Law enforcement officers with histories of misconduct will no longer be hired in San Francisco under the terms of a non-binding resolution introduced at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Tuesday.
If approved, the resolution would urge the San Francisco Civil Service Commission to prohibit the city’s police and sheriff’s departments from hiring officers with a history of serious misconduct.
Types of behavior that would disqualify a candidate from joining either force would include the use of excessive force, racial and other acts of discrimination and being dishonest when reporting or investigating a crime or the misconduct of another officer.
“We’ve now seen another black man killed at the hands of law enforcement in Minneapolis. This is something that has been happening for decades across the country,” Supervisor Shamann Walton said.
Walton said he was moved to introduce the resolution by the death of George Floyd, who was killed during an encounter with a group of Minneapolis police officers, one of whom, Derek Chauvin, has a long history of misconduct. The killing resulted in the firing of four officers and Chauvin’s arrest and has sparked widespread peaceful protests and riots nationally.
“We’re working hard to make sure that officers are going to be prosecuted and incarcerated when they kill unarmed black men, when they kill unarmed people of color,” Walton said during a videoconference media briefing Tuesday. “This resolution is one step towards making sure that we can keep our communities safe.”
San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin said that while state law makes it nearly impossible for the public or even his office to uncover officer misconduct, the resolution is a “small but critical step” for addressing the problem.
“In some cases, it might be impossible because of the lack of transparency, but in other cases it may not be,” Boudin said, noting that often serious cases of police misconduct are reported by the media, for example.
“We can’t guarantee that we have all the information that we need, but what we can do and what this resolution aims to do is to ensure San Franciscans that, to the extent possible, we are not ever hiring people who have a history of that kind of misconduct,” Boudin said during the briefing.
The resolution also urges the commission to avoid hiring officers who left their previous departments in the midst of misconduct investigations.
Boudin and Walton both said there is much more work to do in order to enact substantive police reform and noted that in order for the resolution to have any teeth, it would need to be approved by the city’s voters as a charter amendment, something Walton is considering.
The president of the city’s police union, Tony Montoya, said he wasn’t consulted on the resolution’s draft and called it “disingenuous.”
“It sounds to me like they are asking for something that’s already done, which is not a good use of resources,” Montoya said. “Charter amendments are very costly. I’m not saying there isn’t room to improve or adapt, but please show me where it’s broken so I can fix it.”
Montoya said prospective new hires are vetted by the departments after signing a waiver that allows investigators to look into their backgrounds, including any findings of misconduct when they were with other departments.
“Those are people that I wouldn’t want to work with personally and if in fact those allegations were proven, they were sustained, our department wouldn’t hire them in the first place,” he said.