California to oversee SF police reform in place of Trump administration

California is stepping in to oversee police reform in San Francisco after the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would no longer collaborate with The City, local and state officials said Monday.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said that his office will review and evaluate the San Francisco Police Department as it continues to implement 272 federal recommendations for reforming the department. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions withdrew support for the reform process in September.

“We picked up the ball and we’re going to run with it,” Becerra said at a news conference with interim Mayor Mark Farrell and SFPD Chief Bill Scott. “I can’t tell you how important it is to have independent eyes overseeing these reforms.”

The SFPD has already implemented more than half of the reforms since former Chief Greg Suhr started the process in early 2016. Suhr asked the federal Office of Community Oriented Policing Services to review the SFPD amid outcry over the police shooting of Mario Woods in December 2015.

“This agreement gives our work validation,” Scott said. “It gives us credibility, it gives us transparency, and more importantly, this is about building community trust.”

Supervisor Malia Cohen later called the officers who shot Woods in the Bayview an “ethnically diverse firing squad.” Cohen said the announcement “brings us one step closer to truth and transparency to heal the rifts that we have been experiencing for generations.”

“Every officer in the department always wants to do what’s right and what’s best,” Cohen said. “That is why you see a decrease in officer-involved shootings, because we stopped being complacent and we got serious.”

Scott said use-of-force incidents dropped 18 percent in 2017 and there was a 9 percent decrease in citizen complaints last year, a change he attributed to the collaborative reform process.

The SFPD and California DOJ are expected to enter into a memorandum of understanding.

Rev. Amos Brown, local head of the NAACP and pastor of Third Baptist Church, said the U.S. DOJ began to review the department amid controversial police shootings in San Francisco and across the nation.

“The Trump Administration and Jeff Sessions have rolled back all of the initiatives of Mr. Barack Obama,” Brown said. “We still have miles to go and promises to keep.”

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