Officers work a crime scene in the Bayview on May 19 where Jessica Williams, 29, was shot and killed by police. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

Officers work a crime scene in the Bayview on May 19 where Jessica Williams, 29, was shot and killed by police. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

Community meetings after police shootings may be old practice

It’s been a week since a Bayview police sergeant shot and killed 29-year-old Jessica Williams, who was allegedly driving a stolen car, and the usual community meeting held by police after such incidents has not occurred.

Under former Police Chief Greg Suhr, who resigned hours after the May 19 shooting, a community meeting was typically scheduled a week after any police shooting incident. At those meetings, Suhr would stand before an angry crowd and explain what he knew about the shooting.

The department would not say if this practice has been permanently canceled, but spokesperson Officer Grace Gatpandan said Thursday no such meeting has been scheduled in relation to the Williams case.

Few details have emerged in the shooting, other than Williams’ identity and age. The department’s policy is to release the name of the officer involved 10 days after a shooting incident.

Department representatives told reporters on the day of the shooting that two officers on a car theft detail spotted an allegedly stolen car near Shafter Avenue and Elmira Street and approached the vehicle on foot. As they tried to remove the driver from the car, a witness told police there was a “back-and-forth” and the woman was shot once by one of the officers shortly before 10 a.m.

The shooting prompted Mayor Ed Lee to ask for Suhr’s resignation and appoint Toney Chaplin as acting chief. However, little is known about how Chaplin plans to deal with the aftermath of such events.

Chaplin did meet with some community members in the Bayview the day after the shooting, but it was not an occasion specifically to address issues around Williams’ killing.

The practice of holding meetings soon after such incidents is one of the recommendations of President Barrack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

The task force’s final report said that such meetings should be “proactively called
by the department, in the neighborhood where the incident occurred, to continue and enhance
the relationship of trust by engagement, dialogue, and inclusion.”

Adante Pointer, an attorney who works for the civil rights lawyer John Burris, said Suhr’s practice to hold town hall meetings was a sign the department was trying to be open, even if at times the information often seemed justify the shootings.

“I would love to see him continue that,” said Pointer of Chaplin. “Even if it was couched in ‘This is our story.’”

Meanwhile, an outraged community facing off with police may still end the week even if the new chief isn’t there, as Suhr often was.

Protesters are expected to march on the Bayview Station Friday night to remind people of the killing of Williams.


Read more criminal justice news on the Crime Ink page in print. Follow us on Twitter: @sfcrimeinkBayview StationChief Greg SuhrChief Toney ChaplinCrimeJessica WilliamsPolice shootingSFPD

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