DOJ Cites Widespread Problems in S.F. Police Department

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San Francisco police. Photo by Torbakhopper via Flickr

A six-month U.S. Justice Department investigation of the San Francisco Police Department prompted by the killing of Mario Woods and other fatal police shootings, concludes that the department does a poor job of tracking and investigating officers’ use of force, has ineffective antibias training and shields its disciplinary process from public view, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. “We found a department with concerning deficiencies in every operational area assessed: use of force; bias; community policing practices; accountability measures; and recruitment, hiring and promotion practices,” said Ronald Davis, director of the DOJ Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

DOJ recommended 272 changes for a police force racked over the past year by racist and homophobic text message scandals and fatal shootings that have frayed relationships between the department and minority communities. The report found no proof of “racial bias by officers of the [San Francisco Police Department] or by the agency as a whole,” and said race and ethnicity were not “significantly associated with the severity of force” that officers use. It did conclude that police stop African American drivers in disproportionate numbers and that black and Hispanic drivers are more likely to be searched than whites. Mayor Ed Lee, who asked for the DOJ investigation, said he was “directing the leadership of the San Francisco Police Department and the Police Commission to implement these reforms as soon as possible with one specific goal in mind: fair and just policing that treats everyone the same and places the sanctity of life above all else.” The report comes as the commission is considering candidates to replace former Chief Greg Suhr, who resigned in May after an officer shot an unarmed African American woman driving a stolen car.

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