SF voters to decide if cops get more scrutiny around shootings

Written in response to community outrage following the Mario Woods shooting in December, San Francisco’s Proposition D on the June 7 ballot is intended to step up the level of scrutiny around officer-involved shootings.

Introduced by Supervisor Malia Cohen, the measure would require the Office of Citizen Complaints to investigate all officer-involved shootings in which someone is injured or killed. It also requires the Police Department to comply with all such investigations.

Many people do not know that the OCC, which is charged with investigating allegations of officer misconduct, currently only investigates shootings when a complaint is made, Cohen said.

The Police Department investigates, and the district attorney’s office also can investigate, to determine if charges should be filed against the officer or officers involved.

In practice, this has meant that out of the 31 such shootings in the past five years, the OCC has only investigated eight, according to a city controller’s report.

The measure, which has the support of the Police Commission and San Francisco Police Officers Association, is intended to create an additional layer of transparency and public accountability for law enforcement, Cohen said.

“This measure was really borne out of hours of public comment and listening to community members vent their frustration and disappointment and their hurt,” Cohen said. “Not just about Mario Woods’ shooting, but also about Alex Nieto and Amilcar Perez-Lopez.” Five officers shot and killed Woods in San Francisco’s Bayview District in December. The shooting was captured on video and widely distributed online. Nieto was fatally shot by four officers in Bernal Heights Park in March 2014, while Perez-Lopez was killed by plainclothes officers in the Mission District in February 2015.

The measure is also intended to heighten public awareness of the issues around police shootings, especially outside of the minority communities that have been most directly affected, Cohen said.

A controller’s report found that the measure would require the OCC to complete approximately six additional investigations per year. Mayor Ed Lee announced last week that he is including $1.8 million for five additional investigators in the OCC in his budget proposal to handle an anticipated increased workload.

Critics have questioned the independence of the OCC, which has a budget tied to the Police Commission.

Cohen said she was looking at an additional measure for the November ballot that would increase the agency’s independence and give it more resources. She is also interested in taking steps to ensure that all use of force incidents, not just those involving a firearm, are investigated.

“I want to make sure that those who lost their lives at the hands of police, that they haven’t lost them in vain,” Cohen said.