San Francisco Police Commission Meeting 1/20/2021 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.

1/20/2021 Meeting Documents 

No Deep Reform This Week

Last night's meeting was undoubtedly well run and focused, but the commission did not agendize or discuss any sort of deep reform. The brief and airy meeting was a disappointment after last week, though I also suspect that there is little built-in support for the new Commission leadership to parse all of the many types of standing reports--and buried reports--and get the right mix on the agenda. 

A great example of important, buried items that have yet to be agonized is the mysterious Center for Policing Equity Report. The SFPD has promised Wealth & Disparities in the Black Community that the report would be brought to the Commission and public "in a month," for the last six months, give or take. The previous Commission president put the item on the agenda last December, but pulled it at the last minute because the Commission wanted a chance to read through the full report first, which they had just received. It is now late January, and the new Commission President had not yet been even given a copy of the report (since rectified, thankfully), though VP Elias and Commissioner Hamasaki announced that they had recently attended a presentation with the Center for Policing Equity. In short, a key report on the levels of persistent racial disparity in arrests, use of force and other key policing operations has been buried for a suspiciously long time.

I don't envy President Cohen's job of uncovering all of this old mess and crafting balanced agendas, but I hope the rest of the Commission does everything it can to rethink future meetings so that there's less reactive report giving and more pro-active reform work. She can start by weeding out useless presentations like the Electronic Bias Audit (in a truly San Francisco moment, even Starchild called in to point out how useless it is) and agendizing the Center for Policing Equity report at long last. Similarly, it doesn't exactly inspire confidence that the quarterly Firearm Discharge Review Board and In-Custody Death presentations (what a title) so rarely find SFPD officers at fault, and don't include concrete recommendations for structural reforms that could reduce the rate of officers using their guns in general. Achieving real structural and individual officer accountability have to be standing items on the agenda if reform is going to work. Aka, output, not input.

Finally, maybe if I say it enough times, something will happen? This gun violence graph practically begs discussion. Is there a conversation about this happening elsewhere that the public doesn't hear? I truly hope so, but I'm not holding my breath.

Symptoms of Bias

Though there wasn't much on the agenda to dig their teeth into, the Commissioners did continue to probe Chief Scott on what he's doing to find out whether any SFPD officers participated on the mob attack on our nation's capitol earlier this month, as well as whether there's any evidence of white nationalist ties in general. President Cohen also made it clear that she's eager to see the US DOJ recommit to the SFPD's reform program, and Commissioner Hamasaki once again shined some light on the passive aggressive beef that the SFPD has been chewing on over its strained relationship with the District Attorney's office.

Finally, it was incredibly disappointing that the Police Commission didn't even mention this problematic police reform resolution recently proposed by Supervisor Safai, despite the fact that it has direct impact on their own work. Literally, it's the Police Commission's jurisdiction. A number of volunteers with Wealth & Disparities in the Black Community--including me--called in to express concern and ask the Police Commission to take a stand against the resolution, which calls for substantial delays to reform and removal of oversight. We want to ensure that the SFPD had no role in crafting a document that essentially guts all of the reform work that the Commission has been pushing for years. However, the Commission said nothing. One can only hope that Commissioners are having those conversations with Chief Scott behind closed doors--though that's not really good enough, is it?

Happy inauguration day. It's a new day, calling for new levels of work and dreams.


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