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Woman holding cell phone with article Where Police Reform Has Worked, New York Times, June 11, 2020 by David Leonhardt

Police Reform

A Role Model on Reform.

The San Francisco Police Department is in the midst of a transformational endeavor that reflects our commitment to the principle of safety with respect and aspires to make SFPD a national model of 21st century policing.

Initially launched in 2016 as the Collaborative Reform Initiative (or CRI), SFPD’s quest for continual improvement has grown to include Mayor London Breed’s ambitious Police Reform Roadmap and our department’s Racial Equity and Inclusion Action Plan.

Collaborative Reform Initiatives

In 2015 and 2016, the San Francisco Police Department faced mounting public criticism over a series of high-profile officer-involved shootings. Together with then-Supervisors London Breed and Malia Cohen, Mayor Ed Lee and SFPD in 2016 asked the U.S. Department of Justice for a voluntary, top-to-bottom review of the San Francisco Police Department’s practices. Our request of the U.S. DOJ sought “answers about how as a Police Department and a City we can build deeper, stronger trust between law enforcement and the communities they’re sworn to protect.”

In October 2016, the U.S. DOJ’s COPS office (for “Community Oriented Policing Services”) released the most comprehensive independent assessment of the San Francisco Police Department in city history. The 432-page report identified five areas of improvement in line with the principles of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century policing.

  • Use of Force Reforms (23 findings and 58 recommendations)
  • Bias Reforms (14 findings and 54 recommendations)
  • Community Policing Reforms (17 findings and 60 recommendations)
  • Accountability Reforms (26 findings and 68 recommendations)
  • Recruitment, Hiring and Personnel Reforms (14 findings and 32 recommendations)

In total, the U.S. DOJ made 94 findings and 272 recommendations for improvement, adding…
“If the SFPD does so – with sustained diligence and in good faith – it will become a model policing agency in this country.”

After a productive start on CRI, however, in 2017 then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions ended the U.S. DOJ’s participation in collaborative reform partnerships. The San Francisco Police Department was alone among major city police departments nationwide to reinvent the transformative program as a voluntary state-level collaboration — making good on its commitment to the diverse communities it serves.

Since 2018, SFPD has worked in partnership with the California Department of Justice — led by then-Attorney General Xavier Becerra — together with Hillard Heintze, a leading global change management consultancy, to implement the 272 recommendations and nearly 1,000 associated compliance measures.

View the 2016 U.S. DOJ/COPS Assessment Report (PDF)

Mayor London Breed’s Roadmap for New Police Reforms

Building on the CRI program she helped to forge while serving on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Mayor London Breed in June 2020 announced an innovative new police reform roadmap. The four-part police reform plan aims to:

  1. Reduce public reliance of police responses to non-criminal street crises;
  2. Eliminate biased policing and strengthen accountability;
  3. Demilitarize departmental operations; and
  4. Promote economic justice through budget reallocations that aid traditionally marginalized communities.

Mayor Breed’s ambitious reform roadmap reaches beyond the San Francisco Police Department alone to partner with city agencies and community-based organizations to remedy underlying racial and social inequities, and better address behavioral health problems on city streets that police officers are too often called upon to resolve. Even as a pilot program, San Francisco’s “Street Crisis Response Team” is emerging as a national model for reimagining policing and public services.

SFPD’s Racial Equity Action and Inclusion Plan

Another major police reform endeavor currently underway in partnership with the San Francisco Human Rights Commission is SFPD’s Racial Equity Action and Inclusion Plan.

The 96-page plan published in December 2020 details more than 80 specific actions the San Francisco Police Department is undertaking to enact comprehensive improvements that will enhance racial diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. Phase I of the reforms — many of them already in progress — cover the full breadth of the department’s institutional and structural realms, spanning hiring and recruitment; retention and promotion; discipline and separation; leadership and management; professional development and mobility; and organizational culture. Another 10 action steps detailed in the report will be led by the San Francisco Police Commission, the police department’s civilian oversight and governing body.

View the SFPD’s Racial Equity Action and Inclusion Plan (PDF)

Moving Forward

Hailed by the New York Times in 2020 as a major city department “where police reform has worked,” the San Francisco Police Department’s commitment to top-to-bottom reform endures as an ongoing department-wide effort.

“Although CRI is a key element in our comprehensive reform agenda, SFPD is equally committed to fulfilling the promise of Mayor London Breed’s Roadmap for Police Reforms and our Racial Equity and Inclusion Action Plan, which we are pursuing in partnership with the San Francisco Human Rights Commission,” said San Francisco Chief of Police Bill Scott. “I’m proud to lead a department whose members in recent years have been fearless in identifying areas for needed improvement, and united in our drive to accomplish it. Together, we are grateful to Mayor Breed, the Board of Supervisors, the San Francisco Police Commission and numerous city agencies and community partners for working with us on trailblazing reforms that police departments nationwide are watching closely.”