The newly hired chief of the SFPD may be announced as early as tomorrow (Thursday), and the announcement looks to be coming just in time for the release of a 400-page report on the department by an office of the Department of Justice devoted to community-oriented policing. As the Examiner reports, after speaking with someone within the SFPD who has seen the report which is set for public release Wednesday federal authorities point to insufficient oversight within the department, a lack of transparency, and a disproportionate use of force against people of color as major problems facing the department. Also, as is obvious to everyone who has followed stories about the department's internal dramas over the last couple of years, the report finds that the police union, the Police Officers' Association (POA), has far too much influence over the department on a whole.
The report comes from the DOJ's office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), and it came at the request of former Chief Greg Suhr and in a letter from Mayor Ed Lee back in January, in the wake of the public uproar over the fatal shooting of Mario Woods in December. The DOJ announced the review in early February, explaining that it would not look specifically into the Woods case, and would include anonymous interviews with officers, as well as interviews with community activists and city officials, data analysis, ride-alongs with officers, and public hearings. The entire process is expected to take up to two years, and today's document is likely the first of several in that process and while the recommendations by COPS are not enforceable in a court of law, "They are absolutely enforceable in the court of public opinion, which can be just as powerful as a court of law," as COPS director Ronald Davis said at the time.
Recommendations in the initial report are also said to include the removal of retired police officers from the vetting process for new officers which is seen as perpetuating the attitudes and practices of the "old guard" as well as the use of Tasers, and the cessation of carotid holds (choke holds) in the use of force altogether, which is something that the POA has actively opposed.
As for who the next SFPD Chief of Police will be, not much has been revealed about the candidate pool, though we learned last month that there were 11 applicants from within the department, as well as 21 from out of state, and a total of five female applicants. As of two weeks ago, the initial pool of 60 applicants was down to 11 semifinalists, which were divided evenly between insider and outsider candidates, and the mayor has the final pick among three finalists, whose names are not likely to be released to the public.
We know that Acting Chief Toney Chaplin has actively been after the job since the search began, and that he is rumored to be at or near the front of the line, as the Examiner suggested back in August, when several top candidates reported dropping out of the running because of a sense that the search was rigged in Chaplin's favor.
Former chief Greg Suhr resigned/was fired from his position in May following five months of loud public cries for his firing and shortly after the third civilian of color was fatally shot by officers in situations where the use of deadly force appeared, on video and in witness statements, to have been totally unnecessary.
Update: The complete 432-page report, with its 272 recommendations for the SFPD, is now out, and KQED has some further details. The report's introduction praised the department for the "courage and leadership to open [itself] to scrutiny,” and said the SFPD is "wanting to provide fair and unbiased policing while protecting the community.” But they also found that department members were highly resistant to the audit overall, and "were more focused on explaining why such an audit was not a good idea."