San Francisco Police Commission Meeting 11/18/2020 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.

11/18/2020 Meeting Documents 

Commissioners Back In Action

The commissioners were back in action last night. We heard them all speak, multiple times, and they asked pointed questions and put concrete reform issues on the agenda for future meetings. Perhaps the commissioners were driven to action by the SFPD and SF Sheriffs Department's recent violent shooting of a young man on Market Street, which came just a month after SFPD's similar execution of Cesar Vargas. The commissioners made no comment or reference to these incidents, but Chief Scott looked notably flustered. I'm happy to see the commissioners back in pro-active mode, but of course, it really, really shouldn't take SFPD shooting someone to make it happen.

The commission passed an updated department general order, DGO 5.04, which outlines the internal SFPD process when someone makes a citizen's arrest.

SFPD Reform Progress Pushes Forward, Training-Dependent

Chief Scott gave a presentation on the latest progress on SFPD's official reform process. These presentations continue to leave a great deal to be desired, and are not in compliance with their independent auditor's recommendations for monitoring progress; each reform item is supposed to also name the person in charge of the effort within the SFPD, among other things. Also, though the pace of reform looks good now, none of this will be official or verifiable until we get a report from a third party auditor. So take the report with a grain of salt. In good news, future 96A reports, which track arrests, use of force and stops, will be presented using per capita data by race. The SFPD has been resistant to sharing its data in this way in the past because it reveals shocking disparities in the way the agency polices Black residents in particular.

As part of its reform process, SFDP staff gave a presentation on one of its new training programs, Critical Mindset Coordinated Response, which is supposed to train officers on how to be less lethal in the field. Unfortunately, the main impression I got from the video of the training suggested that SFPD has a long, long way to go in understanding what this really means. Commissioners also noted the discrepancy and demanded that SFPD give a presentation on feedback from Dante King, the former head of bias training at SFPD, who questioned the program's effectiveness when he resigned last year. The commission has nominally been waiting for a report from the Department of Police Accountability on the accusation before calendaring a discussion, but is no longer willing to wait. A huge portion of the SFPD's reform program relies on various forms of anti-bias training.

What An Almost Billion Dollar Budget Gets You

Chief Scott gave a brief presentation about foot patrols, specifically in the Bayview. As a reminder, the SFPD has the largest budget of any agency in San Francisco, at approximately $700 million a year. So, seeing that such an incredible amount of money only means that six officers do foot patrol in the Bayview, should be a wake up call for anyone who governs this city. Bayview is suffering from ever higher rates of gun violence this year on top of all the other negative effects of a pandemic and systemic racism, and the SFPD has shocking amounts of money at its disposal, yet ... six foot beat officers. The woman who brought up the issue at the last commission meeting called in again to point out that officers driving around the Bayview are not helping. They need to get out of their cars. This point was reiterated by Commissioner Elias, who was on a real role last night, much respect to her.

Unfortunately, it looks like Chief Scott will be using both Prop E, which removed the charter requirement for SFPD staffing minimums, and the DOJ reform initiative to cue up a big budget ask next year. Commissioner Cohen seemed to be setting up the expectation of this ask, which is incredibly troubling; I hope I misunderstand her intent. Meanwhile, neither Chief Scott nor the commission have yet to discuss any update on transferring mental health service calls away from the SFPD, which was one of Mayor Breed's promises this past summer. Is it still happening? It's certainly still needed. The future of policing in this city and country is not bigger budgets and more toys.


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.

Previous SF Police Commission Meeting