San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr has asked the United States Department of Justice to review his department's training, policy, and procedure in a "Collaborative Reform Review," a direct response to public outcry following the December 2nd killing of Mario Woods.
Officers say Woods, 26 and black, met the description of a Bayview stabbing suspect, was armed with a kitchen knife, and approached them threateningly. Widely circulated bystander video shows five officers surrounding and opening fire on a shambling man characterized by witnesses as visibly non-threatening and non-aggressive.
“We need to resolve — without the use of force — critical incidents where the person is armed with a nonfirearm weapon,” the Department acknowledged in a statement. However, attorney John Burris, who has filed a Civil Rights lawsuit against the SFPD, has reportedly questioned whether Woods was armed and involved in a stabbing in the first place.
The call for formal DOJ review arrives after Chief Suhr discussed Departmental policy with a 28-member black community relations advisory forum. "We need to have a strong, working relationship with the communities we serve," said Suhr following their meeting, an event which was originally postponed by protestors calling for his removal. "Trust is the ‘coin of the realm’ in everything we do as police officers. When people have a voice, and we listen and are objective and respectful, we gain the trust of the people."
According to Reverend Amos Brown, San Francisco NAACP President and a member of the black community relations advisory forum, "We are maintaining a working relationship to ensure that this kind of senseless killing does not happen again."
Among several other policy changes, police must now report pointing a firearm at a suspect as a use-of-force incident. Further, "leaders from various communities will participate in the training of Academy recruits and on-going training of all other rank-and-file members on cultural competency, procedural justice, and implicit bias" according to a statement." KRON4 adds that outgoing San Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi has announced reforms to his department's own de-escalation and reporting policies
"While these independent investigations are ongoing, the Department recognizes nothing can change the way people feel when they watch the video of the shooting," the SFPD statement says.