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Friday, September 29, 2023

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City HallThe AgendaShould SF ban the no-knock warrants that lead to Breonna Taylor's death?

Should SF ban the no-knock warrants that lead to Breonna Taylor’s death?

Plus: Juvenile justice, small-business rent relief, and a 'beach-to-the-Bay' bike path. That's The Agenda for Sept. 20-26.


Two days after we reported on new SFPD search-warrant rules that were headed for Police Commission approval with very little public input, Commission Chair Malia Cohen pulled the item from the agenda and delayed it until Oct. 6.

Our story spurred letters in opposition to the proposals from both the Public Defender’s Office and the ACLU. Among the issues: the new policy would allow the cops to continue using “no-knock” warrants, where officers simply force open a door and enter without any warning to the occupants.

Memorial for Breonna Taylor, killed during a no-knock warrant. Wikimedia image by FloNight under Creative Commons license.

This has, to say the least, been a problem in the past. As Yoel Haile, criminal justice program director for the ACLU of Northern California, noted in a letter to the commission:

The murder of Breonna Taylor at the hands of Louisville police officers following a no-knock warrant shocked the nation and sparked massive calls to significantly reform the institution of policing which continues to terrorize and kill communities of color. Following Breonna Taylor’s killing, many states and cities have instituted full bans of no-knock warrants; other states have introduced legislation to partially ban no-knock warrants. San Francisco should lead on this issue and ban no-knock warrants. Anything less will inevitably lead to more terror, brutality, and death to the over-policed communities, namely communities of color and poor communities, in San Francisco.

Adds Danielle Harris, managing attorney for the Public Defender’s Office Public Integrity Unit:

As illustrated by the shocking homicide of Breanna Taylor last year, no-knock entries are prohibitively dangerous. SFPD should stand as a national leader to eliminate the practice altogether. There is no practical need for no-knock warrant entry into a private dwelling, given the inherent potential harm and the exigency exception to the warrant requirement.

There’s more. From the ACLU:

The proposed DGO states that “members shall include known exculpatory evidence and information members would reasonably believe could affect the probable cause determination by a magistrate.” (Emphasis added.) As written, this DGO leaves the determination of whether exculpatory evidence or information could affect the probable cause determination to the affiant or the officer preparing the search warrant. In other words, this leaves room for the possibility that exculpatory evidence can exist but could nonetheless be excluded if the affiant reasonably believes it could not affect the probable cause determination by the magistrate. Any Police Department order concerning search warrants should mandate that all exculpatory evidence must be included in the search warrant affidavits—regardless of what the affiant believes the effect will be on the determination by the magistrate. This is especially significant in cases where the affiant is an officer who is included in a “Brady list,” a list of police officers who are not deemed credible by the District Attorney’s Office to provide testimony due to their prior history and conduct.

Also from the PD:

Longstanding SFPD practice is to routinely request sealing far beyond what the law allows. Defense attorneys are regularly advised we cannot get warrants in discovery because they are sealed. When we file motions to unseal the warrants, assigned prosecutors often concede there is no legal basis for the sealing. In the meantime, precious time is lost to investigate cases, with untold results, and the courts are clogged with unnecessary litigation while those presumed innocent languish in jail.

In other words, there’s a lot wrong with this policy, which was written by the Police Department and the Department of Police Accountability with essentially no public oversight, and was minutes away from getting approved by a Police Commission that never asked, not once, if the PD or the ACLU or immigrant rights groups or anyone else outside of those two agencies had been consulted.

We will keep you posted.

The Board of Supes will vote Tuesday/21 on a proposal by Sup. Hillary Ronen that would codify rules for young people arrested from crimes in San Francisco.

The issue came up at the new Youth, Young Adult, and Families Committee, and it’s a problem I knew nothing about. Under current state law, when a juvenile (someone under 18) is arrested in San Francisco, the cops can decide whether to send that case to the district attorney in San Francisco, or the DA of the county where the juvenile lives.

That’s not the case with adult cases: You get arrested for a crime in SF, your case is processed in SF, no matter where you live.

But for juveniles, the law makes clear that it might be in the best interests of the young person to be jailed and prosecuted near home. And it may well be.

But as Ronen pointed out in a committee hearing, the cops shouldn’t be the ones deciding that—particularly now, when the SFPD has been looking for ways to avoid working with DA Chesa Boudin.

The measure would simply say that the cops can’t move a juvenile prosecution to another county without consulting the San Francisco DA. The elected DA gets to make that decision.

Sup. Ahsha Safai will also ask Mayor London Breed during Question Time if she supports his proposal to offer eviction protection and rent relief for small businesses (with less than $2.5 million in revenue) who are behind on payments because of COVID. I would be stunned if Breed isn’t supporting this—but I’ve been stunned before.

Oh, and the $70 million parking meters got out of committee and are on the full board agenda. I seem to be the only one in town who is questioning this, but seriously: Right now, with all the priorities the city has, do we really need to spend $70 million on new parking meters? That money would, among other things, pay for a mid-sized hotel to create permanent housing for probably 100 homeless people.

Or we could buy new parking meters with 5G instead of 3G capability.

The Land Use and Transportation Committee will take up the complex issue of cars in Golden Gate Park Monday/20. Sups. Connie Chan, Shamann Walton, and Aaron Peskin are calling on the Rec-Park Commission to create a “Beach to the Bay” car-free route through the park, which would include a long-fought battle to close JFK Drive to cars every day.

The measure also calls for discounted parking rates for people from vulnerable neighborhoods at the Concourse.

Here’s a cool map of what a GGP bike route could look like:

And all of this will tie into the battle over the closure and re-opening of the Great Highway. You can read two perspectives on that here and here.

That meeting starts at 1:30pm.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.

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