San Francisco could have a new police chief as early as Thursday, and that person will have to deal with what is believed to be a scathing but not surprising review of the department by federal authorities that’s set to be released Wednesday morning.
Perhaps the most controversial part of the review is the recommendation for stun guns for the department.
The finalists in the chief search — from three to five people — are scheduled to be chosen in a closed session Police Commission on Wednesday night and then forwarded to Mayor Ed Lee, who will make the final selection for a permanent replacement chief.
Lee’s decision could come on the heels of the initial assessment from the more than nine-month federal review of the Police Department, which will be released at a news conference at 11 a.m. Wednesday.
Some members of the department have already been privy to the initial voluminous assessment. Top brass got a look, but were not allowed to keep copies of the report and had to sign letters of nondisclosure by the Department of Justice.
The report is far from a glowing review of the department, according to two sources within the department who have seen the report but were not authorized to speak on the record and therefore did not want their names published.
The DOJ’s Community Oriented Policing Services report, requested by the mayor in January following the Dec. 2, 2015, fatal shooting by police of Mario Woods in the Bayview, was gauged by sources as a seven out of 10 negative assessment of the department.
But the San Francisco Examiner has learned the report’s details will be no surprise for a department that has been under recent scrutiny by not only the District Attorney’s Blue Ribbon Panel, but also The City’s civil grand jury. Both of those inquiries into the department found issues with oversight, transparency and unfair policing practices when it comes to black and Latino residents.
Specifically, findings in the roughly 400-page assessment — which also has about 200 recommendations — reportedly included that the department disproportionately uses force and shoots people of color. It also found the same is true for traffic stops.
The report recommended the department stop using carotid holds, a move opposed by the Police Officers Association which is currently negotiating that issue after new use-of-force rules were passed in June.
The union has agreed to 80 percent of the new use-of-force policy, but remains in negotiations over the carotid use and shooting at vehicles, both of which are banned in the new department general orders. In the meantime, acting Chief Toney Chaplin has issued a bulletin temporarily ordering the stop to both practices.
The report also reportedly recommends the department adopt stun guns, a move the union has supported but is opposed by many police watchdogs.
When it came to community relations, the report was damning.
The federal assessment found the department has no tools to measure how or if its community policing efforts are working. The findings question the purpose and aim of the newly minted reform bureau known as the Bureau of Professional Standards and asked if the small bureau, which is led by a deputy chief, could be absorbed by another bureau or whether it should be given more power.
The report, like the Blue Ribbon Panel’s findings released in May, also found the union has too much influence over the department, leading to an unhealthy association. The Blue Ribbon Panel said the union often perpetuates some of the worst parts of police culture and stands in the way of reforms.
When it comes to hiring, the COPS report came away suggesting that retirees should no longer conduct background investigations on applicants, mirroring the Blue Ribbon Panel’s critique of the practice. The panel found this troubling because the old timers were thought to be perpetuating certain aspects of policing that are no longer considered mainstream.
The COPS review also said the department needs to improve its technological practices, especially data collection and analysis. The Blue Ribbon Panel similarly took issue with the department’s technological prowess, noting that data collection and analysis were woefully inadequate.
How and if the COPS findings will impact the mayor’s choice for chief remains to be seen, but the scathing report could impact whether he chooses an insider or an outsider who some view as more capable of transforming the department.
Two weekends ago, the 11 semifinalists — split about evenly between insiders and outsiders — were interviewed by the commission in a downtown law firm, according to four sources who spoke to the Examiner on the condition of anonymity.
The candidates were asked everything from questions about their resume and experience to their plan to implement the reforms around use of force, and how they will deal with the POA, according to sources with knowledge of the meeting.
The Police Commission in closed session will discuss an action item on the police chief search Wednesday, but the names of those finalists will not be released to the public.
The Mayor’s Office has not said whether they will ask the finalists to release their names to the public.