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San Francisco may stop hiring cops with records of misconduct

The demand to reform police departments is causing some local governments to look at new regulations and laws. In San Francisco, the board of supervisors is considering a resolution introduced last week that would urge the civil service commission there to prohibit hiring officers with a history of serious misconduct. San Francisco Supervisor Shamann Walton joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss.

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  • Hari Sreeivasan:

    The demand to reform police departments, from partially defunding them to setting new standards for hiring and disciplining officers, is causing local governments to consider new regulations and laws.

    In San Francisco, the board of supervisors is considering a resolution introduced last week that would urge the civil service commission there to prohibit hiring officers with a history of serious misconduct.

    I spoke with San Francisco supervisor Shamann Walton on Friday about the proposal.

    Shamann Walton, what provoked this new measure?

  • Shamann Walton:

    Well, we're just tired of seeing unarmed black man, unarmed people of color killed by law enforcement, and there be no consequence. And so, one, obviously there're some things that we have to do to address that issue, but also there are things we can do to be preventative.

    And so urging the Civil Service Commission to never hire anyone that has had excessive force complaints that have had racial profiling complaints or complaints of misconduct in another city.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    One of the clauses that you had was even if they left in the middle of an investigation, is that something that you're seeing?

  • Shamann Walton:

    Well it's something that we we perceived to be happening. And if someone is in the middle of an investigation and they leave, that should be a red flag in itself. And so we want to make sure again that we do everything we can to have common sense policies that says we're not going to hire anyone as part of our law enforcement bodies that are coming to harm our residents.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Do you think there are officers on the force now that might have had problems from previous jurisdictions who the city or county has hired?

  • Shamann Walton:

    We definitely know anecdotally and in fact, in some investigations, we've also found that there are officers in our police department that have worked in other jurisdictions and have had complaints.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    I'm asking because I'm a wondering is this a solution in search of a problem? And have there been problems in the San Francisco or the police department already which lead you to believe that you need to take this step?

  • Shamann Walton:

    We know that there are officers who definitely have had misconduct cases in cases of excessive force that are currently on our our police force. We do know that the police officer that killed George Floyd had over a dozen complaints of excessive force and had had a couple of shootings that resulted in death.

    So, no, I do not think is a solution in search of a problem. I think it is very important step to protect our residents. And as a black man who is raising black children and living in a black community, it is very important that I do everything that I can in this role to make sure that we protect our residents.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    How has been met by the rank and file police department or their representatives?

  • Shamann Walton:

    The officers that I've talked to think that this is common sense. I've heard that there are some rumblings from the Police Officers Association. I have nine colleagues total that support this resolution and co-sponsored this resolution.

    Obviously, the district attorney is on board and this is common sense policy that I think a lot of people will support it. And I definitely know that in community and have even have conversations with some of the rank and file. This is something that they also see as common sense policy.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    If I'm a police officer and I had a problem in a previous job doesn't the city vet me in the hiring process and figure that out?

  • Shamann Walton:

    Officers are vetted and anyone we hire as a city and county employee is vetted, but we need this protocol to be in writing. We need to explicitly state that we will not accept individuals from other law enforcement bodies across the Bay Area, from any other city that have excessive force complaints, that have complaints of racial profiling, that have complaints of misconduct. It needs to be written in policy that is adhered to forever.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Are there plans to try to take this to a larger scale, try to make this a state law or elsewhere?

    Because one of the things that's interesting is that there doesn't seem to be any sort of a national database where you can automatically search to see if someone has a checkered past from a police department.

  • Shamann Walton:

    Senator Wiener is already having conversations with his colleagues about what we can do at the state level to make sure that we are protecting our residents from everyone and keeping them safe.

    And that includes when law enforcements decide that they want to kill and decide that they want to profile and decide that they want to mistreat residents in our city.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Shamann Walton, supervisor of city of San Francisco, thanks so much for joining us.

  • Shamann Walton:

    Thank you so much for having me.

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