Department of Police Accountability to take over misconduct investigations for sheriff

San Francisco’s Department of Police Accountability will now be tasked with investigating cases of misconduct within the city’s Sheriff’s Department, Mayor London Breed announced Monday.

Under a memorandum of understanding between the two departments, the police accountability department will takeover investigations for the sheriff department’s Internal Affairs unit, which previously handled them.

According to Breed’s office, the agreement between the two agencies began back in March, when Sheriff Vicki Hennessey first turned over misconduct cases that emerged from complaints of inmates in San Francisco jails.

“Transparency and accountability are critically important when it comes to law enforcement,” Breed said in a statement. “This agreement ensures important public oversight of investigations in cases of potential misconduct and will help our residents feel confident that complaints are heard and properly handled.”

“Even when law enforcement does a good job of investigating itself, many members of the public still feel they can’t trust the results of the investigation,” Hennessy said. “Our agreement with the Department of Police Accountability is an important step toward ensuring trust and transparency in the Sheriff’s Department.”

Earlier this year, the sheriff’s department faced criticism for its handling of investigations after the city’s district attorney’s office dropped charges against one former and two current deputies in connection with a alleged 2015 fight club happening at one of the city’s jailhouses, in which inmates were allegedly forced to fight each other as deputies placed bets.

The charges were dropped after it was revealed that sheriff’s department investigators looking into case used immunized statements from the deputies, which is unlawful, and then later moved to destroy evidence showing the statements were taken illegally.

Among the cases the police accountability department will now be tasked with investigating include in-custody deaths and complaints from the public and outside government agencies. It will also investigate inmates’ complaints of excessive force, sexual assault, harassment and retaliation.

Findings from such investigations will then be submitted to the sheriff’s department, where a decision on disciplinary action will be decided, according to Breed’s office.

In addition, the accountability department will also provide monthly summaries and quarterly reports on complaints statistics and status updates on investigations.

The accountability department’s Executive Director Paul Henderson said, “These investigations and related discipline recommendations will increase transparency, accountability and community trust.”

The police accountability department, formerly called the Office of Citizen Complaints, previously only provided oversight for the city’s Police Department.

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