Legislation enshrining limits to the Police Department’s engagement with federal anti-terrorism activities was hailed Wednesday by city officials, police and members of the Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian communities as a victory against racial profiling and for transparency.
San Francisco didn’t go as far as Portland, Ore., in abandoning its memorandum of understanding with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. But after Mayor Ed Lee vetoed a stronger bill in response to protests from police Chief Greg Suhr, a compromise was crafted that requires a public hearing before the Police Commission on any proposed new agreement with the FBI. It also mandates an annual public report about work with the task force.
Still, officials with the ACLU of Northern California, which pushed hard for the original legislation, approved of the compromise.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” said attorney John Crew. “The question will be implementation.”
Community members expressed thanks Wednesday.
“My family, members of my community, my friends, fellow classmates have all had to deal with this type of discrimination after Sept. 11,” Yemeni community member Mokhtar Alkhanshali said. “I am thankful and proud that the San Francisco community has come together.”
Supervisor Jane Kim, the legislation sponsor, said community members have been wary to work with law enforcement “because they’re worried that they’ll be investigated simply because of their religious belief or their skin color.”
“I think that this is going to go a long way, symbolically,” Kim said.
Lee said the legislation appropriately balanced civil liberties with public safety.
Suhr said he has amended Police Department policy to hold officers who work with the task force to a stricter standard. “We don’t investigate situations that don’t have a criminal predicate,” Suhr said.