The San Francisco Police Department relies on an outmoded system to identify misconduct by its officers, says the San Francisco Chronicle. When the system does find warning signs, they are often ignored, and officers whose records clearly show a propensity for violence remain on the streets. The department’s system for monitoring the use of force relies on thousands of paper records filed at stations across the city, making it difficult to review an officer’s record or analyze trends. Large departments like Miami-Dade, Pittsburgh, and Phoenix use computer-based systems. Officers are required to report use of force, but not all do. The Chronicle found significant incidents when force was used and not logged, including cases where the city paid thousands of dollars to settle lawsuits.
There is a system for keeping track of officers who get frequent citizen complaints, but it recently lapsed for more than a year without anyone asking about it. In 20 years, while many cities modernized their systems for monitoring officers’ conduct, San Francisco did not computerize. A computerized tracking system is essential to monitor officers’ conduct effectively, said Duke law Prof. Erwin Chemerinsky, who studied the Rampart corruption scandal in the Los Angeles Police Department in the late 1990s. Without one, he said, “there is not a way to identify problem officers or even get a sense of the overall problem.” Chief Heather Fong says she believes San Francisco officers take the force reporting requirements so seriously that they overreport.