Despite SFPD’s Touted Reforms, Racial Bias and Excessive Force Persist

SAN FRANCISCO — Today at City Hall, the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) held a ceremony to mark the completion of the final of 272 reforms collectively known as the Collaborative Reform Initiative (CRI). These reforms were recommended by the Department of Justice in 2016, and later overseen by the California Department of Justice and private consulting firms. On this occasion, the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office issues the following statement: 

“We acknowledge the efforts by many at the SFPD to carry out these reforms, which were meant to improve procedures and outcomes in several areas including use of force, bias, and accountability. But we find it difficult to celebrate this milestone when SFPD still disproportionately stops, searches, and uses force on people of color, particularly Black San Franciscans; and when officers represented by the Police Officer’s Association (POA) have reflexively resisted reforms intended to reduce racial bias, such as the research-informed and community-led policy restricting pretext traffic stops that are used as an excuse to conduct unlawful searches and harassment of predominantly BIPOC drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians.

Since 2015, SFPD officers have shot 32 community members. In recent years, the department has identified nearly 120 cases of sexual assault, bias, excessive force, and unlawful arrests or searches. When that information is disclosed, we document it in our CopMonitor database. Millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent on keeping officers under investigation for misconduct on the City’s payroll and hidden in “rubber rooms.” Millions more are being spent on the regressive War on Drugs that has likely contributed to the record number of overdose deaths. With the recent passage of Prop E, SFPD will be spending even more public resources to ramp up surveillance and dangerous car chases while decreasing transparency regarding use of force. These funds would be better spent on evidence-based solutions that directly uplift and invest in communities that are perennially over-policed and under-resourced. 

We must not forget that the impetus for the CRI package of reforms was born out of outrage and community organizing. That included a hunger strike by the Frisco Five, after a series of police scandals and brutal killings—including Alex Nieto, Mario Woods, Jessica Williams, and Amilcar Perez-Lopez—under the leadership of former Police Chief Greg Suhr. 

Chief Bill Scott and many members of the SFPD have demonstrated their commitment to earnestly completing the CRI reforms and trying to improve the culture of the department. But the praise should also be shared with the civilian-led Police Commission, whose members have overseen the development and implementation of these reforms since 2016. Their leadership highlights why we cannot rely on police to police themselves.

Completing the CRI’s recommended reforms should be only one step in a larger effort to end corruption and misconduct by SFPD, which wields tremendous power over the residents of San Francisco. Our office will continue to be vigilant in making sure that power is not abused.” 



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