Breed vows to weed out ‘bad apples’ from San Francisco Police Department 

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday called for greater investment in a police oversight body and requested a hearing in reaction to the text-messaging scandal that has rocked the Police Department and raised concerns about biased policing.

While in recent years the board has distanced itself from involvement in the Police Department under the leadership of the popular Police Chief Greg Suhr, the disclosed racist and homophobic texts drew quick reaction.

“There are lot people out there who are frustrated and who are upset,” board President London Breed said. “We are definitely doing our part to make sure that we weed out those who are bad apples and make sure that they are not serving in our Police Department.”

The texts, dating from 2011 and 2012, were made public Friday as part of federal legal proceedings against a former sergeant. The disclosed texts, exchanged among four officers, has triggered a probe into other officers and has called into question up to 1,000 cases.

Breed emphasized the importance of making transparent the ongoing department probe and resulting disciplinary action.

Supervisor Eric Mar, who chairs the board’s Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee, requested the hearing. Of the texts, Mar said, “They demonstrate that racism, homophobia and other forms of bigotry are still a problem within our Police Department and our criminal justice system.”

Mar said the hearing will examine biased policing. “It is important that the system be free of bias,” Mar said. “What is more worrisome is that we do not have a clear picture of how these prejudices and biases actually play out on our streets.”

Supervisor David Campos said San Francisco needs to add resources to its Office of Citizen Complaints, a voter-created body charged with investigating claims against police officers.

“My understanding is as of today, the OCC has three investigators to investigate all of the claims,” Campos said. “For us to ensure that we have the kind of police department that San Francisco deserves we need to make sure that the OCC has the resources that it needs.”

Members of the board praised Suhr for his handling of the controversy. “He has done an excellent job in addressing the problems and the challenges head on and not running or hiding from any of the complicated issues,” Supervisor Malia Cohen said of Suhr, who was appointed to his post in 2011 by Mayor Ed Lee.

Previously, Suhr was a captain of the Bayview station, which serves a largely black community.

Cohen vowed to increase scrutiny of those whose terms are expiring on the Police Commission, another oversight body of the department. “If they earn our trust and our respect then they should continue to serve in that respect if not then we do need to make some changes,” Cohen said.

Breed offered other solutions, like having the department hire more local residents as police officers and re-establishing a police community relations board, which Willie Brown had established when he was mayor. A date for the board’s hearing has yet been scheduled. But it is expected in the next “few weeks.”

“We have a lot of work to do,” Breed said about the issue.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com
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