Newsom sets up board to stop SFPD racial profiling 

Mayor Gavin Newsom announced on Tuesday plans to set up an advisory board to better ensure that San Francisco Police Department officers are not conducting racial profiling.

Following revelations that San Francisco has a higher rate of felony arrests of African-Americans compared with other cities, city officials said the data needed to be examined to determine if it was the result of biased policing.

After a $15,000 three-month study, city officials have a report that brings them no closer to answering the question whether the disparity of arrests is the result of biased policing, but a report that recommends implementing a wide range of improvements in the Police Department to combat biased policing.

"We cannot equate disparity with police racial bias. It’s very difficult to disentangle all possible causes," said the author of the report, Lorie Fridell, a noted criminologist.

The report makes 28 recommendations for improving the department’s "fair and impartial policing," which Fridell said would make the department a "model agency" in the nation for bias-free policing.

Newsom said on Tuesday that The City "will be aggressively implementing the recommendations."

Newsom added, "I do not believe we have a racist police department — period. I do not believe that. I’m very proud of the diversity in the department. I’m proud of the standards that have been established."

Fridell said she was not singling out the Police Department or calling it bad. "I would recommend a comprehensive program to improve fair and impartial policing in any jurisdiction in this country," she said.

Newsom said The City will have implemented by May 1 one of the key recommendations, having police Chief Heather Fong set up an advisory board to work with her to implement the recommendations. The recommendations include community meetings to discuss racially biased policing, better training of recruits with regard to unbiased policing and routine meetings of the command staff to discuss racial profiling. The makeup of the board remains undetermined.

Once established, the advisory board is expected to flesh out the recommendations in the report and present them to the Police Commission.

"We as a commission need to do everything we can to ensure that there is no racial profiling going on at the Police Department," Police Commissioner David Campos said. He added, "We need to be able to say definitively there is no racial discrimination happening."

Fridell said, "There are racists in policing, there are racists in any profession, and this program has components to deal with any such individuals in any department, including the SFPD."

jsabatini@examiner.com

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