May 16 – As the Frisco 5 ended their 17-day hunger strike, which had the sole demand to fire San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr, the campaign morphed into the Frisco 500. The Frisco 500 took over City Hall on May 6, when 33 people were arrested. This was followed by a 12-hour picket, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., around City Hall on May 9, with hundreds participating.
That evening, an independent three-judge “Blue Ribbon Panel on Transparency, Accountability, and Fairness in Law Enforcement” announced scathing preliminary findings after a year-long study of the San Francisco Police Department. The panel was launched by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon after last year’s revelations of racist text messages among SFPD officers. The panel’s findings were coupled with publication of more accusations of racist slurs by SFPD officers.
All this led to declarations by five San Francisco Board of Supervisors on May 11 that San Francisco needed a new police chief. All sides are closing in on Chief Suhr with a resounding crescendo!
Cops’ racist practices revealed
Significant findings in the panel’s draft release of May 9 to the San Francisco Examiner include:
- “The department engages in controversial ‘stop and frisk’ practices and there is a disparity when it comes to black and Latino citizens.”
- “Use of force practices and policing, which are undergoing major mandated changes, which include a federal review, following the Dec. 2, 2015, killing of Mario Woods, were found to be in dire need of updating. What’s more, the department’s internal data collection on use of force incidents is done in a way that discourages auditing and review from outside parties.”
- “There is no transparency in the disciplinary process … the disciplinary guidelines are outdated and there is little tracking of the outcome of discipline.”
- Investigations into police misconduct allegations by the department’s watchdog, the Office of Citizen Complaints, “rarely result in disciplinary consequences, and when they do, the discipline imposed is almost always mild.”
- Additional findings were reported during a panel presentation that evening (48hills.org, May 9):
- “Overall, the report shows, the department allows rogue officers to operate with impunity and there’s a profound lack of accountability at all levels.”
- “We find that the SFPD is, in fact, influenced by the [Police Officers Association] and the POA’s influence has been an impediment to open dialogue and sustained reforms.”
- Michelle Park Chiu, of the office of Morgan Lewis, said, “[The SFPD] ‘does not collect enough data to see if the use of force disproportionately impacts minority populations.’”
- “The discipline imposed by the chief of police is almost always mild, mostly just admonishment. There has not been one sustained complaint sent to the Police Commission (which can impose discipline of more than 10 days’ suspension) since 2012.”
SF officials called for Suhr’s removal
The SFPD released details about another officer accused of racial slurs, which the Examiner reported on May 9. “Sgt. Lawrence Kempinski, a 17-year veteran who most recently worked in the Bayview Station, allegedly made the remarks in front of other officers who reported the incident. Kempinski allegedly said he only transferred to the station to ‘kill n—-rs,’ according to a source in the department.”
This is on top of a Los Angeles Times report on May 7 that Gascon has thus far “identified 3,000 criminal cases that could have been affected by perceived bias by 14 officers” because of revelations of their racist, sexist and homophobic texts. “The texts,” the Times reported on April 3, “were exposed in a court filing during the trial of former SFPD Officer Ian Furminger, who was convicted and sentenced to 41 months in prison for corruption pending an appeal.”
On May 11, Suhr’s dominoes were falling as four of 11 San Francisco supervisors, one by one, publicly announced their support for a new police chief. Supervisor Jane Kim called for a new police chief just before noon, reported the Examiner. Supervisors Dave Campos, John Avalos and Jane Kim called for Suhr to step down, reported 48hills.org at 3:30 pm. Finally, less than half an hour later, Supervisor Eric Mar joined the call for Suhr to resign.
The community continues to pressure for Suhr’s removal. A press conference was held by the Frisco 5 on May 12, with three of the four hunger strikers. (Cristina Gutierrez, still recovering from fasting, was unable to attend.) A “Black and Brown Community Meeting” was held on May 14 to “unite and move forward with our goals for justice.”