Sunday, July 31, 2016
San Francisco Civil Grand Jury: Investigations of SFPD officer-involved shootings must be more timely and transparent
San Francisco – The 2015-2016 San Francisco Civil Grand Jury (CGJ) calls upon City and County agencies investigating officer-involved shootings (OIS) by the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) to complete their investigations more quickly and to make the entire process more transparent.
For its report, “Into the Open: Opportunities for More Timely and Transparent Investigations of Fatal San Francisco Police Department Officer-Involved Shootings,” the CGJ tracked the investigations related to the 18 fatal SFPD OIS incidents since 2011 and reached three main conclusions:
• Investigations of fatal OIS incidents take too long.
• The public lacks access to information about the process by which OIS incidents are investigated.
• City and county agencies share too little information with the public about individual fatal OIS investigations.
“The citizens of San Francisco don’t get enough information to determine whether the current OIS investigation process works properly or whether the results of these investigations are fair and just,” said Civil Grand Juror Eric Vanderpool. “We have made a number of recommendations directed at each of the City agencies involved that would remedy this problem.” The agencies involved include the SFPD, the DA’s Office, the Police Commission and the Office of Citizens Complaints.
In its boldest recommendation, the CGJ challenges the City to create an oversight task force to mitigate the perception of bias in fatal OIS investigations and to ensure that fatal OIS investigations are completed quickly and transparently. Currently, the SFPD takes the lead in investigating shootings by its own officers, with the District Attorney (DA) conducting a parallel criminal investigation and the Office of Citizen Complaints (OCC) conducting an administrative one.
The CGJ also urges the SFPD and the DA’s Office to streamline and prioritize OIS investigations so that they are completed more quickly. The CGJ also recommends that each City agency involved in OIS investigations create a webpage to educate the public about that agency’s role in the investigations and to keep the public informed about each OIS investigation.
Because the CGJ found that none of the agencies fundamental to OIS investigations has done an adequate job of informing the citizens of San Francisco how the process works, the CGJ report includes an outline and timeline of how OIS incidents are investigated based on department policies.
The CGJ report also contains summaries of each of the 18 fatal SFPD OIS incidents. “The Jury felt that it was important to remember that the ultimate result in every one of these fatal officer-involved shootings is the loss of a life,” Vanderpool added, “regardless of whether one thinks the actions of the police were proper or not. To acknowledge that, we identify all 18 individuals in our report and provide a synopsis of events leading to their deaths.”
The Superior Court selects 19 San Franciscans to serve year-long terms as Civil Grand Jurors. The Jury has the authority to investigate City and County government by reviewing documents and interviewing public officials and private individuals. At the end of its investigations, the Jury issues reports outlining findings and recommendations. County agencies identified in the report receive copies and must respond to these findings and recommendations. The Board of Supervisors conducts a public hearing on each CGJ report.
July 21, 2016
San Francisco Bay View