San Francisco cops disproportionately target minorities, DOJ says

San Francisco cops disproportionately target minorities, DOJ says

San Francisco’s police department disproportionately targets minorities for arrests and traffic stops, according to a U.S. Department of Justice review released Wednesday.

The report comes as the department is still reeling from a racist and homophobic texting scandal and a series of questionable police killings, including the fatal shooting in May of 27-year-old Jessica Williams, a black woman who was suspected of stealing a car. Police Chief Greg Suhr stepped down hours later amid angry protests over Williams’ death.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee asked the Justice Department to step in and investigate the department’s practices in February, and the Justice Department found enough material to fill 432 pages. The issues range from the department’s reliance on outdated policing practices, to having inadequate methods of reporting use-of-force incidents, to their failure to address racial bias.

Here are some of the key findings:

  • Nine out of 11 police killings from May 1, 2013, to May 31, 2016, involved persons of color. All but one of the investigations into those incident are ongoing. The report describes the speed of investigations as “unacceptable.”
  • Black and Hispanic drivers were disproportionately stopped and ticketed relative to their representation in the driving-age population. Almost 15 percent of traffic stops involved black drivers, despite African-Americans making up less than 6 percent of the population.
  • Police disproportionately stopped black drivers even though they were less likely to find contraband. The report found police discovered contraband in seven out of 10 searches of white drivers’ vehicles, compared to three out of 10 of black drivers’ vehicles.
  • Out of a sample of 500 reported incidents of force, only five of the officers involved had properly recorded what happened on the designated “Use of Force Log.” “The overall lack of consistent data collection is indicative of limited oversight of force reporting,” the report states.
  • Investigations into those incidents were largely toothless. For example, the report found that investigation protocol involves no routine photographic evidence and minimal documentation and interviewing of witnesses. If a supervisor doesn’t respond to the scene of the incident, “then it falls to the officer who used force” to complete the investigation, which the report deems “unacceptable.”
  • San Francisco police officers are not authorized to use Tasers or similar electronic less-lethal devices, unlike other police departments around the country.
  • Officers are allowed to put suspects in a chokehold — the controversial police maneuver that killed Eric Garner, a black man in Staten Island, New York, who was selling loose cigarettes.
  • San Francisco police failed to carry out a proper audit of officers’ communication devices after the texting incidents, in which officers described black people as “wild animals,” said things like “I hate that beaner but I think the nig is worse,” “Indian people are disgusting” and “burn down the Walgreens and kill the bums.”

San Francisco’s new police chief may be announced on Thursday, the San Francisco Examiner reports. The department has operated under acting chief Toney Chaplin since Suhr stepped down in May. Nearby police department’s in Oakland and Berkeley are also in organizational flux, and are seeking new police chiefs.


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