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San Francisco, Oakland voters approve new law enforcement oversight

Stronger accountability for law enforcement may be coming to San Francisco and Oakland following Tuesday’s election after voters approved separate measures to create new oversight bodies and infrastructure.

San Francisco voters appear to have overwhelmingly approved Proposition D, which would create a Sheriff’s Department Oversight Board, according to the latest numbers early Wednesday morning. And in Oakland, Measure S1 is passing, unofficial election results showed late Tuesday night.

In addition to creating an oversight board for the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department, Proposition D would also create an Inspector General position.

The seven-member oversight board would be tasked with advising and reporting findings and recommendations to the Sheriff’s Department, which currently does not have an oversight body, while the inspector general position would be appointed by the oversight board to investigate complaints of non-criminal misconduct of sheriff’s department staff and contractors, as well as in-custody deaths.

The creation of the oversight body and the inspector general position will cost the city $3 million.

Currently, the city’s Department of Police Accountability, formerly known as the Office of Citizen Complaints, is tasked with independently investigating misconduct cases within the Sheriff’s Department.

In the case of in-custody deaths, The City’s Police Department, the District Attorney’s Office and the Medical Examiner’s Office all conduct separate independent investigations.

But according to Supervisor Shamann Walton, who drafted the measure, the Sheriff’s Department needs a dedicated oversight board and inspector general to increase accountability and transparency.

Walton initially introduced the measure back in July, amid an increased movement nationwide for more accountability within law enforcement, spurred, in part, by the in-custody death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, in Minneapolis.

In recent years, the Sheriff’s Department has faced scrutiny over misconduct allegations, including allegations made by inmates in 2019 of physical abuse and illegal strip searches, as well as allegations of deputies forcing inmates to fight each other back in 2015.

Both District Attorney Chesa Boudin and Public Defender Mano Raju voiced support for the measure.

San Francisco Sheriff Paul Miyamoto said in August that while he supports more transparency and the creation of a creating a citizen advisory board for the department, he does not support the measure.

He called it “more wasteful bureaucracy,” saying that it duplicates a process for independent investigations that’s already in place within the department.

Across the bay, 81 percent of Oakland voters approved of Measure S1, which would establish a new Office of the Inspector General under the Oakland Police Commission. The measure requires a simple majority to pass.

Oakland police have an inspector general who reports to the chief of police and city administrator and analyzes police policies and procedures. The new inspector general would be able to review and investigate how the city is handling police misconduct.

Another power the new inspector general would have includes auditing how well the Police Department is complying with federal reforms.

The proponents of the measure wrote:

“OPD has been under federal oversight for way too long and needs to get its house in order and make more progress.”

Those who signed the argument include the Rev. George Cummings, Faith in Action East Bay; City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan; Councilmember Dan Kalb, Police Commission chair Regina Jackson and Mariano Contreras of the Latino Task Force.

No argument was submitted to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters in opposition to the measure.

The new inspector general would be hired by the Police Commission and the commission could fire that person, too.

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