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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Oakland Gets the Protest Curfew SF Chronicle Columnists Called For

Posted By on Tue, May 26, 2015 at 12:45 PM

Protesters held an impromptu sit-in Saturday night - JULIA CARRIE WONG
  • Julia Carrie Wong
  • Protesters held an impromptu sit-in Saturday night

Just a few weeks after two San Francisco Chronicle columnists proposed cutting off the First Amendment in Oakland at sundown, Mayor Libby Schaaf has followed their advice and implemented a selective ban on nighttime protest marches in the city. 

The new policy was first enforced last Thursday evening when an evening march planned as part of the National Day of Action for Black Women and Girls was forced off the streets by the Oakland Police Department. Following an outcry on social media, the East Bay Express reported that the strong-arm tactics by OPD were part of a new policy put in place by the mayor in response to the major property damage suffered by Auto Row during a protest on May 1st: 
In an interview today, Mayor Libby Schaaf acknowledged that she ordered the prohibition on nighttime street marches in Oakland. However, she argued that it was a not new city law, but rather a reinterpretation of an existing one....

Under the mayor's new tactic, OPD will block demonstrators from marching in the streets after dark, and marchers will only be allowed on sidewalks.
The East Bay Express also spoke with civil rights attorney Rachel Lederman, who helped write Oakland's current crowd control policy. Lederman pointed out that the new policy is both inconsistent with that policy and blatantly unconstitutional:
 "A local government can impose a reasonable time, manner, and place restriction on speech," said Lederman, "but the Oakland crowd control policy specifically states that OPD will facilitate marches in the street regardless of whether a permit has be obtained as long as it’s feasible to do so."

Lederman also said it is unconstitutional for the city to prohibit nighttime street marches. "The reasonableness is determined by what’s actually happening there," said Lederman. "You can’t ban street marches at night because on some past occasions some people broke windows. That’s completely unconstitutional."
OPD deployed CS gas Saturday night - JULIA CARRIE WONG
  • Julia Carrie Wong
  • OPD deployed CS gas Saturday night

Schaaf's policy was quickly challenged by activists intent on preserving the First Amendment in Oakland. On Saturday, about 150 protesters—led by many of the same activists who had planned Thursday's #BlackLivesMatter protest—met at Frank Ogawa plaza in the evening and planned to step off into the street at sunset.

"We are not going to get on the sidewalks, and we are not going to leave until we decide we are ready to leave," an organizer announced, as others distributed earplugs, baggies with vinegar-soaked hankies, and spray bottles of Maalox, to be used in the event that OPD deployed tear gas. 

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Leap Transit Forced to Cease Operations by State

Posted By on Wed, May 20, 2015 at 1:22 PM

  • Leap

Leap Transit, the private bus line that operates a luxury alternative to Muni between the Financial District and the Marina, has halted operations after receiving a cease and desist letter from the California Public Utilities Commission. 

In a post on its Facebook page published last night, the company announced, "Leap will be offline at least through the end of this week as we work through a regulatory issue." The statement chalks up the problems to "various clerical issues": 
We embarked on a fairly complex regulatory process nearly a year ago and we've cleared many hurdles along the way, including the unanimous approval of Leap's operating authority under the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in March. However, the finalization of this permitting process has been held up due to various clerical issues and we have now been issued a Cease and Desist notice from the PUC.

While we believe that our service is in full compliance with all state and local laws, we have decided to halt operations until we clear this final hurdle. 
But the actual cease and desist order from the CPUC (embedded below) suggests that the problem is more serious. The letter, dated May 11, states the Leap has failed to provide proof of liability insurance and workers' compensation insurance and "evidence of compliance with the controlled substances and alcohol testing requirements." According to the letter, Leap has also not complied with certain "safety requirements prior to operation," including inspections by the California Highway Patrol.

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Friday, May 15, 2015

SFPD Finally Gets a Deadline for Body Camera Policy

Posted By on Fri, May 15, 2015 at 4:46 PM

  • Shutterstock
Body cameras for police officers in San Francisco have long been discussed, but there's never been a clear timeline for when they would be implemented. One of the major roadblocks has been the need to develop a policy governing their use.

