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Police Commission seeks final say on SFPD reforms under state review

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An agreement to give the California Department of Justice oversight over the San Francisco Police Department’s reform efforts is set to be amended to spell out the Police Commission’s role in overseeing the department. (Examiner file photo)

Months after the California Department of Justice stepped in to oversee police reform in San Francisco, the local Police Commission may soon put an end to its concerns that the state took total control over reforms in The City.

The agreement for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to review the implementation of 272 recommendations for reform in the San Francisco Police Department left out the Police Commission when first signed in February.

But that could change Wednesday when the Police Commission is set to vote on whether to sign an update to the agreement that would restate the commission’s authority as the final oversight body over the SFPD, so long as Mayor London Breed, SFPD Chief Bill Scott and Becerra also approve the revision.

Commissioner Bob Hirsch, who led the efforts to update the agreement, said at the Police Commission last week that, “There was a real concern by the commission that the commission was not a part of this document and did not have any identified role, even though under the San Francisco Charter we do.”

San Francisco entered into the agreement after the U.S. Department of Justice abandoned its oversight of the SFPD through the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services in September 2017 under U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

City officials including then-Mayor Mark Farrell hailed the partnership for bringing another independant outsider to continue the review of the SFPD. But while supporting the outside review, some on the Police Commission expressed concerns including that the state DOJ lacked the expertise of the federal DOJ.

Commission Vice President Thomas Mazzucco also compared the agreement itself to Proposition H, which would have prevented the Police Commission from setting policy on stun guns in the department had it not failed in June.

“This was one way to usurp our authority, a ballot measure was another,” Mazzucco said at the Police Commission last week. “We have to reign it back in.”

The Police Commission was initially expected to approve an update to the agreement last Wednesday that the Mayor’s Office, chief and attorney general had approved, but Commissioner John Hamasaki made additional changes.

“While we are grateful for the participation of the California DOJ, the commission is the ultimate oversight agency for SFPD and the MOU should reflect that,” Hamasaki said. “No reforms are complete until the commission signs off on them.”

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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