San Francisco Mayor London Breed, shown here with Police Chief Bill Scott, announced a package of police reform initaitives on Thursday. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Mayor Breed announces plan for police reform

Plan calls for ban on tear gas, military weapons and reduction of reliance on police for nonviolent calls

In the face of nationwide protests demanding police accountability, San Francisco Mayor London Breed unveiled a roadmap Thursday for reforming the city’s Police Department, which includes plans to demilitarize police and redirect funds to the city’s African American community.

Breed’s plan also calls for the city to reduce the need to police as first responders to nonviolent situations, and for transforming the way officers are hired, promoted, trained and disciplined.

“San Francisco has made progress reforming our police department, but we know that we still have significant work to do,” Breed said in a statement. “We know that a lack of equity in our society overall leads to a lot of the problems that police are being asked to solve. We are going to keep pushing for additional reforms and continue to find ways to reinvest in communities that have historically been underserved and harmed by systemic racism,” she said.

Breed said as part of the plan, she’s already directed the Police Department to establish policy to explicitly ban the use of military-grade weapons like tear gas, tanks and bayonets, against unarmed people. She has also called for a strategy on taking away such weapons from the department by 2021 and to create “safeguards” against federal grants that fund them.

Breed’s plan also calls for ending the use of police officers as responders to nonviolent calls and instead for the use of non-law enforcement agencies like community or city-based providers. Part of the measure aims to reduce the need for armed officer interventions at schools.

Additionally, Breed has directed the city’s Human Resources Department and the Department of Police Accountability to work with police to identify and screen for indicators for bias, improve training and data sharing, and strengthen SFPD’s Early Intervention System, which identifies officers whose performance shows signs of risky behavior.

Breed has also directed staff to audit all SFPD and San Francisco Sheriff’s Office hiring and promotional exams and incorporate new testing to root out bias and potential for abuse of force. She’s also directed the Department of Police Accountability to expand its focus beyond individual instances of misconduct and evaluate broader patterns of bias.

Lastly, Breed’s plan calls for redirecting city funding to invest in programs and organizations that serve communities historically harmed by systemic racism.

Last week, Breed announced with Supervisor Shamann Walton, whose district includes historically black neighborhoods like Hunters Point and the Bayview, that the city’s upcoming budget would reflect those changes. She has already called on the city’s Human Rights Commission, along with community members, to identify and prioritize those funding needs ahead of the budget’s Aug. 1 due date.

According to the mayor, her plan builds on ongoing work being done to implement change within SFPD as outlined in the 272 reform recommendations provided by the U.S. Department of Justice back in 2016 and standards contained in former President Barack Obama’s 2015 Task Force on 21 Century Policing.

Police Chief Bill Scott said, “We understand that it’s necessary for law enforcement to listen to the African American community and embrace courageous changes to address disparate policing practices, and we recognize it will take sacrifice on our part to fulfill the promise of reform.”

Earlier on Thursday, Breed, who grew up in government housing in the city’s Western Addition area, held a candid discussion with Scott, news commentator Van Jones and former Supervisor Malia Cohen on police reform.

”When I think about what I saw with George Floyd and when I thought about the video with Eric Garner, and even Mario Woods here in San Francisco; when I see these things happen, I’m thinking about my brother, my cousin and others,” she said during the chat. “I feel like, ‘Why? Why is it always us?’”

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