Supervisor John Avalos is proposing to withhold money from the San Francisco Police Department's budget if the department does not submit quarterly reports on use-of-force and racial data. (Emma Chiang/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Supervisor wants to require SFPD to report reform progress

A proposal that would hold millions of dollars of funding for the San Francisco Police Department in limbo unless the department gives quarterly reports to The City is drawing the ire of police, who say they are already required to report to the Board of Supervisors on such matters.

The only problem with that assertion is that the department apparently already missed its first deadline to do so.

Supervisor Malia Cohen, who authored a recent law requiring police report to the Board of Supervisors the breakdown of people stopped by race, said the department’s first report was due June 30. Cohen noted that date came and passed with no report.

“I’m disappointed,” she told the San Francisco Examiner about the department’s failure to meet its first deadline.

Supervisor John Avalos’ proposal to withhold funding for police pending their quarterly reports would keep funds in reserve in an effort to force the department to be accountable with how and when it puts into practice reforms, such as new use-of-force rules, among others.

If Avalos is successful, $15 million of the Police Department’s budget would be placed on reserve. Initially the amount proposed was $200 million, which would have left the department with enough funding to operate for the first six months of the fiscal year before having to return to the Board of Supervisors to ask for additional money, the Examiner previously reported.

The $15 million would only be released if the department makes specific reforms, like adopting a use-of-force policy that requires de-escalation techniques and “use of the ‘minimal force necessary’ as opposed to ‘reasonable’ force.”

There would also need to be quarterly reports on arrests and use of force, including demographic data and incidents resulting in death or injury.

The department’s position, described in a letter sent this week to Avalos, is that they already are required to report such information to the Board of Supervisors. Per current law, the department must report quarterly on racial data during arrests, traffic stops, encounters and detentions.

Interim Chief Toney Chaplin reiterated that stance in the letter to Avalos on Wednesday.

“Department staff worked closely with Supervisor Malia Cohen’s office to ensure the systems, which required a comprehensive retooling, would be in place to accurately collect, analyze, and report this critical data,” Chaplin wrote.

The letter went on to say the department has and will report on its activities to the Board of Supervisors, but tying up funding for public safety will have consequences.

“Let me assure you, our appearance before this legislative body to keep you and the public informed on these landmark changes requires no arbitrary dollar figure to be held in reserve — it is something we are prepared to do when requested and/or already required by law.”

For Avalos, releasing the funds would simply require a report four times a year.

The department has been under heavy scrutiny because of a series of racist text scandals and recent fatal police shootings. Following the December killing by police of Mario Woods in the Bayview, Mayor Ed Lee directed the department to implement a series of reforms and the federal Department of Justice has launched a review of the department’s practices.

Last week, a yearlong District Attorney-launched Blue Ribbon Panel headed by three judges released a damning report stating that the department is not transparent enough, fails to discipline appropriately, and disproportionately arrests and stops people of color.

As for Avalos’ proposal, he says he has even agreed to a compromise.

Avalos met with police brass July 11 in an attempt to negotiate with them. But they remain opposed to the plan even after Avalos dropped the amount of money in question from $200 million to $15 million.

The board is set to vote on the budget Tuesday.


Read more criminal justice news on the Crime Ink page in print. Follow us on Twitter: @sfcrimeink
CrimeJohn AvalosMalia CohenSan Francisco Police DepartmentToney Chaplin

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