The SFPD Has Taken More Than Two Years to Complete 11 Reforms. It Has One Year to Complete 261 More.

By Julian Mark, The Mission Local

After some 30 months, the San Francisco Police Department has completed a mere 4 percent of the recommendations — 11 of 272 — the U.S. Department of Justice handed down in 2016, according to a recently released report.  

That amounts to finishing one recommendation every 82 days.

“It’s an unacceptable percentage,” said Anand Subramanian, the managing director of PolicyLink, a research institute that focuses on police accountability and other equity issues. “They’ve had more than two and-a-half years for compliance with those recommendations.”

City Hall protesters decry the police shootings of Alex Nieto and Mario Woods.

City Hall protesters decry the police shootings of Alex Nieto and Mario Woods.

Although the SFPD’s agreement with two third-party reviewers gives the department until May 2020 to complete the other 261 reforms, it’s unlikely that will happen.

“There are so many layers, how do you get through them all?” said Barbara Attard, a police accountability consultant. “I think it’s going to be hard to finish these reforms unless they group them together in ways that make sense.”

The U.S. Department of Justice, which has since been supplanted by the California Department of Justice as the SFPD’s oversight body, made reform recommendations in response to a succession of scandals and controversial police shootings that rocked the department and resulted in protests. Five months before the report came out, Chief Greg Suhr abruptly resigned after an SFPD officer shot Jessica Williams in Bayview while she was driving a stolen car.

The 2016 DOJ recommendations cover anti-bias measures, changes to how police use force, and how the SFPD interacts with community members. The reform effort kicked off following the review’s completion in October 2016.

Part of the reason for the delay stems from U.S. Justice Department’s September 2017 withdrawal as an overseer, prompting to the state Justice Department to step in five months later as a third-party reviewer at the city’s request. By the time the state took over, Police Chief Bill Scott said his department had begun work on roughly half the recommendations.

To be sure, the department has been improving in some areas. Its use of force is down 14 percent (yet African American men are still on the receiving end 35 percent of that force while comprising less than five percent of the city’s population).

Every officer now uses body cameras, although they are not always turned on. (Before police fatally shot an unarmed carjacking suspect in December 2017, the officer who ultimately shot them man neglected to fully activate his camera.)

But a closer look at the report shows that major obstacles lie ahead, especially the one remaining year the department has to complete 96 percent, or 261, of the 272 recommendations, each of which must be signed off by both the Hillard Heintze consulting firm and the California Department of Justice.

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Olivia McDowellComment