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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The SFPD is Pretty Well Fucked

Posted By on Tue, May 10, 2016 at 12:11 PM

click to enlarge Police Chief Greg Suhr has a mess of a department, a panel of retired judges found. - MIKE KOOZMIN/SF WEEKLY FILE PHOTO
  • Mike Koozmin/SF Weekly file photo
  • Police Chief Greg Suhr has a mess of a department, a panel of retired judges found.

The day of reckoning is upon San Francisco’s finest.

Or, in other words, the Police Department is fucked.

Cops who engage in racial profiling, old-school "stop and frisk tactics," poor discipline of problem officers, little to no accountability across the board, and a complete disregard for transparency. The SFPD has all of the above, according to the preliminary findings of a blue-ribbon panel of retired judges assembled  by District Attorney George Gascon — who was those problem cops' boss just a few years ago (he was chief from 2009 to 2011).

The Examiner was first to publish the findings, which will be expanded upon in the coming weeks. But the findings go beyond a few problem cops. According to the panel, the SFPD “is, in fact, influenced by the [Police Officers Association, the city's influential and reactionary police union] and the POA’s influence has been an impediment to open dialogue and sustained reforms.”

The POA, as it happens, has been the panel's most-vocal critic. And, coincidentally, police Chief Greg Suhr, who has time and again promised swift justice and reform with the discovery of each batch of racist texts, racial slur, and each fatal officer-involved shooting of a mentally-ill person with a knife, is the POA's guy.

Amazingly, during the year-long inquiry, more and more problem incidents surfaced. The panel is expected to recommend reforms, but whatever else is left to come will only make things worse for a police force that has become a shining example of a nationwide disconnect between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve.

That reality was very much on display for several weeks recently as a group known as the Frisco 5 held a hunger strike outside the Mission Police Station demanding Mayor Ed Lee fire Suhr.

Not only has Suhr not resigned and Lee has pledged his support for the chief, and the police union is simply pointing the finger back at its critics (but that’s nothing new), but nobody beyond the officers directly involved in the incidents appears to have faced any discipline — in other words, no boss's head has yet rolled. (As for the Frisco 5 — they starved themselves until they had to be hospitalized.)

Suhr seems to think he can still keep his job, as evidenced by a move he made Friday that can only be described as ironic considering the department he runs and the release of the panel’s findings Monday. The department shared details of a disciplinary case involving yet another racist cop among its ranks, this one 17-year veteran who says he transferred to Bayview Station in other to "kill niggers" — and who still has a job but might be terminated.

What the future holds for the SFPD is anyone’s guess, but it’s clear this much outside attention has not been paid to the department since the 1970s. That’s when Officers for Justice, a group for minority cops’ rights, sued the department and won.

The lawsuit alleged unfair hiring and operational practices that held back minorities and women. It led to major reforms and decades of federal oversight that ended in the late 1990s, but perhaps did not take root — there is no mention of it in the SFPD’s own storied timeline.
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Max DeNike

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