Despite official thanks, SFPD union leaders unhappy with sheriff’s deputies response to UPS shooting

Eighteen San Francisco sheriff’s deputies were among the law enforcement officials who responded to a shooting at a UPS warehouse last month after three employees were killed by their longtime colleague, Jimmy Lam, who then turned the gun on himself.

The deputies helped secure the perimeter and search for employees hiding in the building and for a possible second shooter. After the shooting, a number of San Francisco police command staffers personally thanked Sheriff Vicki Hennessy for her department’s assistance, and Chief Bill Scott told the San Francisco Examiner he was grateful for the deputies’ response.

But it turns out not everyone was happy about the aid.

Last month, a San Francisco Police Officer’s Association board member — there are 37 — complained the deputies presented a danger.

“Several sheriffs [deputies] were present at the recent active shooter scene at UPS. They appeared to be preparing to enter [the] building with long rifles. This raises numerous officer safety concerns,” board member Gavin McEachern said, according to the June 21 union meeting’s minutes published in the July issue of the POA Journal.

The union’s minutes did not specify what safety concerns the deputies presented. A request for further explanation was answered without new details.

These comments are the latest in an on-again, off-again feud over who has the monopoly on patrolling the streets of San Francisco. Unlike every other sheriff’s department across the state, San Francisco’s has no unincorporated county land to patrol, leaving that duty to police alone. Instead, the roughly 850 deputies mostly work in the county’s jails, courts, hospitals and, in some capacity, streets.

That last fact was again noted in the POA Journal statements of McEachern, saying deputies on the scene “raised concern for the sheriff’s department expanding their footprint in the field. McEachern, along with other members of the board, have noticed an increase in sheriffs apparently on patrol in The City.”

In recent years, the Sheriff’s Department has also stepped up its efforts to work outside of jails with a short-lived station transfer program in 2014. That six-month pilot tasked deputies with picking up inmates at a handful of police stations so that police officers would not be burdened with spending hours delivering arrestees to jail.

More recently, in 2015, again under former Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, the department was certified by Police Officers Standards and Training (POST) to train officers for field, which the department had not been certified to do on its own.

At the time, Mirkarimi intimated that deputies could do the same work as police, and on city streets. “Where neighborhoods feel the neglect and are resigned to high crime norms, that can change. Where community policing lacks … that can change,” he said in a statement at the time.

Now, nine deputies trained in that capacity are set to begin training other deputies in August, said Eileen Hirst, the Sheriff’s Department Chief of Staff.

That program aside, Scott told the Examiner on Sunday that he appreciated the help of the deputies at the scene of the UPS shootings.

“Sheriff [deputies] are peace officers and if they are in the area and something like that, as big an event as that was, I mean, I think there’s a natural reaction to coordinate and help,” Scott said, adding that coordination is the key. “They’re there just like we are, to protect the public, so I don’t have any issues with that.”

The June 14 shooting in a UPS warehouse at 320 San Bruno Ave. left three dead — Mike Lefiti, Benson Louie and Wayne Chan — and wounded two other UPS employees. Police have no clear motive for the crime but say the men killed appeared to have been targeted.

POA officials did not have additional comment other than deferring to the department on the topic. But the POA journal’s relaying of their board meeting said the issue will be brought up with Scott.

“President [Martin] Halloran will discuss this issue with Chief Scott at their next monthly meeting.”

Read more criminal justice news on the Crime Ink page in print. Follow us on Twitter: @sfcrimeink

Jonah Owen Lamb
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Jonah Owen Lamb

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