San Francisco’s public defender and the American Civil Liberties Union both called today for independent governmental investigations into alleged racist text messages and use-of-force policies in the city’s Police Department.
Public Defender Jeff Adachi asked California Attorney General Kamala Harris to undertake a state probe.
Adachi said in a letter to Harris that a collaborative review currently being conducted by the U.S. Justice Department and a review by a commission established by District Attorney George Gascon both lack mechanisms for enforcing any recommendations that may be made.
A civil rights investigation by Harris’s office, on the other hand, could result in a stipulated court order or consent decree requiring reforms under state supervision, Adachi said.
“I believe strongly that the path to reform is through accountability and an independent investigation,” Adachi wrote.
Harris press secretary Rachele Huennekens said, “We are reviewing the letter.” The ACLU, meanwhile, asked the federal Justice Department to ratchet up its current collaborative review to a full-fledged investigation conducted by the agency’s Civil Rights Division.
“The DOJ should independently investigate the SFPD instead of relying on a collaborative review of policies,” said ACLU attorney Alan Schlosser.
The current federal review is a so-called collaborative reform process sponsored by the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, office.
In that process, federal officials work collaboratively with local authorities. Compliance with the agency’s recommendations is voluntary.
Adachi’s letter asks Harris to look into a new set of allegedly racist text messages exchanged among officers and into three fatal police shootings of young men of color who were suspects or were being pursued by officers since March 2014.
The new messages, revealed last month, were sent by at least four officers, according to Gascon.
Another set of such messages, found in connection with the federal prosecution of a police corruption case, was revealed last year.
The ACLU’s letter asks the federal Justice Department to investigate the newly disclosed text messages, and supplements a previous Jan. 29 letter asking for a probe of the fatal shootings.
Also today, Board of Supervisors President London Breed and Supervisor Malia Cohen urged the Police Commission and Chief Greg Suhr “to seek the fullest possible disciplinary action for the officers involved” in the alleged racist text messages.