Wednesday Morning News Roundup
Police Officer Faces Felony Charges in North Beach Hit-and-Run
A San Francisco police officer arrested after a hit and run collision with two pedestrians in North Beach this weekend has been charged with felony hit and run, the district attorney’s office said Tuesday.
Christopher Kohrs, a seven-year veteran of the department, will be arraigned in San Francisco Superior Court on Thursday on two counts of felony hit and run. He is currently out of custody on bail. Kohrs, who gained social media fame as the “Hot Cop” during his time patrolling the Castro District due to his good looks, is accused of hitting two men in their 40s around 2:20 a.m. Sunday at Broadway and Montgomery Street and then fleeing the scene. The men were hospitalized with injuries that were considered serious but not life threatening, police said.
Kohrs was identified as the registered owner and driver of the Dodge Charger involved in the collision, which was left at the scene, according to police. He turned himself in at police headquarters Sunday morning, and police said they are investigating whether he was driving while intoxicated.
District Attorney George Gascon Tuesday said that the lack of sobriety testing immediately after the collision could cause problems for prosecutors handling the case. He described himself as “outraged” by the incident.
“When a law enforcement officer commits a crime, the level of concern becomes much greater,” Gascon said. “We’re very concerned and we’re upset that this happened.” Police have said Kohrs is currently on unrelated medical leave. If he becomes eligible to return to duty, he will then be suspended pending further investigation.
Mayor Calls for Increase in Affordable Housing Requirement for New Developments
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee Tuesday called for a ballot measure that would increase the amount of affordable housing developers are required to include in projects and increase the pace of development in the city.
Private housing developments in San Francisco are currently required to include 12 percent affordable housing, although developers also have the option of paying into an affordable housing fund or funding affordable units at a different location. However, two major projects, the Mission Rock mixed-use development near AT&T Park and the 5M project in the South of Market neighborhood, have recently included 40 percent affordable housing in response to pressure from city officials.
Lee, who presented his proposal for a new charter amendment to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday, did not specify how much the inclusionary housing requirement should be increased. Instead, he said he would reconvene a housing working group that helped develop the Housing Trust Fund in 2012 and other recent housing policies.
The group will consider how much affordable housing the city should require of developers and also look at ways to speed up housing construction, Lee said. “We’ve taken real steps these last four years to produce more new affordable housing than ever before, but in prosperous times like these, we can require developers to build even more housing for lower and middle income residents,” especially in larger developments, Lee said Tuesday.
Lee’s proposal was made with the backing of Supervisor London Breed, who said that “12 percent affordable is not enough.” “We must push the envelope and require developers to build as much housing as possible that San Franciscans can actually afford,” Breed said Tuesday. Lee said he hoped to develop the measure in time for the November 2016 ballot.
Leno Announces New Bill to Ban Most Solitary Confinement of Juveniles
State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, Tuesday announced a new try for a law that would sharply limit solitary confinement of youth in juvenile correctional facilities in California. Leno said he will introduce the new bill, now entitled the Stop the Torture of Children Act, when the Legislature reconvenes in January.
A similar bill introduced by Leno last January passed the state Senate but stalled in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Leno announced the bill at a San Francisco news conference together with other advocates including former Iranian hostage Sarah Shourd and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon.
“When we isolate kids for long periods of time and deliberately deprive them of human contact we’re not helping them turn their lives around, we’re hurting them. We must end this type of cruel punishment, which can amount to torture,” Leno said.
The bill bans solitary confinement of juveniles in state and county facilities except for up to four hours when a youth poses an immediate and substantial risk of hurting others or threatening the security of the facility, he said.
Shourd, 37, of Oakland, who spent 410 days in solitary confinement in Iran in 2009 and 2010, called isolation in captivity “a brutal assault on a person on many levels.” “It affects physical and mental health and results in insomnia, hallucinations and uncontrollable bouts of rage and depression,” she said. The after-effects “can go on for many, many years” and the impacts are worse for youthful prisoners because their brains and impulse control are less developed, Shourd said.
Leno’s previous bill, SB 124, was opposed by the State Coalition of Probation Organizations. Coalition lobbyist Alberto Torrico said Tuesday the group’s leaders have not yet taken a position on Leno’s new bill because they have not yet seen it. But Torrico said that in general, while youth facilities in California emphasize rehabilitation, “there are some juveniles, or a few, who are determined to be violent.”
He said temporary isolation of such youths, as opposed to using pepper spray or physically breaking up fights, is sometimes the best way to tamp down potential violence or gang fights, and sometimes more than four hours is needed.
Solitary confinement of a juvenile is “not done lightly” and is subject to regulatory requirements, such as daily review by a facility’s deputy director and medical and security checks, Torrico said. Leno said he is optimistic the new bill will pass next year. “We’re reframing the debate,” he said.
Leno said one part of this effort is to cite a United Nations torture expert, attorney Juan Mendez of Argentina, who has concluded that prolonged solitary confinement of adults amounts to torture and that the practice should be banned altogether for youth.
A second shift in the debate, Leno said, is this year’s settlement of a lawsuit filed by prisoners against the state, which has greatly reduced the solitary confinement of adult inmates, but which does not apply to juveniles. Leno said that at present, juveniles in California can be placed in solitary confinement for actions that would not lead to solitary confinement for an adult prisoner.
(News provided by Bay City News.)