San Francisco Police Commission Meeting 12/2/2020 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.

12/2/2020 Meeting Documents 

(Some) Commissioners On A Roll

Commissioners Cohen, Elias, Hamasaki and Taylor were not shy with deep questions this week and made the most of an otherwise light agenda. Commissioners Brookter and DeJesus were also present, but did not contribute to the meeting, which appears to be a trend. The most substantial items on the agenda were a presentation on SFPD Traffic Enforcement's quarterly work and a new department bulletin update on officer personal grooming. Not much to work with. Nonetheless, thanks to those four commissioners, there are a few key items now programmed for December and January meetings, including a presentation from Dante King, the SFPD's former anti-bias trainer. King has accused the SFPD of rampant internal anti-blackness. Tune in on 12/16 for that discussion.

SFPD Staffing Debate

You should expect a heated debate over the police staffing budget in the coming months. According to Chief Scott, SFPD is already working with a consultant on a staffing analysis system. SFPD seems determined to make the case that the only way to get non-deadly policing is to hire more police officers. It hurts my brain. Meanwhile, the mayor's office is sending mixed signals. There's this odd letter with the POA about categories of current policing that could be shifted to other agencies--which came out at the same time the Board of Supervisors gave SFPD officers raises, despite the shrinking city budget. Meanwhile, the city has finally rolled out the new mental health crises pilot and should be expanding it as the months go on, with some watchdogging. Yet, Commissioner Cohen, an appointee from the mayor's office, continues to set up the SFPD for a bigger staffing ask in the future. This is the second time she's invited Chief Scott to say reform means more officers, and hasn't pushed back. Why? Update: Commissioner Cohen has clarified that she is not necessarily setting up a bigger budget ask.

Homicides Up, Does Policing Work?

More people are killing each other in San Francisco, the violence is targeted in specific neighborhoods and seems to be a reaction to past violence. That's what SFPD knows about the devastating gun violence rates in the Bayview and a couple other neighborhoods. Until this meeting, though, SFPD had not offered any analysis or strategy for figuring out why things are getting worse and how to stop the violence, and no commissioners have pointed out that the SFPD's primary strategy of just adding more officers to the problem areas, clearly isn't working. Thankfully, Commissioner Cohen, broke the commission's silence and finally asked why there's been a spike in violent crime. I hope that the commission will next force a discussion of what's working and what's not. I keep coming back to the (imperfect) experience of Oakland's Cease Fire program

Many politicians have long believed that to reduce violence, cities have to put more officers on the streets and make more arrests. President Donald Trump announced in July that he plans to send hundreds of federal officers to cities around the country, with a goal of ramping up prosecutions. Ceasefire flips that script: It calls for fewer arrests for nonviolent acts, an end to the scorched-earth tactics that fueled the drug war, and an emphasis on reaching the relatively small number of people involved in most shootings. In 2015, half of all gun homicides in the United States took place in just 127 cities and towns; more than a quarter were in neighborhoods representing only 1.5 percent of the total population, according to a 2017 report by the Guardian. An analysis of shootings in Oakland revealed that just 0.1 percent of the city’s population was responsible for most of its homicides. But many men at the highest risk of this violence—often members of gangs, with a history of shooting or being shot—are also the most isolated from social services, or the most resistant to them.

Could the commissioners invite a community rep from Oakland to speak about their experience with that program at a future meeting? Can we finally move beyond thoughts and prayers, and into solutions? Also, what's up with San Francisco still using a gang database?


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