Money, haggling hold up system for tracking officers

Names of San Francisco police officers who engage in car chases, get in accidents or find themselves the target of lawsuits may be entered into a new computer system to track potential disciplinary problems in the department.

The Early Intervention System software would track 10 so-called “indicators” — specific incidents such as complaints, uses of force and lawsuits — for each officer. If an officer were to receive, for example, five indicator points within a six-month period, the officer would be subject to a performance review.

The department policy controlling the system has been in development for the last year in order to replace the department’s early warning system, which manually tracks only citizen complaints and administrative complaints against officers. But the software has yet to be secured. Responses are due Friday to a department request for proposals for the software, which Deputy Chief Charles Keohane estimated will cost between $200,000 and $400,000.

But the system has been delayed in its implementation as the police officers union, the department and the American Civil Liberties Union continue to disagree on the language of the general order that would implement the system.

At issue are the indicators that the system would track. ACLU Police Practices Policy Director Mark Schlosberg stated in a letter to the Police Commission on Wednesday that factors such as incidents of suspects resisting arrest, incidents of assault on a police officer and cases dropped by the District Attorney’s Office due to police misconduct should be indicators, as their inclusion is considered a best practice in other departments. The ACLU has been working with the department since 2004 to develop the system.

In earlier drafts of the order, those incidents were considered indicators, but after strong resistance from the San Francisco Police Officers Association, they were reclassified as so-called”associated factors.” Fourteen such factors would be tracked by the system in addition to the 10 official indicators, but would not count toward a mandated performance review.

The union has not fully agreed to the latest version of the order, which Keohane sent to commission President Louise Renne on Friday.

Three indicators, including vehicle pursuits, car crashes and torts, raise the ire of the officers’ association. “If you’re in a vehicle pursuit and you’re in compliance with the rules and procedures, why would that count against you?” union business agent Steve Johnson said Wednesday.

But Keohane insists the indicators don’t count against officers. The performance review is meant to determine whether a pattern of negative behavior exists, not to punish an officer for such behavior, according to the draft order. Officers may be assigned counseling or may face no consequences at all, depending on the finding of the review.

amartin@examiner.com

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