Feds’ Really helpful Reforms To The SFPD Are Shifting Alongside — Slowly

July 22, 2021

While the SFPD has apparently accelerated the pace of its years of reform efforts after the state’s criticism of its slow progress, the last stragglers on the list of 272 reform recommendations by the Ministry of Justice can take up to four years to implement, according to the SFPD’s monthly update to the police commission from Wednesday.

The Police Commission appears to have taken a more laissez-faire approach to holding the SFPD accountable for the reforms first unveiled in 2016, but this timeline, while not surprising, is as problematic as ever, according to former ACLU Police Practice Attorney John Crew.

“The big picture is that SFPD appears to be much more intent on doing major police reform than actually doing the most important parts of it,” Crew said of the department’s update.

The Collaborative Reform Initiative includes 272 recommendations to the SFPD in a 2016 report by the US Department of Justice. Supervision of the department’s progress was transferred to the California Department of Justice after the Federal Department of Justice withdrew from the program under then-President Trump.

In the past year, over 120 reforms achieved “substantial implementation” and the total number implemented and implemented rose to 193 this summer – progress was announced in front of the Police Commission on Wednesday evening. Another 60 are waiting for external approval. The reforms cover five categories: violence, bias, citizen police, accountability and recruitment, recruitment and retention.

“The work really rests on our collaborative reform partners right now,” said Catherine McGuire, executive director of the SFPD’s Strategic Management Bureau, referring to the 59 reforms awaiting external validation by and from the California Department of Justice. Hillard Heintze will be checked before moving to CAL DOJ. “In May there were eleven recommendations for broad compliance and in June six recommendations.”

However, not all of the work rests with the partners. Nineteen of the recommendations remain “in progress” (not implemented) on the SFPD’s schedule, according to yesterday evening’s presentation.

The period of one to four years gives the impression that some critical recommendations, such as regular employee reviews and the obligation to “review and understand the reasons for the different uses of lethal force”, will not be implemented anytime soon. And the timetable for the reforms has already been postponed several times, so that these estimates by the SFPD are uncertain.

Recommendation 27.5 suggested that “all officials and supervisors should receive full bias and cultural literacy training within 18 months of the publication of this report.” That reform was essentially implemented in March, almost five years later. Recommendation 39.4 encouraged the SFPD to analyze its training needs and develop a training plan within 9 months of the original report in 2016. Today this reform still needs external validation.

The police, Crew said, show no sense of urgency to complete all reforms. “It’s all decontextualized how an unreformed police agency actually affects the people on the street, affects communities, and affects generations of San Franciscans.”

The three reforms expected to take the longest all fall into one category: Over the next three to four years, the SFPD expects to address the finding 20 that “the SFPD does not have enough data on arrests and Use of violence recorded to have strong scientific analysis. “In other words, it is difficult to assess whether incidents of violence are more common among racial minorities.

When asked why it will take so long to implement the remaining reforms, McGuire said, “This planning process has to happen first, then there is a procurement process, and then there is an implementation process.” She stressed the need to ensure that the system “is really well implemented and takes into account the needs of our department and other departments that we know our systems are integrated with”.

“This whole idea that you need perfect data before you can respond to the problem of disparities is just a pretext for not acting at all,” said Crew.

All three recommendations for finding 79 also appear in the timeline as one and a half years not yet completed. It says: “The evaluation of employee performance is not an institutionalized practice in the SFPD.” The reform ideas in this area are not new: the reforms require staff reviews around twice a year and the use of performance reviews as a factor in promotions.

Calling the employee assessment reforms “both fundamental and extremely significant”, Crew said, “The culture of this department is not to see these as problems, not to intervene… when [employee evaluations were] a priority, it wouldn’t be 2021 and it’s on the to-do list. ”

When the reform initiative was launched in 2016, Crew and others, including then-defender Jeff Adachi, warned that collaborative reform would not work in San Francisco, and instead pushed for a “model or practice” federal or state agency that would The department could remain legally responsible for changes

This type of intervention may be imminent in San Francisco while reforms have been slow, but the Trump administration has “stamped out” the practice. Now it is up to the city and its officials to push for change.

Last month, three recommendations in the “bias” category achieved broad agreement and 23 are awaiting validation by the CAL DOJ, making it the second post-recruitment category with no pending action on the part of the SFPD. Meanwhile, the violence, policing, and accountability categories each have a handful of recommendations.

And despite obvious progress, sustainability and accountability for the reforms implemented are still in the air, as Police Commission President Malia Cohen said on Wednesday. “Without sustainability, this is a kind of check-the-box exercise.”

Review and improvement loops are often part of the compliance measures for the various recommendations that can ensure improvements are made, and Cohen noted that “CAL DOJ advised it that there is not a really solid, thorough plan” for sustainability measures for the various reforms there.

When asked how progress on reforms would be tracked by the SFPD, McGuire said that an automated system that inventories and checks in all of these review loops is weeks away from being rolled out. It is unclear to what extent this information will be made publicly available.

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