San Francisco Police Commission Meeting 10/21/2020 Summary
The San Francisco Police Commission oversees the policy, top leadership and aspects of budget decisions of the San Francisco Police Department. The Board of Supervisors, which appoints some of the commissioners, ultimately controls the budget of the department. I live tweet meetings at #sfpolicecommission, along with a few other dedicated watchdogs. Below is a high-level summary of the most recent meeting. Any factual mistakes are my own.
10/21/2020 Meeting Documents
A Low Energy, Reactive Meeting
This week's meeting ran slightly longer than last week's micro meeting, and more commissioners actually spoke, but only one commissioner (Cindy Elias) seemed to want to move any sort of reform balls forward. The rest of the commissioners were quiet and reactive. No police reform happened this meeting. Is everyone just tired?
Gun Violence In Key Neighborhoods Remains Unchecked and Unexamined
Crime overall in San Francisco is down, but gun violence in particular Black and Brown neighborhoods has continued unchecked despite record police budgets and a pandemic that should be keeping people home. We've heard meeting after meeting about this serious problem, but there's been no deep discussion or even analysis of why this problem persists and how to make it stop. Instead, the SFPD's reaction to multiple shootings last weekend was to send extra patrol officers into particular neighborhoods. This strategy appears to have calmed things down for the rest of the weekend, but over-policing is a deeply problematic long term tactic, particularly for an agency saturated with anti-black bias, so ... At this point, I wonder why the police commission has not written a letter to the Mayor and Board of Supervisors, officially asking them to convene strategy sessions with other city agencies and community leadership to map out an effective, and just, long-term strategy that goes far beyond policing. The police commission has this power, and community groups have been pushing for this work. Will the commission rise to the occasion?
Proud Boys & SFPD
There was a very odd exchange between Chief Scott and the police commission about the Proud Boys--a white nationalist group that openly espouses racist violence--gathering in San Francisco last weekend. Chief Scott refused to name the Proud Boys by name, calling them simply a "Freedom of Speech" permitted event. In fact, his report on the fairly dramatic event was solely on the counter-protestors (of the equivalent of Nazis, let us remember) and their violence, including one arrest after the protest, and not on his officers' choice to physically escort and chauffeur the Proud Boys. Commissioner Taylor thankfully called him on part of this obsfucation, though no commissioners expressed any concern about SFPD's handling of the event. The Proud Boys have threatened on social media to return to San Francisco for revenge. Given what our current president has said about meeting negative election results with violence, I cannot repeat enough how important it is for the police commission to know its stance on SFPD interactions with white nationalist terrorists going into the upcoming election. Do they? Does the SFPD?
Police Reform: A Focus on Input, Not Output
There was a long presentation and only a brief conversation about the Collaborative Reform Initiative monthly report. Most of the conversation focused on Chief Scott's presentation to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday on this same issues (a lengthy discussion that mainly focused on the role of the consultant, unfortunately) as well as, thankfully, whether the SFPD is committed to completing all of the 272 reforms recommended in the audit, and what happens after that milestone is reached. The SFPD has notably increased its pace of work on reform measures after spending 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and half of 2020 accomplishing almost nothing. The commissioners and Board of Supervisors are understandably eager to praise this change of pace. However, that praise comes at the expense of a hard look at the reality on the street, as revealed by a presentation by Wealth & Disparities In the Black Community's Phelicia Jones this past Tuesday. The data she shared on racial disparities in policing in San Francisco is truly shocking, and merits ample discussion and monitoring at the police commission going forward.
Finally, the Department of Police Accountability gave a presentation on its audit of the SFPD's use of its use of force data. Aka, was it being collected properly, used for analysis, etc? These sorts of questions are part of the long, heavy tail of toxic policing. Shift more of this work to other, better equipped agencies, and the need for these sorts of tedious reports diminishes.
Before you go, take action! Volunteer for/donate to Wealth and Disparities In The Black Community, founded and led by Phelicia Jones. WDBC has been working on police reform and justice for victims of police violence since the SFPD murdered Mario Woods back in 2015.