SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – A blue ribbon panel created after some San Francisco police officers were accused of sending racist text messages found a lack of transparency and accountability in the department, according to a final report released Monday.
The panel formed in May of last year, just a month after some officers were accused of sending the messages.
In the report, the panel reported that police disproportionately stop and search black and Latino people and is inconsistent in its data about such practices. They also noted that there is no agency that analyzes the department in a systematic way.
"There's evidence of a good old boys club culture at the department that undermines fairness by privileging members of that club, including those in contact with internal discipline. And several officers noted that this culture created a barrier to inclusion within the department." Anand Subramanian, executive director of the panel, told reporters at a news conference on Monday.
Retired Judge Ladoris Cordell, former Independent Police Auditor for San Jose and KPIX 5 legal analyst, singled out the San Francisco Police Officers Association for what she said were efforts to prevent officers from speaking to the panel and its insistence that any racism reflects isolated incidents and not a problem with the larger culture of the department.
"The findings of this report show that for all practical purposes the San Francisco Police Department is really run by the POA," Cordell said. "The POA leadership sets the tone for the police department and historically it's been an ugly one."
Critics of the panel believe it was formed unfairly, and say District Attorney George Gascon handpicked the panel to work in his favor.
POA President Martin Halloran, in turn, slammed the panel as a biased "kangaroo court" selected by Gascon, with whom the union has clashed in the past. He called the report "divisive at a time when San Francisco sorely needs unity between police officers and the community we serve."
"Thursday, a sniper in Dallas took aim at police officers, and murdered five in cold blood," Halloran said Monday. "Today, George Gascon is taking aim at police officers in San Francisco with half-truths & distortions."
Panel member and former federal Judge Dickran Tevrizian said he found the union's response "very, very offensive." He noted that the nation is in a "healing process," but that both first responders and community members need to "temper their feelings" and words for that process to take place.
"The recommendations that we made in this report are not rocket science, it's just good police practice, and so I get offended when the Police Officers Association buries its head in the sand and won't even pay any attention to the recommendations that are contained in this report," Tevrizian said.
It remains to be seen what impact the panel's report will have on ongoing police reform efforts.
The Police Commission last month approved a revised use of force policy in response to controversy over recent police shootings that emphasizes deescalation and prohibits practices such as the carotid choke hold and shooting at moving vehicles. The panel's working group on use of force policies contributed to that revision, officials said Monday.
The police department is also currently undergoing a review by the U.S. Department of Justice's Community Oriented Policing Services, expected to produce a report later this year. While the review is nonbonding, officials with the department and the mayor's office have vowed to implement the findings.
Police Monday released a statement saying that the department would analyze the panel's report and forward it to the justice department for inclusion in its own review.
The mayor's office released a statement thanking the panel for its efforts and emphasizing reform efforts already underway, including increased implicit bias and cultural competency training, investments in body cameras and funding for deescalation training.
"We will continue to work collaboratively with the community to improve leadership, transparency and accountability within the San Francisco Police Department and strengthen policies, procedures, training and equipment to keep both residents and police officers safe," Deirdre Hussey, the mayor's director of communications, said in a statement.
More information on the blue-ribbon panel and the full report can be found at the following link: http://sfblueribbonpanel.com.
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