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News + PoliticsPolicePolice Commission delays decision on chief's move to undermine reform

Police Commission delays decision on chief’s move to undermine reform

A crucial MOU expires next week—the same day the commission will hold a special emergency meeting and maybe act to preserve it.

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The San Francisco Police Commission declined Wednesday to order Chief Bill Scott to continue adhering to a deal that allows the District Attorney’s Office to take the lead in investigating police shootings.

But the panel made clear that the members don’t want the Memorandum of Understanding to expire next week, and Commission President Malia Cohen said she would schedule and emergency meeting next Tuesday or Wednesday to discuss and possibly act on the matter.

Chief Bill Scott once again refused to back down from his anti-reform stance.

Several commissioners, led by John Hamasaki and Larry Yee, said on the record that they believe the civilian panel, not the chief, has the final say on the MOU.

They repeatedly told the chief that they had the authority to direct him to keep the deal in place even if he and the district attorney are negotiating changes.

Scott, as he did last week, would not back down from his position, and said that while all parties are at the table, he is prepared to let the MOU expire Feb. 23. He said he would take full responsibility for any police misconduct that happened after that date—when the DA’s Office would no longer have priority in any investigations.

Hamasaki discussed a motion to keep the existing MOU in place until all sides have signed off on a new version. Cohen said she wouldn’t support that idea, saying she didn’t want to interrupt the ongoing talks. Hamasaki also suggested that Cohen, as the commission president, should be present at the negotiation table. Scott would not promise to include her.

Cohen offered what she called a compromise—a motion directing the chief to negotiate an interim MOU while details of a more complete deal were being hashed out.

Instead, after lengthy public comment, the commissioners just put the issue off another week.

Hamasaki, who has been the most vocal opponent of the chief’s move, said he will be out of town and not available for a special meeting next Wednesday. Cohen said, in effect, too bad—we will meet and vote without you.

Meanwhile, one of the leaders of a dark-money group that has been attacking DA Chesa Boudin sent out an email encouraging people to comment at the commission meeting and support the chief.

Frank Noto, president of stopcrimesf, laid out the talking points:

Opening line:

I am calling in today to stand with Police Chief Scott, one of the nation’s most reform-minded Black police chiefs. Chief Scott’s leadership on 21st century police reform at SFPD was recently praised in a California Department of Justice report as “a significant achievement,” and “the only example of voluntary reform at this level in the United States.”

I want to thank Chief Scott for his leadership in overseeing the most progressive police department in the country and for working with community partners in trailblazing reforms that police departments nationwide are watching closely.

The chief’s MOU move, on the other hand, is directly undermining one of the most important reforms the department has undertaken.

If the two sides don’t reach a deal in the next few days, the commission will have no choice other than to allow the chief to continue with his position, or order him to change it.

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 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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