After weeks of bitter opposition from civil rights and religious leaders in San Francisco’s black community, Mayor Ed Lee announced Tuesday that he would drop plans to institute a controversial stop-and-frisk policy in The City.
The idea, floated by Lee in June, was to be modeled after a similar New York City policy that allows police to strategically stop, question and search people they deem suspicious. The New York law has drawn voluminous criticism and a federal court challenge alleging Fourth Amendment violations, racial profiling and general ineffectiveness.
Despite the issues in New York, Lee stood behind the strategy through much of the summer as a way to get guns off the street amid a spike in homicides over the past two months, especially in the southeastern neighborhoods of The City. At a news conference Tuesday at the Calvary Hill Community Church near the Bayview district, Lee said the concerns of the community were heard.
“We will not be implementing the stop-and-frisk program, or variations of that, in San Francisco,” Lee said to applause.
The mayor said The City would instead institute an alternative strategy of “interrupting” violence before it happens, maintaining tabs on known criminals likely to re-offend and using computer data to increase police presence in areas where crime is likely to happen. Lee said probation officers will “saturate” high-crime areas, including from a satellite office in Bayview.
Police Chief Greg Suhr said a recent spike in gun-related homicides will require better “predictive policing” and “perpetual list” of formerly incarcerated violent criminals, who will be tracked “forever.” Suhr said police will pay particular attention to 200 or so known parolees in The City.
“If you are on probation or parole,” Suhr said, “we’ll be knocking on your door, seeing if you’re complying with your conditions.”
Suhr also called on anyone with knowledge of unauthorized firearms in the hands of felons to turn them over — either to police or local religious leaders.
“I don’t care if we get an arrest,” Suhr said. “We just want the gun.”
The chief noted that gang rivalries in San Francisco’s southeastern neighborhoods have contributed to a marked rise in gun-related homicides in June and July. The City saw 14 gun-related homicides in the first five months of this year, but there have been 15 more in the past two months alone, he said.
Supervisor Malia Cohen, whose district includes Bayview, led the news conference and attempted to quell residual anger at the mayor over his former support of a stop-and-frisk policy.
“It’s a wonderful, great epiphany,” Cohen said of the mayor’s change of heart. “No stop-and-frisk. Did you guys hear that?”