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Chief Suhr seeks federal DOJ review of police department

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Police Chief Greg Suhr. (Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner)

Police Chief Greg Suhr has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to review the San Francisco Police Department’s policies, procedures and training, police said Thursday amid criticism for the fatal shooting of Mario Woods on Dec. 2.

Suhr is also seeking help from the DOJ’s Community Oriented Policing Services Office to decide how officers should respond to suspects with edged weapons, according to a statement. Woods was reportedly armed with a kitchen knife when five officers opened fire on him in the Bayview.

The review was announced Thursday in a press release about Suhr’s black community relations advisory forum, which consists of 28 members including Rev. Amos Brown and Police Commissioner Joe Marshall. The forum met Wednesday and discussed the Woods shooting.

It is unclear when Suhr requested the formal review from the DOJ.

“We need to resolve — without the use of force — critical incidents where the person is armed with a non­firearm weapon,” members recommended to Suhr, according to the statement.

Suhr acknowledged during the African American Community Advisory Forum that the Woods shooting has “for many residents shaken their trust in their city’s police department,” police said. The meeting was planned for Tuesday but was canceled by police when they learned Woods supporters planned to attend the forum and demand that Suhr be fired or resign, the officers who shot Woods be charged with crimes and that independent investigations into the shooting be launched.

The department said in the statement that “we need to do everything we can to prevent this from occurring again,” referring to the Woods shooting.

Since Woods’ death, SFPD has made changes to firearms training and policy, as well set in motion steps to provide officers with additional less­-lethal devices, including extended-­range beanbag guns and protective shields.

The department has also created working groups on engaging suspects with edged weapons and joined the Police Executive Research Forum on changing how police use of force, which will be held in Washington D.C., in January, police said.

Members of the forum said that if the Woods shooting is considered within department policy, then “any policy that allows for this to happen needs to be changed,” according to police.

While agreeing with the changes and actions of the chief thus far, members recommended that rank­-and­-file officers receive implicit bias and cultural competency training and that captains work with leaders in the community to resolve potential conflicts, police said.

Members also recommended police re­evaluate where recruits are assigned for training, police said. Recruits currently train in historically black neighborhoods like the Bayview.

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