San Francisco Police Commission Meeting 5/5/2021 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.

5/5/2021 Meeting Documents 

Stopping Anti-Asian hate crimes?

While the alarming rise of anti-Asian hate crimes in San Francisco was not an official item on the agenda last night, it was, unsurprisingly, a significant theme during part of the first part of the meeting. The tweets below tell the story, so I'll all add in prose is that it was great to hear Commissioner Yee begin to dive into the questions and actions, and that I hope he or another commissioner puts a formal item on the agenda soon about how to stop the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes. The conversation will need to be more than just policing, but the emerging work on stopping gun violence in the Bayview should be a good template for beginning a more formal plan. People want community policing when they want policing at all, and the evidence seems to suggest that community policing is effective at deterring and countering certain types of crimes. So what's the SFPD strategy to invest fully in real community policing in service of helping head off any more of these horrific attacks?

Sunshine treatment on SFPD's Asset Forfeiture habit.

The Commission called for a presentation on SFPD's Asset Forfeiture program a while back, and it's clear why. The agency, with the approval of the District Attorney's office, routinely seizes cash and other assets from people who are under investigation for illegal activity. Most of what they seize is associated with drugs. This sounds reasonable if people are holding on to stacks of money from, say, selling fentanyl, etc. However, the fact that the money is then recycled back into the SFPD and spent on such things as a fancy boat/jet ski vessel, seems dead wrong. It's not exactly great incentive for the SFPD to end drug dealing in places like the Tenderloin if the continuation of drug dealing makes them money. Also, it blows my mind that the presenting SFPD staff didn't bring an itemized list of what they've been spending the money on to this meeting; did they really not imagine that anyone would ask? Keep shining that light into these dark places, Police Commission. But I hope the Board of Supervisors Budget Committee also puts this SFPD slush fund into a better place in the city budget--programs to prevent drug addiction or help addicts recover?

Action steps on reducing gun violence in the Bayview, but no mention of the reform program.

At last night's meeting, SFPD presented on the next action steps of their strategy to reduce the alarming spike in gun violence in the Bayview. The current plan is to repurpose the old and much hated (for good reason) Gang Task Force into a Community Violence Prevention team, with additional new officers and systems. While it's good to hear about SFPD trying something new with its deeply problematic policing in the Bayview, it was again strange not to hear anything about the SFPD's current status with the 272 reform initiatives it was supposed to complete by the end of April. These are, after all, directly related items.* Yet, there was once again nothing on the regular agenda and seemingly no sense of concern that the SFPD has potentially failed to complete the reforms in time. It's promising that President Cohen has invited the California Attorney General to a future meeting, which could be a great opportunity to talk about the future of the DOJ reform program. In the meantime, though, I'm left scratching my head. How is the reform process to eliminate the racial disparity in policing not the top agency priority right now? How can we be doing one of these things but not the other if they're completely intertwined?

*The Federal DOJ COPS mandate is a process the City signed into and that Chief Scott has signed onto numerous times since 2016, most recently in November 2020 for a promise of completing at least 85% by April 30, 2021. Chief Scott told the police commission and the public that SFPD would have “94%” of the 272 recommendations done by then. But on SFPD’s own website, only 64% were marked substantially compliant at the April 30, 2021 California DOJ deadline. After five years of working on them. 


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.

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