San Francisco Police Commission Meeting 1/13/2021 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.
1/13/2021 Meeting Documents
Pro-Active Policy and Cultural Change
I don't know what was going on before, but this Police Commission under President Cohen and Elias is a new Police Commission altogether. President Cohen ran last night's meeting with an (adorable) baby on her lap for most of the night, and it was still far more productive and incisive than any meeting I've witnessed to date. One of the notable changes she's made is to move general public comment from the end to the beginning of the agenda. This is a permanent change, which should make it easier for those of you who want to call in but don't want to wait until somewhere between 7:30 pm and 1 am to speak.
A significant portion of the meeting was spent discussing the recent white nationalist terrorist attack on the US Congress, and whether any SFPD officers participated. This is not an unfounded concern given the number of police officers from other jurisdictions who have been unmasked as participants. It remains to be seen whether we'll see any sort of real investigation locally, though. Chief Scott clearly feels uncomfortable about making any sort of internal inquiry. So, if you know something, tell someone. Meanwhile, President Cohen called on Chief Scott to give a standing report on potential local white national terrorist activity. She also finally called on the Chief to back up his anecdotal crime summary reports with analysis on the efficacy of SFPD strategy, albeit only on car burglaries. Hopefully the spirit of her request will permeate to things like, say, gun violence, particularly since reducing gun violence is a stated SFPD priority for 2021.
No Budget Rubber Stamp
Speaking of budget, last night was the first of two presentations the commission will be getting this winter about the next budget cycle. This presentation was on the overall process and the next presentation will be on the content of the budget. Commissioner Brookter has been working behind the scenes on understanding the nitty gritty of each budget line item, and it appears that President Cohen has also gotten involved in that audit. Which, good news. First up, commissioners from the San Francisco Youth Commission gave a presentation on their budget recommendations for SFPD. It's always painful to watch adults humor dead serious youth on important issues. I hope the SF Police Commission takes their recommendations seriously this time, though I'm not holding my breath. The majority of the actual budget discussion focused on both being ready to right-size the budget based on the shrinking city general fund and the SFPD's ridiculous claim that budget cuts would be a major roadblock to increasing officer diversity. Vice President Elias and President Cohen artfully exposed that particular lie and spoke a great deal about aligning the budget content with actual priorities this time through. For example, it stands to reason that if we want to see more Street Crisis Response Team rollout, then that should be reflected in the budget (which means excising the proper amount from SFPD's budget and putting it into a more appropriate agency).
If anyone from the Board of Supervisors is reading this summary, btw, now is the time to propose a charter amendment that would remove the requirement for pointless SFPD mounted patrols. That would lighten the budget, too. Anyone willing?
The least impressive part of last night's otherwise strong meeting was the SFPD's casual presentation of its monthly Collaborative Reform Initiative progress, aka progress on reforms recommended by the Department of Justice. I don't know, maybe the perceived glibness is just the quirks of the personal demeanor of the staff person in charge, but I am very much on board with VP Elias' request that future presentations include a report on how well the reforms are being accepted by rank and file officers. The command staff's presentation last night absolutely felt like the disposal of an unwelcome checklist, at best. What are the indicators that these reforms are working? Where is that dashboard? I'll say it and I'll say it again, the racial disparity in policing has not shrunk over the entire course of this reform process.
In addition to the monthly CRI report, the Commission looked at SB 1421 document swap compliance (an important but lawyerly reform that I won't get into here) and an update to Department General Order 6.09, Domestic Violence.
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.