San Francisco police to implement reforms after report on violence against minorities

By Los Angeles Times

San Francisco police officers use force against African-Americans more often than against other racial groups, according to a 432-page federal report made public Wednesday.

The report, issued by the U.S. Department of Justice in response to charges of racial bias by San Francisco police, shows that 37 percent of the cases in which police used force between May 2013 and May 2016 involved African-Americans, a larger percentage than any other ethnic group. Nine of the 11 people who were killed during use-of-force incidents in that time frame were also people of color.

In all, federal officials made 272 recommendations for reform in the report, which was requested by Mayor Ed Lee after Mario Woods, an African-American, was shot at least 21 times by police in 2015.

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“This report makes clear the significant challenges that lie ahead for the Police Department and the city,” Ronald Davis, director of the Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services Department, said in a statement. “More than 90 findings outlined in the report reflect key operational deficiencies in the Police Department.”

Federal intervention in local policing has become more common in recent years after several controversial shootings sparked a national debate about the use of force against people of color and led to protests and demands for greater transparency. But the findings in San Francisco are not binding, unlike those issued in Ferguson, Mo., and Cleveland after other incidents in which law enforcement agencies were accused of using excessive force.

Protester Walter Rice, 75, a life-long Ferguson resident and Vietnam veteran waves, a U.S. flag in front of the Ferguson police department on Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT)

MCT
Protester Walter Rice, 75, a life-long Ferguson resident and Vietnam veteran waves, a U.S. flag in front of the Ferguson police department on Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT)

The report also recognized deficiencies in the way the department investigates and collects data about use-of-force incidents.

The city has been beset by scandals involving alleged police bias since 2015. Prior to Woods’ highly publicized death, court documents revealed that a number of officers had exchanged racist and homophobic text messages, making free use of racial slurs, referring to minorities as “savages” and suggesting members of some ethnic groups should be spayed like animals.

San Francisco officers shot Woods, 26, on Dec. 2, 2015, while responding to reports of a knife-wielding man suspected of assault. Woods, who was under the influence of methamphetamine, according to an autopsy report, repeatedly ignored officers’ commands to drop the knife.

Police fired five less-than-lethal rounds before unleashing a barrage of gunfire.

A cellphone video of the shooting, however, appeared to show Woods walking away from the officers before they opened fire. The footage went viral, prompting large protests in San Francisco.

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