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Thursday, September 28, 2023

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News + PoliticsPolicePolice Commission hears community outrage—and two members call for investigation

Police Commission hears community outrage—and two members call for investigation

Police response to Dolores skateboard event was 'embarrassing,' commissioners say; full hearing set for next week.


At least two members of the San Francisco Police Commission are calling for a full internal investigation of the department’s actions on the night of the Dolores Street skateboarding event.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Commissioners Jesus Yanez and Kevin Benedicto both said the police response to the event was unacceptable; Yanez called it “embarrassing.”

Their comments came after more than an hour of impassioned public comment, featuring not just skaters and their parents but public-school teachers and a doctor who talked about the trauma the teens are facing from the harsh treatment and arrests.

Commissioner Jesus Yanez said the response was unacceptable.

The commission couldn’t discuss the event in detail, since it wasn’t on the agenda, but Benedicto promised that the chief would make a full presentation next Wednesday/19. Chief Bill Scott said he would release at that time all of the body-worn camera videos.

Yanez called for a full Internal Affairs Department investigation, and while only Benedicto joined him, Commission President Cindy Elias and Vice President Max Carter-Oberstone weren’t at the meeting. Both have been unafraid to criticize the chief and the department’s operations, and I would be very surprised if the two don’t join their colleagues next week, creating at least a four-vote majority to order a full inquiry.

Yanez also asked the chief to provide a full breakdown of how many officers were deployed, where they came from, how many were on overtime and the full cost of the operation.

Speaker after speaker talked about the over-reaction of the cops on the scene and how it appears the department didn’t follow its own general orders in dealing with juveniles.

Jeffrey Kwong, president of the Harvey Milk Club, noted that the department talks all the time about the need for community engagement. “If there is one group in the city that needs our engagement,” he said, “it’s the youth.”

He added: “The police don’t understand their own de-escalation techniques.”

Olivia Park, a doctor from the Do No Harm Coalition described the police action as “state-sanctioned child abuse.”

Two SFUSD teachers talked about how they would need to address the trauma when students came back in a few weeks. One noted that all the police equipment and staffing was expensive: “I wish I had enough chairs.”

“I am almost traumatized by what I experienced” at the hearing, Yanez said. He urged activists to come back: “I hope this room is full next week.”

In a really odd—and to some Latinx folks I’ve talked to, at least cringe-worthy, if not disturbing—moment, after public comment closed, acting President Larry Yee told the activists, with a dismissive wave of his hand: “Si Se Puede, huh? We got it.”

No, you don’t, came the response.

“I was offended,” Anabel Ibanez, a leader in the United Educators of San Francisco, told me. “That language is about building power for the powerless, and when we are taking on the police is very dismissive of our concerns. I’m really upset, and he should know better.”

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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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