Department of Justice listening session on SFPD met with resistance, low turnout

The first of three listening sessions held by the federal body tasked with reviewing San Francisco police misconduct was met with low turnout and questions of whether the process will result in any change.

The voluntary review of the San Francisco Police Department by the federal Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services was requested by Police Chief Greg Suhr and Mayor Ed Lee in reaction to alleged police misconduct following the killing of Mario Woods in the Bayview in December.

“You’re nothing but window dressing,” said Felicia Jones, of the Justice for Mario Woods Coalition. Jones reiterated the coalitions demands: an independent investigation of Woods’ death at the hands of the SFPD, the charging of the five officers involved and the firing of police Chief Greg Suhr.

Noble Wray, who heads the office that is handling the review, said the sessions are meant as a forum for receiving information and a venue for the public to vent.

“It’s a two-year process that’s rigorous [and] deliberate,” Wray said. “We go through policies, procedures, we interview people. We’ll go to the department. We bring in experts to drill down and review data. We go on ride-alongs, [look at] training. It is a very rigorous process.”

A COPS official said the listening session Wednesday night had far fewer people than other listening sessions they’ve held in other cities.

The session also included speeches from the public — students and teachers from Thurgood Marshall High School, where the event was held — who spoke about their negative experiences with police.

Drew Andrews, an anti-violence activist from the Bayview, said he was shot by police months after returning to San Francisco from college.

“This been going on for years,” he said of police harassment and brutality in black and brown communities. The only difference, he added, was that everyone now has smartphones and can videotape what the police have been doing.

John Crew, formerly an ACLU police watchdog, said that the Justice Department needs to understand that police accountability in San Francisco has never been a priority in this city.

The next listening session will be at Mission High School on March 8 at 6 p.m.

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