tip of the iceberg that we know about at the Oakland Police Department.”

The same group of activists has previously called for Oakland
police to be de-funded in the wake of the scandals, but Schaaf said Monday she thinks their views are a minority in the city.

“I think the vast majority of citizens of Oakland do not want
their mayor to defund the Police Department,” Schaaf said.

“We have been very transparent and aggressive about holding
wrongdoers accountable that do not deserve to serve in that department. But that handful of people should not overshadow the fact that this city is making progress in instituting progressive reforms as well as getting safer,” she said.

(News by Bay City News)