San Francisco Police Commission Meeting 7/21/2021 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.
7/21/2021 Meeting Documents
A consequence-free environment
I've held off on writing a summary for the last Police Commission meeting, partly because I was busy and partly because I came away from it more than a little depressed. Still, transparency is important. So, what you need to know about the July 21st meeting is that there continues to be a big push for more and more reports to unearth all the problematic processes at SFPD. Which, great. However, there remains almost no consequence for even the most egregious mismanagement and/or policing. Further, that at least one commissioner on the body doesn't appear to read any of the documents; I won't name names this time, in the hope that they turn the corner.
Officer surge in commercial corridors
A big topic of conversation at this July meeting was the ongoing surge of community policing foot patrols in commercial areas around the city. Our elected leaders are understandably worried about reinvigorating the city's ailing commercial corridors as well as counteracting the fear generated by a number of high-profile crime stories, particularly as people are once again erring on the side of caution thanks to the Delta variant. However, it turns out that the money to pay for these surges is coming from the city's overtime budget. Ergo, it will not be cheap or even monitored, and will mean we are not just no longer defunding the police, we're refunding them at record levels.
Is it worth it? Well, SFPD is under no obligation to capture data on the efficacy of these patrols, let along cost-benefit, so all we have is anecdote. My anecdote is that I took one of my kids back to school shopping in the Union Square area last Saturday, and while walking up Powell, I saw a shocking number of empty and/or boarded up storefronts framing a group of five officers standing around in a circle talking and warily eyeing pedestrians every once and a while. It was, and not to be repetitive, depressing as hell; it did not make me want to stay and shop. Yes, there continues to be a wild disconnect between SFPD's understanding of community policing and what actually moves the needle on crime and general population wellbeing. No, it's not shaking hands at occasional events and inviting people to meetings at the local stations.
Why reform when we can just report?
So what would real accountability look like? The Department of Justice laid out a series of critical reforms that would introduce true accountability to SFPD. The department continues to claim to be wrapping up all the reforms, but assuming they're telling the truth (I'm not being paranoid, there is unfortunately history there), the most critical accountability reforms have yet to be completed.
Department of Justice recommendation 69.3 specifically states that SFPD is to report on disciplinary action and accountability for repeat/problem officers--exactly what Wealth & Disparities in the Black Community recommendations and other recommendations in June suggested. Yet 69.3 of course is from over five years ago. The California Department of Justice also in November 2020 cited this item as a high priority to be done by April 2021, and it's still not done. In fact, it's still in the unaptly named "In Progress" category, which appears to be reform purgatory if you're following closely. Here's a list of a bunch of Wealth & Disparity's other priority core reforms that are also stuck in purgatory.
So, to the commissioners who spend their time during these presentations asking about how they can give the SFPD more money to get them done, maybe rethink your questions going forward? Have you done the reading? Asked about the history?
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.