Friday, June 17, 2016
Yesterday morning, representatives of community groups working to rein what one activist described as our "racist, rogue, and violent" police department backed up Supervisor John Avalos as he unveiled an ambitious effort to tie dispersal of the agency budget to reforms. Mayor Lee's budget includes $577 million for the cops. A coalition of community groups want to hold back $200 million of that sum pending quarterly reports on better training especially for mental health emergencies, better data collection on use of force incidents, and early intervention to fire officers who use excessive force in their interactions with the public.
If this seems a roundabout way to curb police violence, it is. But the SFPD has lots of friends in high places who count on the cop union, the P.O.A., for political support. Most of our politicians are willing to look the other way when someone else's kid gets shot. It will be a political question whether the backlash from the recent shootings of Alex Nieto, Amilcar Perez Lopez, Mario Woods, Luis Gongora Pat, and Jessica Williams can spur action. Since 2000, the SFPD has killed 40 civilians; no officers have been charged with any crime. San Francisco cops enjoy something close to absolute impunity on the job.
If the Avalos initiative fails to fly, several other reform efforts are also underway, through the Police Commission (the SFPD's supposed -- and usually supine -- oversight board), the D.A.'s office, and several potential amendments to the city charter to bring the department under more control.