San Francisco Public Defender CopWatch
This is a collection of public records about local police, sheriff, and other officers that may be of interest to all freedom fighters (activists, civil rights attorneys, defense attorneys), public officials, and the community at large. These records are presented as they were received, with minimal notation about what is contained within, for descriptive purposes only.
This collection does not have information on all officers employed in San Francisco. This is a live database that will be continuously updated as the local agencies release more records about officer conduct. The database cannot have a complete record of an officer’s conduct because many of the records on are confidential.
A brief history
Historically, California has protected police officer personnel records at all cost, including misconduct and disciplinary records. No other witness to a criminal case enjoys this level of protection. Even when a criminally accused wins the right to access an officer’s files, it takes months and months, and even then, a judge often limits what is disclosed to the extent that the information is practically useless.
2019 law made some police records public
In 2019, Senate Bill 1421 modified the Penal Code to carve out four categories of conduct that are now a matter of public record:
- When an officer shoots a gun at a person;
- When an officer uses force against a person that causes great bodily injury;
- A “sustained allegation” of sexual assault against the officer;
- A “sustained allegation” of dishonesty against the officer.
Records released at a snail’s pace
The SF Public Defender, and many others around the state, requested the newly public records in January 2019. After many months, records began to trickle out. Since each agency holds different records, requests were sent to the Department of Police Accountability, SFPD, and the District Attorney’s Office.
After many months, records began to trickle out. At the time this database went public, in August 2020, we have received records from SFPD, DPA, and the DA on just 204 SFPD officers – less than 10 percent of the force.
The CopWatch database
To store the records received and make them accessible for our defenders on behalf of their clients, we began a database to keep track of the releases. We also archive other sources of public information – news articles, court filings, and complaints filed with DPA
Included at the link below is a list of cops with information in one of the following categories:
- an incident released under public records law (SB1421)
- media coverage about a cop
- civil suits naming a cop
- records of a cop being arrested or prosecuted
- complaints made a cop with the Department of Police Accountability
Because some of the public records do not include findings of misconduct or wrongdoing, we must emphasize that this is not strictly a “misconduct database.” Some of the officers about whom we have received records were deemed to have acted lawfully by their department and/or the DPA – in some cases regardless of public opinion that was strongly to the contrary. And some have demonstrated instances or patterns of disturbing behavior or failures of judgment. The information is presented here as received, without commentary on the appropriateness or legality of the conduct.
Filing a complaint against an officer
DPA receives complaints from the public about SFPD officers. State law will not allow DPA to publish many of these complaints, so the conduct is only ever reported in a summary of the agency’s findings that does not include the officer who committed the conduct giving rise to the complaint.
The complaints included in this database were filed by the Public Defender’s Office. By making the complaint ourselves, when the summary is released months later, we are able to piece together the outcome.
We hope to leverage the public’s trust in our office and mission to be a facilitator of complaints for the public and DPA. By filing more complaints on behalf of the public, we can have a greater view of the behavior of SFPD and how it impacts our community.
If you would like to make a complaint against an SFPD officer – or Sheriff’s deputy – click here.
To view the database of records, click here.