There's now finally a deadline for proposing that policy, The San Francisco Examiner reports:
Last week, Police Commission President Suzy Loftus gave a clear directive to Chief Greg Suhr about when she wants a draft policy for the cameras: 90 days. “Yes, ma’am,” he said at the Police Commission meeting in an unusual show of deference to a body often deferential to the chief.

The Police Commission, charged with disciplining officers and creating policy for the department, has the final say on policy governing camera use.
Of course once there's a draft, there will likely be wrangling over revisions, and the rest of the timeline for deployment remains unclear. But at least there's some forward momentum for the reform that many hope will increase accountability for police brutality and misconduct. 

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Yung Lott Sues SFPD, City Over Rap Video Shoot Raid

Posted By on Thu, May 14, 2015 at 10:22 AM

Screenshot of the video of SFPD raiding Yung Lott's video shoot - SCREENSHOT/ YOUTUBE
  • Screenshot/ Youtube
  • Screenshot of the video of SFPD raiding Yung Lott's video shoot

Two months after SFPD raided his video shoot in Bayview Hunter's Point, Bay Area hip hop artist Yung Lott is suing the police and the City of San Francisco for civil rights violations, The San Francisco Chronicle reports:
The lawsuit accuses both uniformed and plainclothes officers of harassing and handcuffing a group of “innocent African American men who were recording and performing a music video” near a playground on Kiska Road on March 8.

“Without probable cause or a search warrant, SFPD officers subjected each and every member of the group to an unreasonable search, seizure, arrest, conspiracy to arrest and humiliation at gunpoint,” the suit says.
The incident, in which Yung Lott and about 20 other black men were detained, searched, and photographed by SFPD while filming a rap video in a park, went viral thanks to video footage that circulated on YouTube. At the time, SFPD claimed that the searches were justified due to the fact that a man with a concealed gun walked into the crowd. SFPD told SF Weekly that officers had the right to search all the other men around the suspect with the gun for "officer safety reasons." 

But in the suit, Yung Lott and his co-plaintiffs suggest that police, who had already observed the man with the gun, should never have allowed him to walk into the video shoot. Per the Chronicle
The officers “negligently, willfully and/or recklessly allowed Taj Williams to enter the group of musicians with a loaded gun,” the suit says. A footnote in the complaint adds, “On information and belief, SFPD officers would not have allowed a perpetrator that they perceived to be armed with a loaded handgun enter a group of innocent white civilians (for instance, executives at a Google convention).”

The suit says police subjected the group taking part in the music video to a “dangerous condition in order to manufacture cause to conduct a search of the entire group.”

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

SF City Attorney Unhappy with Stanyan Street McDonald's

Posted By on Tue, May 12, 2015 at 6:04 PM

  • 1000 Words /
San Francisco City Attorney Herrera is threatening to sue McDonald's Corporation for failing to clean up drugs and "other public nuisances" at the franchise's restaurant at 730 Stanyan Street near Golden Gate Park.

In a pre-litigation demand letter sent to McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook, Herrera states that the restaurant and its grounds have become a site of serious drug trafficking:
In the last six months the police have recovered more than 100 doses of LSD, over two pounds of marijuana, 88.5 grams of psilocybin (psychedelic mushrooms), more than half of a pound of marijuana edibles, and hashish from drug dealers selling their products on your Property. 
Other problematic conditions at the location—which Herrera attributes to the presence of "drug activity"—include fights, assaults, public consumption of alcohol, two dog attacks, and car thefts. Since the beginning of 2012, there have been almost 1100 calls for service to SFPD regarding the McDonald's. 

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Friday, May 8, 2015

Three Judges to Join Task Force Investigating Bias in SF Policing

Posted By on Fri, May 8, 2015 at 9:37 AM

  • Eric Broder Van Dyke /
San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón is adding three judges to the blue ribbon task force investigating bias within the San Francisco Police Department, the San Francisco Examiner reports. The task force was established in the wake of revelations about racist text messages exchanged by police officers, mishandling of evidence in the DNA lab, and allegations of sheriff's deputies forcing prisoners to engage in fights in the county jail. 

