A yearlong 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 this week, reports the Bay City News Service. 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, said Anand Subramanian 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 was a lack of usable data. The department tracks 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 last year after the disclosure that 14 officers had been connected to racist and homophobic text messages uncovered during a criminal investigation of an officer.