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Police withdraw from controversial FBI anti-terrorism task force

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The San Francisco Police Department announced Wednesday evening that it has suspended cooperation with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. (Courtesy FBI)
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The San Francisco Police Department has suspended its nearly decade-long cooperation with the FBI’s anti-terrorism task force, the department announced Wednesday night after months of negotiations with civil liberty groups.

“It is the right decision at this point that we need to cease Joint Terrorism Task Force participation,” said Police Commission President Julius Turman after he and the commission were notified Wednesday just before the meeting began.

The announcement comes after civil liberties groups raised alarms that such cooperation under a Donald Trump administration was troublesome since the president has publicly stated a disregard for constitutional protections.

While SFPD brass noted the department’s decision to pull out of the JTTF would have occurred no matter who was president, others framed the move as resistance to the Trump administration.

“I’m proud of San Francisco,” said former ACLU lawyer John Crew, who explicitly called the move an act of resistance.

The department’s participation in the Joint Terrorism Task Force was inaugurated in 2007, but because of worries over abuses, The City passed a 2012 law barring liaison officers from participating in certain investigations.

FBI officers are not barred from questioning people based on tips or simply suspicion, instead of the higher bar of reasonable suspicion.

Despite this oversight, which also included annual reports and department oversight, SFPD did not always live up to the letter or spirit of the law.

Because of these issues, civil liberty groups had been working with the department and the FBI in order to find a new way forward in regard to cooperation in anti terrorism efforts. Those efforts had come to naught by Trump’s inauguration.

While most present commended the move, and some explicitly said the department should not ever rejoin the JTTF, Commissioner Sonia Melara stated that she wanted to make sure The City remains safe.

“What are we going to do moving forward?” she asked. “San Francisco is a target city.”
Deputy Chief Tim Redmond said the department remains committed to keeping The City safe, but also must keep in mind the rights of its citizens.

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