San Francisco Police Department needs to adopt broad reforms to avoid racial profiling or the perception of it, and it runs the risk of outside intervention if it does not do so, says an expert’s report to Mayor Gavin Newsom described by the San Francisco Chronicle. Newsom hired criminologist Lorie Fridell to evaluate the department in December after the Chronicle reported that San Francisco arrests African Americans at a higher rate than any other major city in the state. Fridell, a racial-profiling expert from the University of South Florida, concluded that disparities such as those found by the Chronicle cannot answer the question of whether policing in the city is racially biased.
All the same, she said, “San Francisco needs to implement reforms in this realm on its own initiative to reduce the risk of outside intervention, such as an investigation or lawsuit by the Department of Justice.” Fridell said “the potential of racial bias and the perceptions of it to impact negatively on trust and partnerships has particular relevance” in San Francisco because of the department’s long-standing efforts to increase community trust in its officers. “In San Francisco and elsewhere, decades of reform reflected in community policing are threatened by perceptions of racially biased policing and its practice,” she said. Newsom said the city would move to “aggressively implement the recommendations” and soon would name an advisory board to help Police Chief Heather Fong carry out Fridell’s recipe for reform. She made 28 recommendations covering a wide range of department operations — from recruitment to training to the leadership she said was required to make the department incorporate anti-bias approaches into its inner workings.