Garcia: Cop records come into play 

San Francisco police Chief George Gascón is expected to announce today that the department will be forming a “Brady committee” that will review disciplinary cases involving officers whose credibility could be challenged if they testify in court.

The news comes after months of meetings with police union representatives to figure out a way to handle the cases after it was discovered a few months back that the District Attorney’s Office had no formal policy to weed out suspected Brady material — so called that based on a 1963 Supreme Court ruling that requires prosecutors to turn over to defense attorneys any potentially damaging evidence in an officer’s background.

Gascón told me the committee will consist of a retired judge and members of the SFPD’s internal affairs and command staff. It will review cases and allow officers that have been charged or convicted of criminal behavior to directly rebut any allegations.

The final decision on the whether the officer’s behavior would affect their ability to testify in any cases will then be left to a Superior Court judge.

Gascón and Gary Delagnes, head of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, said a reported list of officers would not be made public, and that at present there’s no list. However, the review process still poses a huge potential problem for District Attorney Kamala Harris if her office did not properly screen officers facing serious disciplinary charges and they ended up testifying in court.

In that scenario, those cases could be overturned, creating a huge election headache for someone running for state attorney general.

“We haven’t compiled a list yet,” Gascón said. “We’ve just put a process in place to deal with current cases, and we feel that they’re being handled appropriately. The whole idea is to take a retrospective look at the past and review cases of concern.”

The committee will focus on cases in which officers have been charged or convicted of lying or perjury, which might disallow them from future court testimony — essentially removing them from active police duty.

“In a department this size, invariably you are going to have some people who get themselves into trouble,” Gascón said.

In California, you can’t be a police officer if you’ve been convicted of a felony. But some officers may have pleaded guilty to a reduced charge. Harris is just praying none of them ever made it to the witness stand.

Bike riders should pay for upcoming projects

We know how much San Francisco supervisors love taxes, even when polls tell them that they’re unpopular among voters. At one point, they were peddling new levies targeting businesses, garages and hotel operators, and now they’re even talking about a new “fee” on alcoholic drinks.

City officials have a special affinity for car owners, hitting them with increased permit fees, ticket rates and meter pricing. Fees for park users have soared. Even city pet owners have to pay more for licenses.

Yet, one group of city residents has managed to get millions in city funds and services without paying a cent. They would be the special class of citizens we know as bike riders. That begs the question: If everybody in San Francisco is having to pay more for the privilege of living here, shouldn’t our two-wheel friends have to pony up for the dozens of miles of new bike lanes, the loss of some 2,000 parking spaces and even the cost of policing Critical Mass?

I’m not the first person to raise the idea of a permit fee for cyclists, though in our transit-first world the issue somehow never gets debated. Yet, transportation officials say they plan to spend up to $23 million in city funds for new bike projects in the coming years. And if bike commuters insist on pushing for a host of transportation improvements, it doesn’t seem like all the money should be coming from car owners, who are largely singled out for transit dollars.

I’m just saying.

Committee proves it’s out of touch

It seems fitting that San Francisco’s Democratic Party leaders held their endorsement meeting this week at the headquarters of striking hotel union workers because rarely has a group been so beholden to special interests.

Amid the back-stabbing, deal-making and general hostilities that typify the local Democratic County Central Committee, a few details emerged. The ultraliberal group is completely out of touch with average San Franciscans, and it’s more than happy to eat its young.

The committee, which is relevant only because it controls spending and slate mailers for candidates and ballot measures, voted to endorse every tax measure on the ballot (surprise!) and against the mayor’s popular sit-lie ordinance and a pension reform measure. Its members also refused to back a Muni reform initiative to restructure transit worker union salaries that will almost certainly pass in November.

The committee endorsed “progressive” poster boy Rafael Mandelman in the District 8 race to succeed Supervisor Bevan Dufty, then gave Rebecca Prozan the second-choice endorsement, freezing out moderate candidate Scott Wiener, who used to chair the committee. The group endorsed Debra Walker as its District 6 favorite to succeed bombastic Supervisor Chris Daly, but declined to back a like-minded candidate, Jane Kim. Former Police Commission President Theresa Sparks barely received a mention.

Also, the group voted against a measure to disallow city office holders from serving on the committee. Imagine.

Registering bullets? Good luck with that

We’re all for anything that will help reduce gun violence, though most of the attempts here in San Francisco have proven to be costly and, well, illegal.

So, while we can applaud Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier for trumpeting a plan to require gun owners to register their bullets, we don’t think criminals who pack heat are going to just sign up to make it official.

Life is strange that way, like when you have mindless teenagers carrying loaded weapons at nightclubs and movie theaters. They’re thinking more about popcorn than consequences.

It’s not a city’s function to regulate weapons or ammunition, it’s the state’s — as San Francisco proved when it lost a half-cocked lawsuit a few years back.

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Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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