Last week, two San Francisco police officers shot and killed 45-year-old homeless man Luis Gongora near an encampment on Shotwell Street between 18th and 19th streets where he lived.
The incident is the latest in a line of police shootings that have many pushing for use-of-force reform within the police department, and we thought we’d ask candidates for District 9 supervisor to weigh in.
What could have prevented the death of Luis Gongora?
Respuestas en español aquí.
Hillary Ronen, Chief of Staff for Supervisor David Campos
Real reform of the SFPD could have prevented the death of Luis Gongora. In a situation where there is no immediate threat to safety, officers could have slowed down, developed a plan, created a perimeter, and engaged in verbal de-escalation before approaching Mr. Gongora. If they had done this, they could have discovered that Mr. Gongora’s brother lived nearby, that he had many friends in the area, and that his English comprehension was limited. They could have disarmed him without killing him. We need a culture in SFPD, where excellent community policing and use of de-escalation is valued over cowboy action and misconduct is meaningfully addressed instead of covered up.
Melissa San Miguel, education advocate
The killing of Mr. Gongora is horrifying. As a lifelong resident, with so many of my family and friends living in the area, I am deeply concerned by this epidemic of shootings of people of color. The police force must do a serious and extensive evaluation of their practices. We need better training in the use of force and we need officers to truly understand that discharging their weapon is an absolute last resort. We need officers from our communities who don’t look down on us as potential criminals, but see us as their neighbors who are working hard every day for a better life. We need greater accountability for any encounter where a weapon is discharged, including independent investigations if they are warranted. This is the third police shooting in District 9 within the last two years. I am disgusted that this issue remains, and will devote my energies as Supervisor to ending this violence. This must stop.
Joshua Arce, civil rights attorney and Community Liaison for Laborers Local 261
The status quo has failed. City Hall hasn’t implemented much-needed reforms on police de-escalation and use of force based on best practices and community feedback, and we haven’t talked about whether a taser may have prevented this tragic loss of life. The impact of these failures now falls upon both neighborhood residents and the homeless.
To care for the less-fortunate in our City, we have to provide adequate services for at-risk populations — and that includes mental health care. We must expand our homeless navigation centers, get our neighbors off the streets and into affordable and supportive housing, and foster a safe environment for everyone in our community.
Iswari España, Training Officer with the San Francisco Human Services Agency
If the police had a conscience, valued and respected human life, we would be not having this conversation. Our supervisors should have demanded that SFPD inform us of their plans to produce corrective measures to deal with deadly encounters. They should have proposed legislation to provide disciplinary powers to the Police Commission, seeing as how the DOJ is recognizing them as an authority in police matters, and further appoint community representatives to the Commission. The Mayor should have provided transitional housing to the homeless population. May he rest in peace as the city failed to protect him as a citizen.
Darcel Jackson, caterer and formerly homeless app maker
I am in favor of disarming police. In response to the question their need to be patience with the community that is living on the streets, although they are living on the streets those tent are there homes. There is a practice often used by security at concert they surround the individual and slowly close in on him and hug him sometime they only need a hug. I am sick of the lost of human life by those who are here to protect and serve. We have to make this a safe place to live and work and respect all of our resident no matter where they come from or how much they earn or what part of the city the live in even if the are a living on the streets most of us are here because we love this city I know I do, and I want to serve here as I always have.
Edwin Lindo did not provide a response for this week’s question.
43 Questions is a weekly series — started 43 weeks before Election Day — to question the candidates running for District 9 supervisor. Send us questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know in comments or in an email if you think candidates have answered as asked.