Two months after San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom vowed to “ride roughshod” over the police department to get a tracking system capable of identifying problem officers, the department has produced a draft plan that experts in police practices and some local officials say is flawed, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. The department’s initial plan for an early-intervention system, developed after a Chronicle series on the department’s failure adequately track and correct officers who frequently use force on suspects, is flawed in two major ways, experts said.
First, some behaviors the experts say can identify officers who are trouble on the streets — resisting-arrest charges that can cover up excessive use of force, and criminal cases dismissed because of officer conduct — get no attention in San Francisco’s plan. Second, the department proposes to have the Police Officers Association — which represents most officers on the 2,100-member force — participate in decisions about officers whose behavior indicates possible problems. “It seems as if the SFPD still somewhat has its head in the sand,” said Merrick Bobb, a top expert on police discipline. Bobb, who reviewed the proposal at The Chronicle’s request, said it “falls short of best practice” as defined by the U.S. Justice Department. “It is weaker than similar early-warning systems presently in place in Los Angeles County, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Miami-Dade and elsewhere, and it lacks the teeth necessary to responsibly manage the risk of police misconduct,” said Bobb, president of the Police Assessment Resource Center in Los Angeles, which consults with departments nationwide.