In Wake of Scandal, New ACLU Report Calls for Major Reforms in San Francisco Police Department

March 12, 2003 12:00 am

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SAN FRANCISCO — The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California issued a report today calling for major reforms in the San Francisco Police Department in the wake of the recent indictments of high-ranking officers. The report, titled “Roadmap to Reform — Strengthening the Accountability Mechanisms of the San Francisco Police Department,” outlines steps that should be taken to strengthen accountability in the Department.

“The recent indictments in the SFPD have shone a spotlight on the Department as a whole and the mechanisms that exist for holding police accountable for misconduct,” the ACLU report said.

“From officers failing to cooperate with the Office of Citizen Complaints to Management Control’s failure to act on their cases; from an inadequate early intervention system to a culture that is unsupportive of whistleblowers; and from a lack of disciplinary action to a Police Commission that is unwilling to adequately address issues of public concern, the system is breaking down,” the report continues.

“In the wake of the indictments, public confidence in the San Francisco Police Department has plummeted,” said Mark Schlosberg, Police Practices Policy Director of the ACLU-NC. “This report provides a roadmap that should be taken to strengthen the Department’s accountability mechanisms and demonstrate that police misconduct will not be tolerated.”

Some of the report’s specific recommendations include:

  • Modernizing, improving, and expanding the Department’s Early Warning System to include factors such as use of force, civil claims, resisting arrest charges, and violations of individual’s constitutional rights as automatic triggers to intervention.
  • Adopting strong whistleblower protections to protect officers who report on misconduct and advocate for changes in departmental policy.
  • Creating automatic triggers of disciplinary investigations for officers who are found by a court to have violated a defendant’s constitutional rights or whom have civil claims filed against them.
  • Re-evaluating the criteria and procedures for officer promotion including the role of sustained complaints for serious misconduct and substantial payments stemming from lawsuits over misconduct in making promotion determinations.
  • Imposing suspensions for officers who fail to cooperate with investigations of the Office of Citizen Complaints.
  • Requiring regular and public reporting by the Department on the status of citizen complaints that have been sustained by the Office of Citizen Complaints but are pending at the Department.

The report includes an analysis of several areas in which accountability mechanisms are failing and provides a roadmap to reforming the system, with concrete steps that should be taken to improve police accountability in San Francisco and restore public confidence in the City’s police department.

To read the ACLU report, go to:

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