Last week we asked candidates for District 9 whether they supported the call of the so-called Frisco Five hunger strikers to fire the city’s police chief. This week, we wanted candidates to expand on their answers and tell us what his firing would solve or what reform the police department should undergo short of firing its chief.
To those who supported the firing of Police Chief Greg Suhr, what would his firing do that departmental reforms currently in place will not? What would follow his firing?
To those who did not support Suhr’s firing, has there been enough accountability of police officers and higher-ups for the scandals that have rocked the department? No police officers have been fired for the four controversial police shootings in the last two years. Is there an accountability problem in the department?
Respuestas en español aquí.
Iswari España, Training Officer with the San Francisco Human Services Agency
I believe that Police Chief Suhr needs to be fired. He has shown that he cannot effectively and objectively implement reforms. It is evident that he is not invested in changing the culture and image of the department. He fails to uphold policies and staff accountable for their actions. He has a poor track record in both administrative and managerial levels. Under general guidelines of performance in the workforce environment, he should be terminated. His departure would show the community and police that the city is invested in changing their policing policies for the benefit of our city.
Darcel Jackson, caterer and formerly homeless app maker
There has to be more than the firing [of] Greg Suhr. [There] must be a change of culture. There needs to be community policing, they need to get to know the people they serve. There needs to be other options other than lethal force. Compassion must be the first rule of engagement. Stop killing my brothers and sisters.
Hillary Ronen, Chief of Staff for Supervisor David Campos
A lot of good work has been done to begin much needed police reform in San Francisco, including the NotInMyName pledge encouraging officers to report misconduct by co-workers or superiors and revision of an outdated use of force policy. But actions speak louder than words. Given the sheer number of scandals plaguing this department, it is time for accountability, including at the top. Accountability would demonstrate to officers, especially those shielded from discipline in the past, that times have changed. It would show San Franciscans that the department is serious about restoring trust in the community. It could lead to the creation of independent oversight that would truly make officers comfortable to lodge whistleblowing complaints. And accountability could make de-escalation, something used by social and non-profit workers every day, a regular practice.
Melissa San Miguel, education advocate
Many of our police officers do their best every day to serve and protect the community. The most recent police-involved shootings of people of color and text message scandals highlight the need for a change in our policing culture. However, these are issues that have existed for years in the department. Cultures are developed and maintained by leaders at the top, including the Police Chief. A change in Police Chief will signal a commitment to truly hold all officers accountable by holding their leadership accountable. We need a Chief that will make transparency and accountability a priority. A new Chief would bring a fresh perspective to the department and could rebuild the trust between the department and the community.
Joshua Arce, civil rights attorney and Community Liaison for Laborers Local 261
The Frisco 5 and their supporters have shown that urgent changes to our policing policies are necessary. Last week I stated that I do not believe that firing Chief Suhr will by itself alleviate divisions between communities of color and the Police Department. This statement is not an expression of support, but instead reflects my belief that there is much work to be done, irrespective of leadership, on reform and accountability measures.
We all want safe streets where our families are protected by law enforcement. Therefore, while the hunger strikers’ demand for a change of leadership is debated in City Hall, we should meanwhile move immediately towards implementing and funding a series of critical community-driven reforms such as:
- Increased citizen oversight and truly independent investigation of all officer-involved shootings;
- Investigation by the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division;
- Changes to use-of-force procedures;
- De-escalation training for all police;
- Implementation of implicit bias training and community policing recommendations of President Obama’s 21st Century Policing Report; and
- Clear accountability guidelines and regular assessments for all police officers and leadership, using mechanisms such as those described by the ACLU.
Too many of these reforms should have happened long ago, which is a big part of the reason for the community’s disappointment in City Hall. Reform needs to happen, and it needs to happen now.
Edwin Lindo did not respond to 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 email@example.com and let us know in comments or in an email if you think candidates have answered as asked.