The San Francisco Police Department, whose officers have been involved in a spate of recent fatal shootings and racially charged conduct, is plagued by dozens of operational problems, including a failure to fully investigate officer-involved shootings and other use-of-force incidents, a Justice Department review found.
At least 94 separate deficiencies were identified in the federal assessment, which also concluded that the agency further suffered from a serious lack of community trust.
“The people of San Francisco are among the voices calling for urgency in police reform and building trust between law enforcement and communities,” the report found, adding that “trust and collaboration between the SFPD and the community are needed to develop … an environment in which police practices and decisions are transparent, appropriate, understood and supported.”
Prompted by incidents of police misconduct dating to 2010 and a half dozen fatal shootings by officers last year, city officials requested the Justice review by the Community Oriented Policing Services unit, a collaborative step short of full-blown investigation by the department’s Civil Rights Division.
“I applaud the city of San Francisco for stepping forward to take a critical look at the policies and practices within the San Francisco Police Department,” said Ronald Davis, director of Justice’s COPS office. “This report makes clear the significant challenges that lie ahead for the police department and the city.”
Among the most serious findings:
• The department failed to maintain files on shootings involving its officers.
• No formal training had been developed to guide responses related to use-of-force incidents.
• African-American drivers were “disproportionately” targeted during traffic stops.
• There is no mechanism for analyzing public complaints about officer misconduct, and “allegations of biased policing” lodged by community members have not been sustained in more than three years.
“There is a strong perception among community members that the SFPD is not committed to the principals of procedural justice,” the report concluded.
San Francisco is only the latest of more than 20 departments who practices have been examined by the Justice Department since 2009, actions that have accelerated since 2014 following the fatal shooting of black teenager by an officer in Ferguson, Mo.
Mayor Ed Lee and the police department accepted the Justice findings and pledged to implement them.
“Like many cities across the nation, San Francisco is working to rebuild trust between law enforcement and communities,” Lee said. “As we do this, we always put the sanctity of life at the center of our focus.”
Lee said the 10-month review was a cooperative process in which the city “threw open the doors and invited transparency and accountability.”
“I’m proud to report that the San Francisco Police Department will accept and implement every, single recommendation,” the mayor said. “We must restore trust, and these measures are important steps forward. We also recognized that we had to take immediate action.”
The police department characterized the review as “one of the largest undertaken by the (Justice) COPS office and is much more in-depth and detailed that that any of its peer cities in the collaborative review process.”
“As the report states, SFPD is a department committed to change and working with the communities we proudly serve,” the department said in a written statement. “However, it is clear that there are several areas where we are in need of improvement and continued analysis.”