Members of the Police Commission, seen here in January, and Police Department were addressed by the Board of Supervisors on Monday over department reforms. (Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)

SF Police Commission, brass face elected leaders over reforms

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voiced muted concerns about the prospect of reforms Tuesday night to The City’s Police Commission and brass at a joint meeting to address a series of negative reviews of the department.

While the department set out its plan to implement those reforms Tuesday, including a recent federal review, several supervisors questioned the details of that plan and the police union’s continued power to block the department’s reforms.

“We’ve got some hard work to do,” said Supervisor Malia Cohen at the hearing, then questioning the details of reform, which the department’s representative didn’t seem to have articulated.

“I’m interested in specifics,” said Cohen, pointing to one area of reform. “How do you change a culture?”

That remark was followed by a less than clear explanation by the department’s spokesman Capt. Michael Connolly, who said culture will be changed through training, policy and accountability.

When Cohen addressed issues around data collection, and asked how soon the department would hire an academic to assess the department’s improved data collection, Connolly did not know, saying it was not one of the priorities at this point in the reform process.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin then asked what the commission and department have done to address the San Francisco Police Officers Association’s obstructionism, specifically calling the union’s recent obstruction in the negotiation over the new use-of-force policy “troubling.”

“What steps are being taken to make the POA a sentient 21st century organization?” asked Peskin.

Connolly responded that the POA has been trying its best and issued a press release supporting the DOJ’s recent findings.

The board’s doubts were addressed by the commission president.

“There have been reports in the past,” warned Police Commission President Suzy Loftus, who added that failure to reform at this point will be in the hands of this city.

Despite doubts on the board, police officials and the Mayor’s Office claimed in a press release and at the hearing of continued commitment to reforms.

For much of the past year the commission has spent its energies on reforming the department.

Over that period a series of fatal police shootings and two separate racist text message scandals have put increasing pressure on the department to change its practices.

With that in mind the federal Department of Justice was asked to review the department earlier this year and release its assessment in October. That inquiry was only one of three recent looks at the department’s practices around how it uses force and policies minority communities.

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