Photo by Lola M. Chavez

Officer Kenneth Cha homicide case pushed back

Supporters of Sean Moore’s family and advocates for police accountability gathered at the Bryant Street courthouse on Friday morning, hoping the day had come when the case against Moore’s killer, Officer Kenneth Cha, would finally proceed. 

Perhaps no surprise here: It didn’t. 

Both the head of the DA’s Independent Investigations Bureau, Darby Williams, and Cha’s defense attorney, Scott Burrell, attended court remotely. Burrell said he had gotten “some important information about the case,” and requested yet another date to set a preliminary hearing. 

“I think, you know, your honor, there’s a lot to it. I will say that,” Burrell said. 

Williams put up no fight, and suggested pushing the date to March, saying she expects to begin a trial in February. The audience groaned. 

Cha, responding to a noise complaint in 2017, shot an unarmed Moore on the doorstep of his own home. Moore, who later ended up in prison, died there in 2020 of complications from his gunshot wounds. The city paid out a $3.25 million settlement to Moore’s family.  

“There is no justice!,” one woman shouted as Moore’s family and supporters left the courtroom.

Out in the hallway, Moore’s brother, Kenneth Blackmon, told Mission Local that he wasn’t surprised at the lack of movement, but was more concerned about his mother, Cleo Moore, with whom he religiously attends court dates. 

“She doesn’t realize, these people, there’s no sympathy,” Blackmon said. “And it’s so political the way they operate now.” 

Supporters tried to advise Blackmon and his mother on how to pressure the DA’s office or learn more about the direction of the prosecution. Cleo Moore, who said she’s been unsuccessful in her attempts to get in contact with the DA’s office, seemed dejected. 

“What can I do? I can’t do anything. This is the court that’s making the decisions,” she said. 

Police Commissioners to reveal tidbits from closed-door session

On Wednesday night, after most people watching the San Francisco Police Commission meeting online had turned to other diversions for their evening, Commissioner Kevin Benedicto moved to disclose information from a bargaining session with a police union negotiator. The information will be released in the meeting minutes.

For many years, such labor discussions have been dealt with in closed sessions, but times seem to be changing. 

In question were discussions of the union’s counterproposals regarding amendments to two new policies: Responses to critical incidents like officer-involved shootings or disasters, and officer “disengagement” from encounters that don’t pose a public safety risk (Department General Order 8.01, Department General 5.24). Both policies were passed in October, 2022. 

These discussions, Benedicto said, “fall outside of the working conditions and scope of representation,” meaning they were fair game for public consumption. Commission Vice President Max Carter-Oberstone seconded Benedicto’s motion. 

For the second time in recent memory, the commission decided to reveal part of the conversation — and this time, unanimously. The first time such discussions have been revealed was in October, 2022, when Carter-Oberstone made a motion to disclose a single-word change to a policy that the union suggested. Commissioner Larry Yee was the only “no” vote at that time. 

The information from the discussion will be made public in the meeting minutes. 

Impasse at new Sheriff’s Oversight Board; members turn on president

Little has happened since the Sheriff’s Oversight Board held its inaugural meeting in August of 2022 — except that what may have been first-day jitters back then has since bloomed into apparent animosity. 

Tasked with hiring an inspector general who will then hire a team of investigators to look into claims of misconduct at the Sheriff’s Department, the oversight board has quibbled for months now over the best way to take this action. Still no decisions have been made. 

At the January meeting, vice-president Xóchitl Carrión and board member Julie Soo turned up the heat against the board’s leader, Jayson Wechter. The pair have led a charge within the board against hiring a recruiter to find a suitable inspector general, maintaining that the city’s Department of Human Resources can do the job. This month, the pair suggested writing a job posting for a new inspector themselves. 

Wechter, who previously worked with the Department of Police Accountability, has, since the board’s creation in August, maintained that hiring a recruitment firm to do a nationwide search is a “best practice” when initiating a new department, to ensure a diverse pool of applicants. 

He expressed doubts about Carrión and Soo’s idea to write a job description themselves, when Carrión shot back.

“I think it behooves you to not make assumptions of what our skill sets are, and our ability to draft a job description,” Carrión shot back. “We are very talented and capable attorneys, women of color that are leaders here. Please do not do that again.” 

The chair of the Madison, Wis. Police Department’s civilian oversight board, Shadayra Kilfoy-Flores, spoke before the board early this month and, before she found herself caught in the crossfire between the San Francisco board members, encouraged them to go with a recruiter. 

“We tried, and we would have if we could have,” Kilfoy-Flores said. “I highly recommend if you’re able to find a dedicated headhunter, do that, by all means.” She estimated that she invested about 200 hours of volunteer time working to find a viable candidate, and her board just made its hire in December, nearly two years after it began its search. 