The three judges, LaDoris Hazzard Cordell, Cruz Reynoso and Dickran Tevrizian, will be focused specifically on the text message inquiry. They will look at the 3,000 arrests made by the officers who exchanged the text messages to attempt to see whether bias on the part of the officers affected arrest decisions or resulted in wrongful convictions. 

The judges will also "evaluate whether there is a culture of bias at the SFPD, and what the impact of such bias may be on prosecutions made by the District Attorney’s Office," according to a statement from the DA's office. 

At last week's San Francisco Justice Summit, Public Defender Jeff Adachi questioned whether the DA's office was able to investigate SFPD, given the close relationship between prosecutors and police. 

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Thursday, April 30, 2015

SFPD Is About To Be Under a Lot More Surveillance

Posted By on Thu, Apr 30, 2015 at 12:31 PM

  • Image via ACLU ©2015 Lalo Alcaraz

The body count of unarmed black men and women killed by the police continues to rise, and protests continue to break out across the country. One of the only solutions to racist policing and police brutality to gain any traction since the Ferguson protests last year is continual video recording of police officers. Today, two initiatives were announced that hope to put San Francisco police officers under a lot more video surveillance.

First, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee announced today that he will ask for $6.6 million in the next budget to fund body cameras for every SFPD officer. The money would also fund associated costs like software and video storage.

According to the San Francisco Examiner, there is no set time-line for when the cameras will be deployed on officers on the street. 

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Friday, April 24, 2015

San Francisco Settles Police Department Whistleblower Lawsuit Out of Court

Posted By on Fri, Apr 24, 2015 at 5:04 PM

Police Chief Greg Suhr was accused in a lawsuit of wrongful firing an SFPD attorney. The city agreed Friday to settle the suit. - SFMC FILE PHOTO
  • SFMC file photo
  • Police Chief Greg Suhr was accused in a lawsuit of wrongful firing an SFPD attorney. The city agreed Friday to settle the suit.

The San Francisco Police Department appears to have dodged a major embarrassment.

The City of San Francisco today agreed to settle a whistleblower lawsuit against Police Chief Greg Suhr that was filed by Kelly O'Haire, a former attorney in the city's police department.

“Mrs. O’Haire is thrilled with the result,” Randy Strauss, attorney for the plaintiff, told SF Weekly's sister publication, The Examiner.

“Settlement in cases is always a potential, but I am a little bit surprised because I was not optimistic that we would be able to reach a result in this case," Strauss said.

The city agreed to pay O’Haire $725,000 in exchange for dropping the lawsuit. O'Haire claimed Chief Suhr fired her in 2011 after she began investigating his alleged record of misconduct.

Details of the civil lawsuit have been seeping out in recent weeks, and early this week documents made available from O'Haire's suit brought increased scrutiny on Suhr and the police department.

At the core of O'Haire's allegations are questions about possible improper conduct by San Francisco's embattled police chief.

Mayor Ed Lee and an Aide Also Mentioned in Whistleblower Suit

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Monday, March 30, 2015

District Attorney Launches Task Force Into Law Enforcement Misconduct

Posted By on Mon, Mar 30, 2015 at 5:12 PM

District Attorney George Gascon announces task force Monday at the Hall of Justice. - IDA MOJADAD
  • Ida Mojadad
  • District Attorney George Gascon announces task force Monday at the Hall of Justice.
The San Francisco District Attorney's Office launched a new task force today to independently investigate allegations of police misconduct, starting with recent accusations that sheriff deputies forced inmates to fight.

The task force will pull together structured teams that will work under three separate investigations to address the recent allegations of misconduct by sheriffs staging inmate fights, San Francisco police officers sending racist text messages, and improper police DNA lab procedures.

District Attorney George Gascon said his office sent a formal letter to Police Chief Greg Suhr and Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi informing them of the new task force.

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Friday, February 27, 2015

Thieves Drive Car Into High-End Audio Store, Steal $100,000 Worth of Equipment

Posted By on Fri, Feb 27, 2015 at 10:05 AM


San Francisco police are investigating another brazen smash-and-grab burglary that happened morning at a high-end audio/visual retail store in the city's Nob Hill neighborhood. 

At about 4 a.m., the thieves plowed their car into the shop on the 1600 block of California Street and stole some stereo equipment. Police say the break-in caused more than $100,000 in damage to the store. 

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  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"