A measure introduced to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday could be placed on the June ballot for voters to decide whether an independent investigation is launched each time a San Francisco police officer discharges a firearm, according to the office of Supervisor Malia Cohen.
The current policy of the Office of Citizen Complaints, the civilian agency tasked with reviewing claims against police, is to investigate cases in which an officer discharges his or her weapon only if a complaint is filed, according to executive director Joyce Hicks.
As a result, the OCC has investigated just eight of the 35 police shootings reported in San Francisco in the past five years — 31 of which have resulted in injury or death — Hicks said at a Tuesday press conference introducing the ballot measure.
“We believe the charter amendment will increase transparency and increase community police relations,” Hicks said.
Cohen’s introduction of the ballot measure follows her call, alongside board President London Breed, for an independent investigation into the fatal police shooting of Mario Woods. In a letter last week, Mayor Ed Lee echoed that notion and asked the U.S. Department of Justice to review the Woods case.
“This is, needless to say, a difficult and very alarming time for the people who worry about fairness in the American law enforcement agencies,” Cohen said at the Tuesday press conference. “We must, as a city, begin to take the necessary steps to ensure transparency.”
The ballot measure will be heard before the board’s Rules Committee in late February. If passed, the measure will head back to the full board for a vote in early March, Cohen said.
At Police Commission meetings, Hicks has voiced concern about the inadequate number of investigators at the OCC, which has slowed investigations. On Tuesday, she said the office’s budget would need to be expanded for investigations into every officer-involved firearm discharge.
“I am in conversation with the mayor’s budget office about the Office of Citizen Complaints’ budget needs,” Hicks said. “The current budget, as it stands — no, it will not adequately support this increase. But I believe that, through the support of the mayor and the Board of Supervisors, we will be staffed and appropriately equipped to handle this extremely important responsibility.”
A group of community members, including Shawn Richard from Brothers Against Guns, who has been a spokesperson for Woods’ mother since Woods was shot and killed, supported Cohen’s measure at the press conference.
“We have a lot of great police officers in the city of San Francisco, but we can do better,” Richard said. “We lose the trust when we have these types of incidents that occur.”CrimeMalia CohenMario Woods