Police Commissioner John Hamasaki questions Chief Bill Scott at City Hall on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Police Commissioner John Hamasaki questions Chief Bill Scott at City Hall on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

SFPD should probe whether officers joined Capitol raid, commissioners say

Chief unaware of any members participating in insurrection

While San Francisco police are not aware of any officers who joined the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol, Chief Bill Scott is facing calls to launch an internal investigation and determine for certain that no officers were involved.

Police Commissioners John Hamasaki and Cindy Elias pressed for the investigation late Wednesday amid reports that off-duty officers from across the nation are alleged to have participated in the pro-Trump insurrection.

Other major cities have launched similar proactive investigations or begun to probe specific members in connection with invasion. In Oakland, police are investigating after a former officer admitted to marching on the capitol and several active officers liked his comments on social media.

“I really do not expect them to find members of this department involved in that,” Hamasaki said at the Police Commission meeting. “But I think that we need to do everything we can to give the public confidence that that is absolutely not tolerated in this department.”

Hamasaki argued that the investigation is warranted in San Francisco given the department’s history with white supremacist tendencies, namely a 2015 scandal over a group of officers exchanging racist text messages and joking about burning crosses.

The issue came up when commission President Malia Cohen asked Scott whether any sworn officers or other members of the San Francisco Police Department participated in the attack.

“I haven’t had any reports of anybody from the SFPD being a party to that,” Scott said.

Scott and Department of Police Accountability Executive Director Paul Henderson each committed to notifying the Police Commission about such a report should one arise.

“A lot of what we saw on television was criminal activity,” Scott said. “We have very good relationships with our local FBI office and I’m confident that if our members were involved in any of that we would know about it fairly quickly.”

Elias, the commission vice president, said the SFPD should launch the investigation rather than wait to see if the FBI finds out an officer was involved. That could result in problems for the department, which has a limited amount of time to seek discipline against an officer once alleged misconduct is uncovered.

“It would be unfortunate to be in a situation where we wait for the FBI to turn over its results to you after it completes its investigation,” Elias said. “They’ve done that to the department in the past and put the department in a precarious position resulting in lawsuits and possibly an inability to do discipline.”

Scott took issue when Hamasaki recommended the SFPD begin the investigation by probing officers who had a day off last Tuesday or Wednesday.

“I don’t think it’s reasonable to start questioning people who took a day off,” Scott said.

But the chief agreed he would “do everything possible, within reason.”

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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