Mayor Lee told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday that he had yet to read the recently released findings by a blue-ribbon panel that found a lack of oversight and prevalence of racial bias within the police department.
Those preliminary findings emerged from a year-long investigation commissioned by the District Attorney’s Office.
“Right now I can’t tell you what that report said because I haven’t read it,” Mayor Ed Lee said, promising only that he would have a conversation with politicians and stakeholders when those results were final.
The San Francisco Examiner reported on the preliminary findings Monday, writing, “Perhaps the most damning findings were that the department engages in controversial ‘stop and frisk’ practices and that no internal review of systematic bias was conducted following the release of racist texts sent by officers in 2015.”
“With all due respect, I think that the public expects you to be on top of this report as it comes out and to take action as soon as possible,” Supervisor David Campos told the mayor.
At the monthly session of the Board of Supervisors in which members are able to ask Mayor Lee questions, supervisors asked Lee what he would do to reform the police department given the recent spate of protests. Supervisor after supervisor mentioned the so-called Frisco Five hunger strikers, who were recently hospitalized after 17 days of fasting.
The meeting was interrupted by a few crowd members who chanted the now-familiar, “Fire Chief Suhr,” prompting sheriff’s deputies to eject them from the chambers and Supervisor London Breed to call a recess.
Breed was the first supervisor to question the mayor.
“Given this impasse, where does this end? Where do we see the situation headed? How do we reconcile to ensure that everyone feels safe in their communities?” she asked.
Breed mentioned a protest at City Hall on Friday that turned violent when sheriff’s deputies attempted to remove protesters from the building and struck many with batons, arresting 33 and injuring four journalists. Since the protest, the main entrance to City Hall has been barricaded and dozens of sheriff’s deputies have been seen patrolling both inside and outside the building.
On Tuesday, sheriff’s deputies armed with tear gas canister guns could be seen inside City Hall while other deputies guarded the Board of Supervisors chamber room. All audience members had their bags checked before being allowed to enter the public meeting.
Breed called out “vandalism” and “thousands of dollars in damage” caused by protesters, but left out allegations of brutality and mistreatment of protesters and press members. Sheriff Vicki Hennessy on Tuesday announced an investigation into the reports that journalists were manhandled.
Breed said the many protests indicated a high level of tension among members of the public.
“The community is in pain. Protesters have demanded the removal of the chief, and I know you said you will not do so,” Breed said. “How do we bring the city together?”
Lee pointed to already-proposed use-of-force reforms for the police department — like crisis-intervention training for officers — but did not specifically address the demands of the hunger strikers for greater accountability within the department, standing by Police Chief Greg Suhr.
He did speak on the hunger strikers, though, pointing out that he stopped by the Mission District police station in an attempt to meet with the strikers but was rebuked.
“I did attempt to do a direct meeting with the protesters at the hunger strike—” Lee said before someone shouted “Unscheduled!” from the crowd.
“—and it was not welcomed,” Lee continued, adding that he “had concern for the health of the protesters” and instructed members of the Department of Public Health to evaluate their well-being, a statement that drew hisses from the crowd.
The Frisco Five hunger strikers ended their 17-day fast on Saturday after being hospitalized the day before. For 16 of those 17 days, the group camped outside of the Mission District police station and demanded that Mayor Lee fire Chief Suhr.
The mayor stood by the police chief throughout, telling the group in a phone call that the police department has made strides in reform. That did little to assuage the hunger strikers, who have continued to call for the chief’s job in a bid to increase accountability within the department.
Supervisor David Campos — who represents the Mission District and Bernal Heights, where three of the four controversial and most-protested police shootings have occurred — requested that the mayor support a proposed unit within the District Attorney’s Office dedicated to the investigation of police shootings.
Such a unit is required, Campos said, because “in all of those officer-involved shootings, many of which have occurred in the district that I represent, not a single one of those officers has been terminated by the San Francisco Police Department.”
“I ask you today, Mr. Mayor, to please give us a positive sign and say that you will support this budget request,” he added, saying it would cost $1.9 million annually to staff 60 people in the office.
After answering other questions from supervisors, the mayor left the chamber room surrounded by sheriff’s deputies and reporters, but without incident.
Also on Tuesday, the Board passed 9–2 a city charter amendment that would give 16- and 17-year-olds the right to vote in San Francisco for local elections. That amendment will go to the ballot and before voters in November.
A change to San Francisco’s sanctuary city law — which would strengthen the prohibition on law enforcement officers from communicating with federal immigration officials — was continued until May 24.