One recruitment firm has already responded to a bid from San Francisco’s board, and its search could be complete within 16 weeks, Wechter said. 

But Wechter’s fellow members on the board seem determined to reject the recruiter, despite input from Kilfoy-Flores and police oversight experts who have called in during public comment. 

Carrión and Soo have discussed budget as a factor to avoid a recruiter, although others find the $10,000 additional cost of using a recruiter versus the city’s HR department negligible. They also pointed to the fact that Wechter put out a bid for a recruiter without consulting them. 

“I don’t believe it was appropriate for a member of the board to get someone secretly,” Carrión said. Apparently speaking about Wechter, she made the divide in the board clear, while clarifying: “I don’t like the one-side-versus-other-side thing.” 

Barbara Attard, the former president of the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, called Carrión and Soo’s proposal to begin recruiting on their own “maddening,” in a conversation with Mission Local. “They’re not recruiters and they don’t have the expertise.” 

The “infighting” on the board, Attard added, was “disappointing and very inappropriate.” 

“This board has been a long time coming, and the vote was a couple of years ago, and for those of us who follow these issues, and supported the Sheriff’s Oversight Board … it’s very frustrating,” Attard said.

Police Commission approves historic policy 

In case you missed it, the San Francisco Police Commission passed a policy last week discourages officers from enforcing certain low-level traffic infractions. The idea is to reduce racial disparities in traffic enforcement, in ways that don’t harm public safety, and free up officers to focus on dangerous driving infractions, like drivers running red lights and stop signs. 

We live blogged the big day, and although a couple commissioners and the police chief tried at the eleventh hour to fight it, the policy passed. Next, we’ll see how long bargaining with the police union takes before the changes actually go into effect. 

Department of Justice reforms stagnate 

Some 27 of 272 reforms the feds recommended for implementation within the San Francisco Police Department remain incomplete, nearly seven years after they were first proposed. 

There is no indication that completion is imminent, either: According to a quarterly update on Wednesday, the SFPD’s minimum time estimate for completing just one additional recommendation is one year. That single recommendation regards data collection and trend tracking of misconduct and complaints against SFPD members. 

Another six recommendations, urging the department to track and analyze arrest and use-of-force data, is “on target” for completion within four years. Nine more recommendations about performance tracking and using performance evaluations for promotions are also “on target” with no time estimate. 

Apparently picking their battles, the commissioners did not push the topic.

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REPORTER. Eleni is our reporter focused on policing in San Francisco. She first moved to the city on a whim nearly 10 years ago, and the Mission has become her home. Follow her on Twitter @miss_elenius.

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  1. “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”

    George Santayana said that in the 1920’s along with the, “bound to repeat it” line.

    For some reason the fighting between the Police Officers Association and the Police Chief who has to listen to them or his men won’t do what he tells them and the Mayor who used to be able to fire him outright.

    Can she still ?

    Does it take a majority of the Commission and while Gonzalez gave her a 4-3 majority when he rewrote the book here (Mayor Willie Brown used to appoint ALL).

    You get my point ??

    Sheriff Michael Hennessey’s really.

    Just passing it on.

    We need to elect our Police Chief like we did a hundred years or something ago.

    Let a half dozen candidates present a variety of Platform Plank Promises and the people can Rank-Choice their pick who answers ultimately only to them at the Ballot Box.

    Once you get a Police Chief with that strength it will be like a top NFL Coach or Boot Camp Company Commander … training and disciplining their troops.

    Who walk Permanent Foot Patrols and bring back the Patrol Specials.

    Go Niners !!

    h.

  2. No doubt the pretense stop policy will be “bargained” with the POA. But why? What do pretense stops have to do with working conditions? And why has the SFPD (fronting as usual for the POA) been so intent on keeping pretense stops even though the racial disparity and crime data are fairly overwhelming? What are the incentives to keep doing something which on its face does not protect officers, does not reduce crime (especially serious crime) and alienates many in the community officers pledge to serve. I feel there’s more to this story yet to come.

  3. The Sheriff’s Oversight Board is San Francisco politics in a nutshell: Unqualified people taking a position because they hate the police, and fighting amongst themselves without accomplishing anything.

    (That also pretty much describes the Board of Supervisors.)

    1. Just want to add that I agree with your comment Carl. Everyone of them is biased against the cops. So wrong in my mind.

  4. Sure seems that Carion and Soo don’t want any input from people familiar with best practices like the witness and are using Wechter’s behavior as an excuse. Or could they be listening to someone inside the SFSD? They aren’t acting very mature or in a reasonable way, particularly when the costs are apparently the same. Are they politically grandstanding? So many of these commissioners just want to run for office. What do they want?