Coming soon: Live police surveillance
The Board of Supervisors passed Mayor London Breed’s contentious police surveillance policy on Tuesday, giving the SFPD the green light to live-monitor San Francisco residents and visitors through private cameras without a warrant.
Four supervisors voted against the measure, citing concerns that civil rights organizations have raised all summer: That the policy allows for too much discretion in what police can surveil, without sufficient guardrails. Two police commissioners also came out against the policy earlier this month.
Supervisor Dean Preston called the policy “a complete leap of faith” in the police department, and supervisors Shamann Walton and Connie Chan pointed to times when the police have misused evidence or failed to use it as reasons not to give the police sweeping new powers.
“People have been violating civil liberties since my ancestors were brought here from an entirely, completely different continent,” said Board President Walton. “This whole ‘just trust the police department,’ I don’t know where we get that from.”
The new policy will be in place for 15 months prior to review. It will allow police to request access to private cameras during emergencies, large events, or if they are investigating an active misdemeanor or felony. These cameras include the extensive camera networks operated by private Community Benefit Districts.
“When nearly every civil rights organization in San Francisco is ringing the alarm, our elected leaders should listen,” said the ACLU’s Jennifer Cagle in a statement after the policy passed the Rules Committee last week in a 2-1 vote. “The policy moving forward gives the police extraordinary, dangerous live surveillance powers, and then hopes that they’ll be honest when self-auditing.”
Preston, Walton, Chan, and Supervisor Hillary Ronen voted against the policy, which will be heard before final passage by the Board next week.
‘Community’ missing at community listening sessions for new traffic-stop policy
At the third “community listening session” this month hosted by the Human Rights Commission, SFPD top brass came out to the Bayview Opera House to hear feedback from the community on its proposed traffic stop policy.
To what extent the “community” was represented at the session, though, is unclear. The attendees were almost all people of color, and primarily Black. But the seats were occupied by members of the police department, including Chief Bill Scott and members of his command staff, the Department of Police Accountability, and the Human Rights Commission.
Some present were indeed connected to the target community: The Department of Police Accountability policy attorney Jermain Jones said his parents lived nearby in the Bayview, though they knew nothing of the meeting when he mentioned it to them. Two members of CARE San Francisco sported their organization’s t-shirts; the organization’s director, Uzuri Pease-Greene, a former supervisor candidate in District 10, is a recovering addict who was formerly unhoused, and said that these days she does bias training at the police academy. And some of those from the Human Rights Commission shared their personal experiences of racism and discrimination at the hands of police, one of them nervously telling an officer to his face that she didn’t believe police should exist.
But seemingly missing from the conversation were the regular people, unaffiliated with the city or any organization.
The tables didn’t fill up, and stacks of shrimp po’boys remained untouched.
The Human Rights Commission secretary told Mission Local that a couple dozen people were attending the event remotely, but she seemed disappointed that her organization’s “extensive outreach” hadn’t brought people out in person. Save for Pease-Green, none of the advocates who often protest after police shootings were physically present.
The policy discussed on Tuesday attempts to limit pretextual stops for low-level infractions, which are often used as an excuse to look for evidence of criminal activity, and are disproportionately enforced among people of color. Several working groups and community listening sessions have taken place over the past two months as the policy has been under review. Attendance by the general community has been sparse.
In case you missed it, last week the San Francisco Police Commission voted in its new leadership in an upset 4-3 vote: Mayoral appointee Max Carter-Oberstone sided with Board of Supervisors appointees (and against his fellow Breed appointees) to elect Cindy Elias as the commission’s new president.
Drama followed Thursday morning, when the San Francisco Standard reported that Breed accused Carter-Oberstone of dishonesty, claiming he indicated that he’d support her choice for president, Larry Yee. This would have continued the tradition of having the mayor’s choice serve as president.
Carter-Oberstone staunchly denied this accusation and stated that “Mayor Breed shouldn’t have called me a liar.” He wrote that he’d be willing to back up his version of events under penalty of perjury.