On December 2, 2015, San Francisco police officers shot Mario Woods at least 21 times, killing him. Woods was suspected of assault, and was holding a knife. The police claimed that Woods repeatedly ignored orders to drop the knife before they fired. However video of the shooting showed that Woods appeared to be walking away from the officers when they opened fire; this video provoked public outcry and protest.
In response to community outcry after several officer-involved shootings and other high-profile incidents, Mayor Ed Lee and former Police Chief Greg Suhr requested assistance from the Justice Department to conduct a thorough review of the police department’s policies and practices. Specifically, they sought an independent assessment of SFPD through the DOJ’s COPS Office Collaborative Reform Initiative for Technical Assistance (CRI-TA). On January 25, 2016, the Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted a resolution requesting a federal investigation into the San Francisco Police Department.
In a letter dated January 21, 2016, and released in early February, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch initiated a federal review. Instead of implementing a consent decree, a two-year review was to be conducted by the office of Community Oriented Policing Services, which provides grants to improve law enforcement, in an effort for this to be a collaborative effort to change practices.
The goal of CRI-TA with the SFPD was to assess, monitor, and assist the department, in collaboration with the community, in the implementation and sustainment of reforms that increase public trust through improvements in community policing practices, transparency, professionalism, and accountability while taking into account national standards, promising practices, current and emerging research, and community expectations
As a result of an extensive independent assessment of the San Francisco Police Department’s (SFPD) activities and operations, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) presented findings and recommendations on how to address the agency’s needs proactively in a long-term manner to improve trust between the SFPD and the communities it serves. On October 12, 2016, the DOJ COPS Office published its assessment of the San Francisco Police Department. This assessment is part of this case record in the Clearinghouse.
In its review of the SFPD, COPS noted that deficiencies were found ranging from outdated use of force policies to inadequate data collection and lack of accountability measures. COPS also found disparities in traffic stops, post-stop searches, and use of deadly force against African Americans. In addition, there were numerous indicators of implicit and institutionalized bias against minority groups.
Though the COPS Office was concerned about the policies and practices of the SFPD, it also found that this was a department committed to making the necessary changes and working with the community. To assist SFPD in making changes, the report included findings and recommendations that would help the department modernize its policing practices and enhance community trust. However, the report emphasized that for change to be made, the SFPD must be willing to share decision-making authority over policing priorities and respond to community expectations and needs. This alignment of police and community interests could be served through effective, collaborative application of the principles of community policing.
Finally, the COPS Office suggested that this report and its recommendations be required reading for all officers and supervisors of the SFPD, and that the Police Commission and the Board of Supervisors require the SFPD adopt the recommendations contained in the report and provide quarterly reporting from the chief on progress in meeting the reform goals contained in this assessment.Saeeda Joseph-Charles - 12/21/2016