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Calif. to oversee San Francisco’s police reforms

The reforms were recommended by federal officials after the DOJ’s decision to scale back a program that helped departments improve community relations


In this Jan. 24, 2018 file photo California Attorney General Xavier Becerra talks during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif.

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli,File

By Olga R. Rodrigues
Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — California’s attorney general announced Monday that his office will oversee reforms at the San Francisco Police Department that were recommended by federal officials after the U.S. Department of Justice’s decision to scale back a program that helped departments improve community relations.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the California Department of Justice will evaluate and publicly report how the department is applying the 272 recommendations made by the DOJ under the Obama Administration.

As part of an Obama-era policing program, law enforcement agencies had been receiving advice and technical assistance to improve their practices in areas such as officer use-of-force, racial bias, community policing, accountability, recruitment and hiring.

In September, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, would no longer provide resources or guidance. It also advised San Francisco that it would no longer review the proposed reforms.

“When local law enforcement agencies reach out for support, the last thing our federal government should do is abandon them,” Becerra said.

In 2016, then-San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee called for a federal review of the police department after the disclosure that some officers had exchanged racist and homophobic text messages and the 2015 fatal police shooting of Mario Woods, a black man whose shooting was caught on video and sparked protests that led to the resignation of Police Chief Greg Suhr.

In a report released in October 2016, DOJ found that San Francisco police use force against blacks more often than other racial groups and pull over African-American drivers at a disproportionately high rate. It made 272 non-binding recommendations to help the department improve policies and practices and build community trust.

“In the 16 months since the U.S. Department of Justice COPS Office assessment was released, the men and women of the San Francisco Police Department have made substantial progress in implementing reforms, particularly in the areas of increasing transparency and accountability,” San Francisco Police Chief William Scott said Monday.

Use of force has decreased 18 percent year over year and complaints against officers are down 8.5 percent, Scott said.