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Monday, February 22, 2016

The Day After Killing in Front of Police Station, Mayor, Chief Announce Police Reforms

Posted By on Mon, Feb 22, 2016 at 1:40 PM

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On Monday morning, a somber and slightly ashen-faced Mayor Ed Lee appeared at a press conference — an act rarer and rarer for the mayor in  the nearly three months since the fatal police shooting of Mario Woods on Dec. 2. Flanked at his City Hall office by police Chief Greg Suhr, Police Commission president Suzy Loftus, and the faith  and community leaders on the police department's African-American advisory board, Lee announced "comprehensive" reforms to the city's police department.

There will be changes in the ways cops do their jobs, changes in when they can use a firearm and how, and a renewed push to give cops Tasers — and there will also be more cops — but the goal behind all the new polices, new offices, and other tweaks is trust, officials said: trust that police will do their jobs, do them without racial bias, and do them without putting the public, whose help is needed to solve crimes, at risk. "Everyone," Loftus said, "deserves the trust of police."

That all sounds nice, and it earned some praise from past critics of the mayor and the chief (who appear to have been shaken into action by Woods's death). But this won't be easy. The size of the challenge was made clear less than 24 hours earlier, when a man — young and black, of course — was shot and killed Sunday afternoon on a busy street in the Fillmore District, just across the street from a police station.

While three separate investigations into the death of Woods — the suspect in a stabbing, who was shot 20 times, mostly in the back, by five officers in front of a Muni bus full of schoolkids in the Bayview — are still ongoing, Lee
Lee admitted that San Francisco is "grappling with a crisis" — the same crisis over black lives felt in other, much blacker parts of the country.

To deal with this crisis, the SFPD has already invited the U.S. Department of Justice's "Community Oriented Policing Services" (COPS) office to review the department and suggest reforms. In the wake of Woods's death, police have said they'll deal with suspects with knives differently. Patrol cars are now equipped with batons and helmets, firearms training has been extended, and some police officers may be armed with Tasers, pending Police Commission review.

Lee and Suhr also announced:

*A new office in the SFPD, called the "Bureau of Professional Standards and Principled Policing";

*More money for the Office of Citizen Complaints, which is tasked with reviewing police misconduct;

*More "crisis intervention" workers, who will treat situations like Woods's — and the other well-documented mental health problems stemming from growing up in a rough neighborhood — like public health crises;

*And more cops. Lee said that 250 new police officers will be added more quickly than previously planned, allowing SFPD to meet its charter-mandated goal of 1,971 officers on patrol (there are over 2,000 cops, but not all are on patrol) by 2017.

This all sounds good. Some of it has also been heard before. It's also happening with notable velocity only after Woods was shot and killed.

But a bigger issuer than officer-involved shootings, of which there were six in San Francisco in 2015, are unsolved homicides. 
On Sunday, somebody felt empowered enough to approach 23-year old Curtis Cail while Cail was sitting in a car exiting the McDonald's drive-through on Fillmore Street. The still-unidentified gunman peered into the car, saw Cail, and then rattled off "five or six" shots, according to witnesses  (of which there were plenty, given that Cail's car was trapped in traffic, as police later said).

Cail was the suspect in a shooting from a few years ago, just a few blocks from where he died. Later on Sunday, also within a few blocks, an unidentified man was shot at long range by somebody with a rifle, police told the Chronicle. That person is alive and is expected to survive, but there were no suspects identified in any of the shootings as of Monday.

Suhr, in separate comments, said that the shootings could be related.

All of this comes a year after four men — all young and black, of course — were shot and killed while sitting in a parked car on Page Street. That crime has yet to be solved.

That could be the best source of trust, better than any press conference, reform package, or promises to do better. 

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.

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