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Audit blasts S.F. police watchdog

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Extensive delays, unprofessional behavior and even harassment plague the office that investigates citizen complaints against the Police Department, according to a scathing audit that prompted government officials Wednesday to consider legal action.

The audit found that 40 percent of the 286 cases sustained by the Office of Citizen Complaints between January 2003 and June 2006 were completed after their 10-month deadline.

The City Charter gives a guideline of nine months, with a deadline of 10 months, for the completion of OCC investigations. That allows three months for the Police Department to consider the findings and commence disciplinary procedures before the one-year statute of limitations on police discipline expires.

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In addition to the delays, OCC staffers anonymously reported “specific incidents of unprofessional behavior,” including falsifying time and attendance records, using city cars for personal business, conducting personal business on city time and harassment, the audit reported.

San Francisco Police Commissioner David Campos indicated during the audit presentation at Wednesday’s commission meeting that the commission would ask the City Attorney’s Office to investigate allegations of harassment, which fell outside the audit’s scope.

OCC director Kevin Allen, who resigned earlier this month, citing health problems, praised the audit Wednesday, saying it provided “transparency that this system did not have” despite the audit’s criticism that the OCC management “does not meet standard expectations for performance and management accountability.”

Allen also called on the Police Commission to take responsibility for the oversight of the office.

Many of the issues brought up in the audit, such as delayed investigations and a lack of annual reports, were not unknown to the commission, said Mark Schlosberg, police practices policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California.

He cited correspondence with the Police Commission regarding the OCC and previous public comment.

He called the audit a “strong criticism of the OCC,” which extends to the commission and the Police Department as well.

The audit found that 59 percent of the delays were caused for no stated reason. Only 8 percent were due to Police Department failure to release information, auditors found, but those included high-profile cases, such as officer-involved shootings, and were held up for as many as eight months. Auditors and commissioners criticized Allen for not taking those holdups before the commission.

But not all of the criticism centered on Allen. The audit found that two investigators were responsible for 39 percent of the delayed cases, prompting Commissioner Joe Alioto-Veronese to say, “I would like to see a [new] director go in there and clean house.”

That sentiment infuriated Frank Martin del Campo, the investigators’ representative with the Service Employees International Union, who said it was “outrageous to call for termination before you find out all the facts.”

The commission is scheduled to discuss the audit report further at a meeting in February before it votes on whether to officially accept the findings.

OFFICE OF CITIZEN COMPLAINTS

Established: 1982

Duties: Responsible for investigating citizens’ complaints of police misconduct.

Staff: Currently 29,consists of civilian investigators, attorneys, administrators.

Workload: More than 800 cases per year, on average.

Workflow: Investigating allegations, then presenting sustained cases to the SFPD and Police Commission for disciplinary proceedings.

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Source: Controller’s Office audit

amartin@examiner.com



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