San Francisco is NOT a law enforcement reform leader

Anti-Black racism from police is being met by extraordinary courage and strategy by Black folks individually and collectively, who will ultimately and fundamentally build a world without racism. – Photo: Ross D. Franklin, AP

by Core Team, Wealth and Disparities in the Black Community 

San Francisco needs to come to terms with the fact that it is NOT a law enforcement reform leader and has some of themost racist law enforcement outcomes anywhere in the country – in the top five worst in a recent national analysis. The FACTS counter SFPD’s narrative on reform. 

San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) Chief William Scott and Mayor London Breed are holding a press conference July 12 on public safety and also to tout what SFPD claims is its exemplary new record. Boasts SFPD: “Hailed by the New York Times as a       major city department ‘where police reform has worked,’ SFPD continues to break ground with its voluntary Collaborative Reform Initiative and its work on Mayor London Breed’s ambitious Roadmap for Police Reforms. Since 2018, the department has worked in partnership with the California Department of Justice to implement 272 recommendations that aspire to make SFPD a national model of 21st century policing.” 

FACT: According to SFPD’s own reporting (see p. 4546), a Black San Franciscan – from 2016 up until the present day – is more than 10 times as likely as a white and more than 4 times as likely as a Hispanic* San Franciscan to be subject to arrest or use of force by SFPD. There is NO improvement in this racial disparity. (*Racial terms are SFPD’s). 

The COPS analysis resulted in 94 findings and 272 recommendations, due to numerous brutal killings by SFPD of San Franciscans, mostly Black and Brown, none of whom had a gun.

FACT: Wealth and Disparities in the Black Community (WDBC) has fought for justice for victims of police violence since 2015, and our movement brought the federal Department of Justice (DOJ) to San Francisco. The DOJ conducted its Community Oriented Services Policing (COPS) analysis, resulting in 94 findings and 272 recommendations, due to numerous brutal killings by SFPD of San Franciscans, mostly Black and Brown, none of whom had a gun. The SFPD is not reform-minded, nor a reform leader – the SFPD was forced into reforms after numerous high profile killings in rapid succession and a huge outcry from citizens. Mayor Lee mandated the DOJ COPS be completed. This is not “voluntary.”

FACT: The SFPD does NOT follow California DOJ deadlines. The deadline for COPS completion was April 30, 2021, set by the Cal DOJ in 2020 – five years after the process began. Not even 65 percent were denoted on SFPD’s own CRI website as substantially compliant as of April 30, 2021. We contacted SFPD, all supervisors, the mayor, and the attorney general on this issue. The supervisors – Supervisor Safai – took our language to draft a resolution to demand all COPS measures be complete by the end of 2021. This resolution has yet to see the light of day, so far as we know. 

This is the workspace used by Phelicia Jones, who is the founder of Wealth and Disparities in the Black Community and is also employed by the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department. Note that it has been rearranged to barricade Phelicia from the rest of the staff.

San Francisco law enforcement has a long history of systemic racism and corruption. We have contacted the Sheriff’s Department and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors (BOS) with hundreds of calls and emails in the past several months to NO avail, regarding unacceptable conduct at the Sheriff’s Department. Recently, the San Francisco BOS moved to approve the SF Sheriff’s Department budget, no questions asked, despite our NUMEROUS communications with the supervisors on the outrageous behavior of SF Sheriff’s Department staff, including racist, misogynistic, lewd social mediaposts made by a San Francisco Sheriff’s Department sergeant about Vice President Kamala Harris, and about a lengthy campaign of targeting WDBC Founder and Sheriff’s Department employee Phelicia Jones. 

The department has continually harassed Ms. Jones, including erecting a physical barricade to separate Phelicia from her colleagues. The department also attacks Phelicia’s work, such as the Discovering Your True Self program, which improves the lives of incarcerated and post-incarcerated people. With Black people comprising under 5 percent of the City population but over 50 percent of its jail population, DYTS is a vital program. 

The infamous SFPD textgate participants sent numerous racist, sexist, homophobic texts – landing SFPD in trouble not ONCE but TWICE.

The SFPD also continues its racist corruption and targeting of employees who stand for something. Recently WDBC attended a hearing at the Police Commission (PC) on Officer Joel Babbs, who was a whistleblower about SFPD racism – and whose allegations were SUSTAINED by the Department of Human Resources (DHR). The PC members seemed surprised at the numerous angry callers in public comment in response to allegations against the whistleblower. 

One of the originators of the accusations against Babbs appears to be among the infamous SFPD textgate participants, who sent numerous racist, sexist, homophobic texts – landing SFPD in trouble not ONCE but TWICE. Why is the Police Commission meeting to discuss what Babbs has done when it’s never discussed the violent, systemic racism at SFPD reported by Babbs which was reported and found to be true? Don’t San Franciscans deserve repair of that situation? 

We demand the Sheriff’s Department budget – which the BOS recently green-lighted – be suspended until there is agreement by the Sheriff to quarterly reporting on racism and corruption and disciplinary actions taken.

Why is the Police Commission collecting policing recommendations from experts such as WDBC? What is the next step? Why isn’t the PC holding SFPD accountable, and why is it instead singing SFPD’s praises when the PC’s role is to advocate for the people for fair and equitable policing, and the PC is well aware of the alarming statistics on anti-Black racism? 

We demand a reckoning by leaders – particularly the BOS, the Police Commission and Attorney General Bonta – as to what is going on in San Francisco. We demand continued BOS and state oversight of DOJ COPS and the full completion of all 272 reforms. 

We demand quarterly reporting on SFPD’s and San Francisco Sheriff’s Department’s findings on racism and corruption in its ranks. We demand the Sheriff’s Department budget – which the BOS recently green-lighted, without a single question about the incidents above – be suspended until there is agreement by the Sheriff to quarterly reporting on racism and corruption found in the department and disciplinary actions taken to correct it. 

To contact the Core Team of Wealth and Disparities in the Black Community, email mwjusticenow@gmail.com