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Department of Police Accountability takes over investigations of SF deputies

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San Francisco County Sheriff's Office
San Francisco County Jail #5 in San Bruno, Calif.

In an effort to increase accountability and transparency, the scandal-ridden San Francisco Sheriff’s Department will no longer investigate misconduct allegations made against their own deputies.

Mayor London Breed and Sheriff Vicki Hennessy announced Monday that the sheriff’s department and Department of Police Accountability have signed a Memorandum of Understanding, which allows DPA to investigate misconduct accusations.

Breed said in a statement:

“Transparency and accountability are critically important when it comes to law enforcement. This agreement ensures important public oversight of investigations in cases of potential misconduct and will help our residents feel confident that complaints are heard and properly handled.”

Breed said the two-year budget will allow for the hiring of two additional DPA staff members to handle the increased investigation workload.

Hennessy said in a statement:

“Even when law enforcement does a good job of investigating itself, many members of the public still feel they can’t trust the results of the investigation. Our agreement with the Department of Police Accountability is an important step toward ensuring trust and transparency in the Sheriff’s Department.”

The department has been plagued with claims of inmate abuse. In a highly publicized case, three deputies were accused of creating a “fight club” atmosphere inside the jailhouse where inmates were forced into fighting one another. The department’s mishandling of the investigation prompted the district attorney to drop the legal case in February.

Additional allegations were brought forward in January by the late Public Defender Jeff Adachi, who said inmates complained of beatings and illegal strip searches. The claims were reviewed in a hearing called for by Supervisor Shamann Walton, which prompted proposed legislation to invite DPA oversight.

Most recently, a former sheriff’s deputy was convicted of insurance fraud after an the deputy was accused of having an intimate relationship with was found in possession of the deputy’s department-issued fire arm.

Paul Henderson, director of San Francisco’s DPA, said in statement that the department is proud to conduct the independent investigations.

Henderson said:

“These investigations and related discipline and policy recommendations will increase transparency, accountability, and community trust.”

Specifically, the DPA will formally take over for Internal Affairs in the investigation of in-custody deaths, certain public complaints, outside government agency complaints and complaints made by incarcerated individuals of excessive use of force, sexual assault and a pattern or practice of harassment or retaliation.

Additionally, the DPA will submit its findings to the sheriff’s department following investigations and will provide monthly and quarterly complaint data, including the total number of complaints and status of each investigation.

Hennessy already turned over misconduct cases for DPA review back in March.

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