In Los Angeles County, law-enforcement officers have shot more than 2,000 people in the past 15 years – and exactly one officer has ever been charged with a crime. That’s a shocking statistic on one level – but it’s also not surprising. Cops kill people all the time, and it’s very, very rare that a local district attorney will ever do anything about it.
The real shocker is that the public will, in most cases, never find out who the officers were, whether any of those officers were found to have acted improperly or were disciplined, or what the results were of any internal investigation. That’s because California has some of the worst laws in the country around police accountability.
Pretty much any disciplinary action against a law-enforcement officer is considered secret in this state. Even if an officer has multiple sanctions for serious offenses, including sexual assault, racial profiling, or illegal searches, the public never finds out.
The Office of Citizen Complaints, the San Francisco agency that investigates complaints against officers, can’t release anything other than very basic data, never including the names of the officers involved. Even the person who files a complaint can’t see the results unless they sign a document swearing to keep the information secret.
The SFPD did, or will do, internal investigations of the shootings of Alex Nieto, Amilcar Lopez, Mario Woods, and Luis Gongora. Suppose those investigations show that the officers violated the rules and procedures that they are trained to follow, and they are given suspensions or written warnings. Suppose the same officers do the same thing over again.
We will never know, because all of that is secret.
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But there’s a chance the situation will change this year. State Sen. Mark Leno, who is in his final term, has introduced a measure that would mandate that the public have access to records of sustained charges of serious misconduct by law-enforcement officers, and any records relating to use of force that causes death or serious bodily injury (which means pretty much all shootings).
The police unions are fighting bitterly against the bill (and the Orange County Register had to admonish Republicans who oppose it) but Leno got SB 1286 thought the Public Safety Committee two weeks ago, and after a brief stop in Appropriations, where it won’t run into problems since it doesn’t cost the state any money, will be on the Senate floor by May, Leno told me.
The SF Board of Supes will decide Tuesday/19 whether to endorse the bill, and the resolution of support already has eight sponsors. But you can count on the San Francisco POA, which continues to embarrass itself more and more by the week, to try to block it.
Supporters of Iris Canada, the 99-year-old who is facing eviction, will be at SF Superior Court at 8:30am Tuesday/19 to rally before a court hearing that’s expected to start at 9:30.
Canada has lived in her apartment for some 60 years, but her landlord is trying to get her out, claiming she doesn’t really live in the place any more. Reporters who went to visit her found the place clean, orderly – and clearly occupied.
The story has gone across the country, to Burlington, VT, where Bernie Sanders used to be mayor: The landlord, Peter Owens, runs that city’s Community Economic and Development Office.
Or he does for another couple of weeks. In the wake of the controversy over the eviction, Owens announced last week that he’s resigning. All he needs to do now is call off the eviction. We’ll see Tuesday.
The city’s new sheriff told a Board of Supervisors committee April 7 that she reserves the right to alert the federal immigration authorities if she thinks a person in her custody should be handed over to them upon release from the city jail. That’s a significant change from the policy of her predecessor, Ross Mirkarimi, who didn’t cooperate with the Immigration Control and Enforcement agency.
The hearing was tense: Sup. David Campos told Sheriff Vicky Hennessy that “It’s a sad day for San Francisco that we have an elected sheriff who is turning back the clock on sanctuary.” Hennessy said she disagreed, and that under certain circumstances, “I reserve the right to make notifications.”
Campos, along with Sups. John Avalos, Jane Kim, Eric Mar, and Aaron Peskin, have a measure that would prohibit the use of city funds to “assist in the enforcement of federal immigration law,” except for people convicted of a violent felony and held to answer for a violent felony.
If the measure passes, the sheriff, and all other city officials, will have to abide by a much stricter interpretation of the Sanctuary City law. The mayor in the past has opposed that policy, saying that the sheriff and police should have the right to call ICE under certain circumstances and send someone to deportation.
The measure cleared committee and will be up at the full board Tuesday/19.
The Land Use and Transportation Committee looks at the question of inclusionary housing Monday/18. It’s an ongoing battle, one that will also be on the June ballot (Prop. C would increase the mandatory levels of affordable housing and allow the supes to change those levels.) The ordinance before Land Use would increase the fee that developers have to pay if they don’t build affordable units – and would have the controller prepare and Economic Feasibility Report looking at how much developers can actually afford to pay.
That kind of report, it its fair and honest and complete, could lead to some seriously sticky questions. Some developers say that they can’t afford to build market-rate housing projects today if the mandates for affordable housing are too high. But the data we already have shows that every 100 units of luxury housing creates a demand for 30 units for affordable housing – meaning that at an level lower than 30 percent, building more high-end housing is actually making the housing crisis worse.
Which could certainly be an argument for saying: If market-rate housing can’t pay for the costs it imposes on the city, maybe we should stop building it. You know, when you’re in a hole you stop digging. And like that.
The hearing’s at 1:30 pm in the Board of Supes chambers.
And do miss our Third Anniversary Gala Thursday/21! it’s your support that makes 48hills possible, so I hope to see you there!