Mayor London N. Breed and Sheriff Vicki Hennessy today announced that the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department (SFSD) and the Department of Police Accountability (DPA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding for DPA to provide the first-ever independent civilian oversight of SFSD.
The agreement calls for DPA to investigate specific cases of alleged SFSD peace officer misconduct. SFSD’s Internal Affairs unit has been conducting these investigations. The agreement also calls for monthly and quarterly public reports on the status of the investigations as well as notice of the Sheriff’s disciplinary actions.
“Transparency and accountability are critically important when it comes to law enforcement. This agreement ensures important public oversight of investigations in cases of potential misconduct and will help our residents feel confident that complaints are heard and properly handled,” said Mayor Breed. “I want to thank both the Sheriff’s Department and the Department of Police Accountability for their leadership on this effort.”
“Even when law enforcement does a good job of investigating itself, many members of the public still feel they can’t trust the results of the investigation,” said Sheriff Hennessy. “Our agreement with the Department of Police Accountability is an important step toward ensuring trust and transparency in the Sheriff’s Department.”
“The Department of Police Accountability is proud to conduct independent investigations for the Sheriff’s Department into instances of alleged deputy misconduct,” said Paul Henderson, Executive Director of the Department of Police Accountability. “These investigations and related discipline and policy recommendations will increase transparency, accountability, and community trust.”
Under the new agreement, the Sheriff’s Department has vested authority in the DPA to investigate cases of alleged SFSD peace officer misconduct. This includes in-custody deaths, specific public complaints, outside government agency complaints, and incarcerated individuals’ complaints of excessive force, sexual assault, or a pattern or practice of harassment or retaliation by SFSD peace officers. The two-year budget includes two new positions to form an independent review unit in DPA that can handle the increased workload associated with SFSD investigations.
DPA will submit its findings to the Sheriff following its investigations. By state law, the Sheriff will retain discretion to take disciplinary action. The DPA will provide monthly summaries and quarterly reports on complaint statistics, which will include the total number of complaints and the status of each of its investigations, including instances where there is disagreement between the DPA and the Sheriff on disciplinary action. The DPA also will meet regularly with SFSD to discuss related policy and procedural changes, as well as host civilian experts to discuss incarceration, enforcement, and rehabilitation issues.
The MOU between the Sheriff’s Department and DPA formalizes the agreement between the two agencies, which began in March 2019. At that time, Sheriff Hennessy turned over peace officer misconduct cases to DPA, which emerged through complaints from incarcerated individuals in county jails.