California AG Takes on Independent Review of San Francisco Police Reforms

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Becerra Assumes Role After U.S. Department of Justice Retreats from Ongoing Review of Recommended Reforms

(From press release): Attorney General Xavier Becerra Monday announced that the California Department of Justice has entered into an agreement with the City of San Francisco (City) and San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) to evaluate and publicly report on the police department’s implementation of reforms previously recommended by the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ). Attorney General Becerra, Mayor Farrell and Chief Scott were joined by San Francisco Board of Supervisors President London Breed.

The agreement was reached after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the USDOJ abandoned collaborative police reform efforts overseen by the federal Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) in San Francisco and throughout the nation. Law enforcement agencies, including SFPD, had been receiving technical assistance from USDOJ to implement recommended reforms based on reviews that assessed areas such as officer use-of-force, racial bias, community policing, accountability, recruitment, hiring, and personnel practices.

“When local law enforcement agencies reach out for support, the last thing our federal government should do is abandon them,” said Attorney General Becerra. “The California Department of Justice will stand with fellow law enforcement agencies that ask for vital assistance to promote trust, transparency and ultimately ensure public safety – both for our men and women wearing the badge and the communities they are sworn to protect. This agreement with the City and SFPD is critical for public safety. It serves as a prime example of state and local authorities collaborating in the
absence of help from Washington.”

“We made a commitment to transform the San Francisco Police Department into a model of transparency and accountability,” said San Francisco Mayor Mark Farrell. “While we have made significant gains, improvements still remain. By working with the California Attorney General’s Office, we are ensuring that we fulfill the pledge we made to our residents. We look forward to a productive partnership that strengthens our law enforcement agency for generations to come.”

“In the 16 months since the U.S. Department of Justice COPS Office assessment was released, the men and women of the San Francisco Police Department have made substantial progress in implementing reforms, particularly in the areas of increasing transparency and accountability,” said San Francisco Police Chief William Scott. “Use of Force has decreased 18 percent year over year and complaints against officers are down 8.5 percent. I want to assure our community stakeholders that we remain committed to safety with respect for all and unbiased and responsive policing. This collaboration with the California Department of Justice will reaffirm the independent evaluation of our reform work and enable SFPD to earn trust and respect as the guardian of constitutional and human rights in our City.”

“These issues are personal for me,” said San Francisco Board of Supervisors President London Breed. “I have witnessed first hand the consequences that stem from a lack of trust between our communities of color and law enforcement agencies. That is why I was one of the leaders who called upon the Department of Justice to provide an independent review of our Police Department which resulted in 272 recommendations. While our current Federal Administration may believe these collaborative approaches are no longer a priority, here in San Francisco we are not stopping. We are committed to these reforms and will continue to work with the California Department of Justice to advance them.”

In 2015, the late San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee invited the USDOJ to conduct an evaluation of SFPD through COPS. In October 2016, COPS released a report based on their review, recommending a series of reforms to address issues that surfaced during their evaluation.

In September 2017, under the Trump Administration, the USDOJ announced dramatic changes to the COPS Collaborative Reform Initiative for Technical Assistance. Specifically, USDOJ decided that COPS would no longer provide resources or guidance to help departments improve police-community relations. Concurrently and without advance notice, the USDOJ advised the City and SFPD that it would no longer provide review of the SFPD’s implementation of the proposed reforms.

Attorney General Becerra believes that building trust between law enforcement and the communities they are sworn to protect is an important element in the strategy to ensure public safety. That is why General Becerra has devoted much of his time and resources reaching out to and working with Sheriffs, Police Chiefs, peace officer associations and community stakeholders throughout California.



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