San Francisco Police Commission Meeting 12/16/2020 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.

12/16/2020 Meeting Documents 

Big Movement Underway?

Last night's meeting went well past 10 pm, and I'm not complaining. The commission came prepared to do some deep work. Commissioner Elias gave a heads up that she's begun shining sunlight on the SFPD's Internal Affairs' discipline practices and Commissioner Brookter shared that he's begun meeting with the SFPD Finance division to review the budget. He was careful to say that it wasn't for defunding purposes, though, so we'll see what comes of his work, if anything. Meanwhile, Commissioner Hamasaki proposed a new policy preventing Chief Scott from making public comments on pending DA cases, as the chief did earlier this week. Interestingly, Commissioner Cohen led a motion to have a leadership vote in January, which is an acceleration of the normal process. I don't want to make too big a thing of that vote, but it could have some very powerful impacts on the ability of the commission to dig into major reforms. No more FasTrak meetings? More adorable baby camera cameos?

Finally, we got updates on the SFPD and Department of Policy Accountability's Racial Equity Plans (a new initiative from Mayor Breed's Office of Racial Equity), as well as the status of the new crisis team pilot and an update of a body camera department bulletin.

(Apologies for typos in some of my tweets. I've been under the weather.)

Dante King Presentation on SFPD Bias Training

Though the commission was wide ranging in its work last night, there was no doubt that the meeting's main event was the incredibly brave presentation given by Dante King. Mr. King is the former lead for SFPD's anti-bias training. His leaked emails to Chief Scott in 2019 revealed Mr. King's deep concerns about rampant anti-black bias in the SFPD. I strongly urge anyone remotely interested in SFPD reform to watch the full video of the presentation here. I've captured below some of the most salient highlights, but Mr. King's presentation and the follow up questions from the commission could be a whole days-long webinar unto itself. The key takeaway is that there is widespread and, at times, violent denial of anti-black bias within the SFPD, including in command staff. This news likely isn't a surprise to many people, but it's the details and insights from Mr. King that should hopefully shape the commission's reform plans going forward. Much respect to Mr. King, who is likely putting far more on the line to speak publicly, than most of us can appreciate.

Next Meeting: SFPD Racial Bias Stats Reckoning?

After Mr. King's presentation, Chief Scott jumped in to publicly apologized to him, and listed five actions the SFPD has since taken to honor and cement King's anti-bias work. However, I hope that doesn't become the headlines, because actions speak louder than words--and numbers measure actions. 

Speaking of which, the next Police Commission meeting will include a presentation of the long-awaited Center for Policing Equity audit of SFPD racial bias. An early preview of the report suggests that SFPD actions have not yet caught up with supposed intent. The latest 96A report, which tracks arrests, use of force and stop data (shoutout to Commissioner Cohen for passing this legislation when she was on the Board of Supervisors), is also now supposed to contain a per capita breakdown of these policing actions by race, but manages to obfuscate the simple calculation of incident type over census population data by race with some other less cogent calculation. Wealth & Disparities in the Black Community has pushed SFPD to publish racial per capita data for years. Chief Scott as well as members of the commission have recently committed to doing so, but this latest 96A report raises a lot of concerns ... because this ain't it. Is staff intentionally burying the numbers because of the story they tell about baked-in bias, or are they unable to do this basic math? (Surely, surely not.) As Mr. King said, the first step toward reforming the SFPD is every officer in the agency admitting that they individually and collectively have a bias problem. So, will the next Police Commission meeting be the beginning of that reckoning? Tune in with me.

Happy holidays. 


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