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Monday, May 27, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

SF Citizens Press Demand for Police Probe

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Angry citizens Tuesday night continued to voice frustration over the lack of a federal civil rights investigation into the San Francisco Police Department.

"We want a response from our attorney general," said San Francisco resident and Justice for Mario Woods Coalition member Daniel Landry. "She needs to write every San Franciscan and explain why they're not investigating this rogue police department."

After police shot Mario Woods to death in December, Mayor Ed Lee invited a division of the Department of Justice to review the SFPD . The two-year review, conducted by the DOJ's Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) office, will produce nonbinding recommendations for reform.

At the second meeting to solicit feedback, residents again unleashed anger on a federal panel of experts tasked with reviewing the police policies and practices.

Adrienne Fong, from the city's Western Addition neighborhood, chastised the federal experts for failing to use a Spanish-language flyer to promote the Tuesday night meeting at Mission High School in the city's largely Latino Mission District.

"It makes me wonder about the relevance of this panel to this community and other communities where this process has taken place," Fong said.

Fong said the gap between the community and the police is widening, and something needs to be done now, not in 18 months, when the panel issues its recommendations.

Members of the Justice for Mario Woods Coalition reiterated their demands that Police Chief Greg Suhr be fired, the officers who shot 26-year-old Mario Woods to be charged with murder, and an independent investigation of Woods' death.

Several residents offered suggestions on other issues the panel should consider as it develops goals and objectives for the two-year review.

Marc Saloman, who has lived in the Mission District for 27 years, complained that police supervisors and patrol officers should not be in the same union. That, combined with the strong influence the union wields over local politicians, contributes to a corrupt system, he said.

Saloman also suggested that San Francisco, like other cities, should hire officers who live in or near the city.

"We should require first responders to live within 30 miles of San Francisco," Salomon said. "We should make sure those with the badges and the guns are our neighbors."

Hatim Mansori, a 17-year-old senior at Mission High School, said police should reflect the diversity of the community they are supposed to protect and serve.

"There are too many officers that don't look like us," Mansori said. "Stop hiring officers that don't know the community."

Beyond the problems of racial profiling, Jennifer Friedenbach of the city's Coalition on Homelessness, stressed the need for better training for police who need to deal with people suffering from mental illness or going through psychiatric crises.

She said police training methods and use-of-force guidelines must be changed to emphasize crisis intervention and de-escalation.

The federal panel tried to show that they listened and responded to comments made at the first meeting by giving each community member five minutes, instead of two, to speak at Tuesday's meeting.

Kenneth Bouche, a DOJ contractor and law enforcement consultant who ran the meeting on Tuesday, told residents the panel understands their desire to have a full civil rights probe, but said that should not dissuade community members from participating in this process.

"We heard you loud and clear that a consent decree is the way to go," Bouche said. "But this is the only process that allows you to participate in the process."

The third community meeting will be at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 10, at Gateway High School, 1430 Scott St., in San Francisco.

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