A year of scandals, calls for reform and spectacular killings

Rising crime, police corruption scandals, a killing on the Embarcadero and the police killing of a man in the Bayview were some of the highlights in a year that had more than its share of news about crime and crime fighters in San Francisco.

But 2015 was a year that saw the opening of a new home for the police department, debate over calls for reform around bias in police ranks and the introduction of new tools for police. The year also saw the end of Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi’s troubled time at the helm of The City’s Sheriff Department when he was ousted from office by Vicki Hennessy in November.

San Francisco police took up residence in April at a new Public Safety Building in Mission Bay. At the same time, efforts to build a new jail were shot down by the Board of Supervisors late in 2015.

Within the police department, and the sheriff’s department, new policies and tools were introduced, and some needed attention was paid to cleaning up trouble spots. Funding for the introduction of body cameras was offered by the mayor in April, and a backlog in rape kits finally began to be cleared. Finally, late in the year, reforms to the police department’s use of force policies were planned by the police commission.

CRIME

Crime was on the rise through the year, as a number of spectacular incidents throughout the year kept the public focus on violent crimes in San Francisco.

The year opened with the killing of four young men in Hayes Valley and was soon followed by the discovery in SoMa of a grisly corpse in a suitcase.

Then in July, the shooting death of Kate Steinle on the Embarcadero sparked widespread outcry after it was discovered her alleged killer is an undocumented immigrant who had been released from County Jail more than a month before the shooting. It was later discovered that the gun was stolen from the car of a Bureau of Land Management employee.

In May, political consultant Enrique Pierce, who was working on Mayor Ed Lee’s re-election campaign, was arrested and charged with possessing child pornography.

In August, filings from the Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow racketeering and murder conspiracy trial alleged wrongdoing in the ranks of city politics.

Then, in October Canadian tourist Audrey Carey was found shot in the head in Golden Gate Park. Her death was later tied to the killing of a man in Marin by three transients who have been charged with murder.

SCANDALS

Scandals also plagued law enforcement in 2015. So much so that District Attorney George Gascon launched a task force to investigate them in May.

First came the racist text messages that emerged from a federal police corruption case filing in March. Those revelations came around the same time as the sentencing in the case of a handful of police on corruption charges. During the same time Public Defender Jeff Adachi said he discovered alleged gladiator-style fights in the jail.

At the top of the department there were also allegations of nepotism when a family friend of the chief was discovered to have been given special treatment. Also, a whistleblower suit, which marred Chief Greg Suhr’s reputation, revealed a history of misconduct.

The year ended with troubling news for the department when the shooting of Mario Woods in early December by police was caught on video. Since then protests have sparked calls for Suhr’s resignation and renewed calls for reforming policing practices around use of force.

Jonah Owen Lamb
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Jonah Owen Lamb

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