An officer stands outside the Bayview Police Station during a rally in San Francisco, Calif. Thursday, June 2, 2016. (Rachael Garner/Special to S.F. Examiner)

SFPD use of force policy subject of debate at Police Commission meeting

After months of negotiations and delays, the San Francisco Police Commission may be a week away from fully implementing a new use-of-force policy over which a contentious and public rift has opened between the The City’s police union and the commission.

On Wednesday night, the commission indicated it may be ready to implement the use-of-force policy despite continued opposition by the San Francisco Police Officers Association to rules barring officers from shooting at moving vehicles. However, the commission was told by a city negotiator that the commission is not legally required to come to terms with the union over the policy.

“It is The City’s position [that] those are not mandatory issues for bargaining,” said Lawanna Preston, a Human Resources Department employee, on the impasse.

Since June, the two bodies have been at odds over the new use-of-force policy, unanimously passed by the Police Commission that month. The new policy is meant to reduce the number of fatal police incidents after a series of high-profile police shootings, including the Dec. 2, 2015, killing of Mario Woods.

The main sticking point has been over whether police are allowed to shoot at moving vehicles, which is supported by the San Francisco Police Officers Association. The commission’s policy bars officers from doing that but has certain exemptions.

Negotiations over implementation of the reform package broke down in November and the union has since filed a grievance with The City, leaving the two bodies in a holding pattern.

On Wednesday night, while the matter was discussed, no action was taken. Still, the matter is expected to return to the commission next week for possible action, President Suzy Loftus said.

Several speakers repeated what they had told the commission in the past: There was never a need for negotiations over such issues.

“I’m not sure why you’ve not adopted it,” asked ACLU lawyer Alan Schlosser, who praised the commission for not buckling to POA pressure.

“DHR just told you, you could implement this policy tonight,” said former ACLU lawyer and police watchdog John Crew.

Loftus said there would be no vote Wednesday because the public had not been properly notified and no document was in front of the commission.

While it’s unclear what the commission will decide, a number of outcomes could occur, according to San Francisco Human Resources Chief of Policy Susan Gard.

“The question is still how to go forward,” Gard said , who warned that she has no crystal ball when it comes to the matter.

If the commission votes to call in an arbiter, who would make an independent decision over the disputed details in the negotiations, that decision would be final. If the arbitration process ends with parts of the use-of-force policy altered, such as allowing police to shoot at moving cars, the commission would lose its fight against the union.

If the commission remains resolute and simply moves to implement the use-of-force policy as voted on in June — without POA cooperation — the result could be a lawsuit, which could slow the rollout of the new policy by years.

Another possibility is some negotiated settlement in which both sides agree to a compromise.

The union recently doubled down on its commitment to shooting at moving cars in a television advertisement, alleging that such a rule would endanger the public.

Commission President Loftus did not take kindly to that advertisement, which called on viewers to contact her personally with their concerns.

The advertisement, called propaganda by at least two speakers, was widely criticized by nearly every commissioner and many speakers.

“This is not landmark nor historic,” said Commissioner Julius Turman in defense of what he called a personal attack against Loftus by the POA. “We’re not the first jurisdiction to say no shooting at moving cars.”

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday passed a resolution urging the commission to stick to its original stand on the policy, and Supervisor Malia Cohen came in person to the commission meeting to voice her support.

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