Chants, outcry kick off federal SFPD probe

More than 100 citizens loudly chanted “Fire Chief Suhr!” and “Justice for Mario Woods!” at the first of three public meetings organized by the U.S. Department of Justice to begin a formal federal review of the San Francisco Police Department’s training and practices.

The Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services division held what they called a listening session in the auditorium at Thurgood Marshall High School to begin their assessment by hearing the community express their views concerning San Francisco police.

Dozens of locals lined up to the microphone to voice their opinions as Troy Williams, senior advisor with the Department of Justice, moderated. Members of the Justice for Mario Woods Coalition were present — and loud — chanting between speakers to express what they thought about the SFPD.

The killing of Woods, a young African-American man, was captured on video and was one in a series of cases which sparked outcry over the use of deadly force by San Francisco police.

Frank Latta, San Francisco teacher and member of the Mario Woods Coalition, told the crowd at the microphone:

“While police out there deal with them with bullets. … We deal with them with books and supplies in the classroom.”

And the comments did not stop there.

John Crew, 37-year resident of San Francisco, said:

“It is way worse out there than you think. … You need to understand the scope of this. There is a massive absence of accountability.”

Dr. Eloise Joseph, a Bay Area pediatrician, told the crowd:

“This is not just a SF problem, but in America. … We are taught to to hate each other.”

After describing stories of visiting Ferguson to the San Francisco audience, Father Richard of the Episcopal Church of St. John the Evangelist in the Mission added:

“We need to start by trying to find simple truths in issues here in San Francisco,” said Father Richard. “Ferguson is right here.”

Nazmia Comrie, Department of Justice site lead for the review, told the assembled crowd the first phase consisted of a federal team going into the community to gather data, then create a report based on the findings. She said the first phase could take up to 10 months to complete.

According to Mary Brandenberger, Press Secretary for COPS, all three phases could take up to two years to complete:

“The process usually takes about two years to complete, but depends on what we find. … But usually after the first phase, comes a progressive report.”

The next listening session will be held Tuesday, Mar. 8 at Mission High School at 6 p.m.