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Friday, May 30, 2014

California Supreme Court Forces Police to Identify Officers Involved in Shootings

Posted By on Fri, May 30, 2014 at 3:51 PM

Alejandro Nieto, the Bernal Heights man whose killers have not been identified. - FACEBOOK
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  • Alejandro Nieto, the Bernal Heights man whose killers have not been identified.

Representatives of San Francisco Police Department claim they aren't exactly reeling from yesterday's Supreme state Supreme Court ruling, which forbid California police departments from concealing the names of officers involved in on-duty shootings.

"We've always revealed the names of [these] officers within 10 days in response to Public Records Act requests," SFPD spokesman Albie Esparza says, claiming the landmark decision won't affect San Francisco policy.

Still, it taps into a conversation that's been swirling in San Francisco politics for the last few months. In April, Supervisor John Avalos called for a hearing to assess the cost of body-mounted police cameras, which, he says, would prevent incidents like the fatal shooting of Alejandro Nieto, the Bernal Heights man who was killed by police in March.

Esparza declined to identify the officers who shot Nieto, saying they've been targeted by "specified threats." In cases like that, SFPD doesn't release names of officers involved in shootings.

The 6-1 Supreme Court ruling -- which spawned from a case in Long Beach -- also coincides with a ballot proposition requiring local government agencies to comply with state public records access laws. The bill has been criticized, even by progressives, because it would shift cost burdens over to municipal departments.

San Francisco is known as a progressive town, and it certainly doesn't suffer for a dearth of good-government advocates. But the issue of police shootings has long been a sticky one. While members of the public decry on-duty use of force, SFPD often commends it. Police Officer Mary Godfrey was even awarded a silver medal of valor in 2013, after shooting a mentally ill person the year before.

Granted, the medal might have counted as a Pyrrhic victory, since it put her name -- and the controversial shooting -- back in the local press.

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About The Author

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan was a staff writer at SF Weekly from 2013 to 2015. In previous lives she was a music editor, IP hack, and tutor of Cal athletes.


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