The first of two public meetings held by the San Francisco Police Commission on a draft use of force policy was canceled because of activist interruptions Wednesday night.
The meeting at City College of San Francisco’s Ocean Avenue campus was scheduled so the commission could hear from the public on the reforms.
But as public comment got underway, repeated outbursts and yelling forced Commission President Suzy Loftus to adjourn the meeting once, and then finally shut it down just 20 minutes after the meeting began at 6 p.m.
At one point Ilych Sato, also called “Equipto,” one of the hunger strikers known as the “Frisco 5,” yelled at Commissioner Joe Marshall.
“Joe Marshall, you a sucker, a sell out,” he hollered.
Another speaker called out the commission for failing to oversee officers properly before the spate of recent police killings.
“You’re not held accountable in the first place,” said the speaker.
While it was hard to know the exact focus of the activists’ interruption, much of what was said after the Police Commission broke up its meeting and the protesters began their own centered on police reforms and distrust of the institutions aiming to reform the Police Department, from the San Francisco Police Officer’s Association to the Police Commission.
“The POA are our target,” one of the activist said during their meeting.
That sentiment was carried over to Thursday when Edwin Lindo, another of the “Frisco 5” wrote an open letter to the POA in a response to the union’s latest journal, which included an attack on the “Frisco 5,” calling them fictitious hunger strikers, and which said another police shooting will occur no matter who is chief.
“Another OIS is inevitable,” wrote union president Martin Halloran. “Why? Because career criminals will always commit crimes, they will never want to go back to jail, they will always resist arrest and try to flee — especially to an infamous ‘Sanctuary City.’ Career criminals and other opportunists will always assault cops with guns, knives, machetes, and try to run over them with vehicles. The cops will then do what they have been trained to do. They will protect themselves, their fellow officers, and the public from the imminent threat of great bodily harm or death, and if that leads to deadly force then that is what is going to happen.”
Lindo responded in kind, calling the union’s head “mob-like” and the union’s influence on The City “rotten.”
“I write this letter in response to your immature and sad attempt to discredit an entire community and to suggest that recent killings of black and brown brothers and sisters are either inevitable or the fault of the victims,” Lindo wrote.
Since December, activists have been calling for the firing of former police Chief Greg Suhr, the prosecution of officers involved in several shootings and an independent investigation of those incidents. Suhr resigned last month after another fatal police shooting, the U.S. Department of Justice launched a review of the department earlier this year and Mayor Ed Lee called on the department to reform its use of force polices so fewer fatal incidents occur.
The policy changes called for by the Lee, and briefly discussed at Wednesday’s meeting, are meant to address what some see as the department’s all too often fatal use of force against civilians. Three recent shooting deaths are examples, in many eyes, of a department that is too ready to shoot and kill instead of deflate dangerous situations. The killing of Mario Woods in December sparked widespread outrage and the multiple efforts around reforming how and when the department uses force.
With that in mind, the new policy proposals make the sanctity of life a central plank of the department’s philosophy, with techniques such as time and distance as well as deescalation being focal points for training.
The commission earlier this month approved a policy around body worn cameras, which will be rolled out before the end of the year. That, along with a number of other efforts meant to make police more accountable and less lethal, are some of the efforts underway around the reforms.
The commission has planned another meeting to hear from the public June 17. The controversial inclusion of stun guns as a possible less lethal tool for the police has been removed from the discussion on use of force, but not taken off the table all together.
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