A few weeks back, Supervisor John Avalos introduced a resolution to the effect of reviewing racial profiling and use of force by police. That Resolution was put up for vote yesterday Tuesday December 16th, 2014.
The original draft resolution urged the DOJ to act upon the demands of the Ferguson Action group. This first draft did not mention SFPD, nor the Alex Nieto case, but after consulting with a variety of community members, Supervisor John Avalos introduced an amended Resolution.
The amended Resolution mentioned Alex Nieto’s shooting on March 21st, 2014, as the most recent case of police brutality highlighted by protesters during nine months of peaceful non-violent protests in San Francisco, and also included data showing racial bias in police shootings in San Francisco.
After this amended Resolution was introduced, SFPD and the Police Officer’s Association threw their political weight around to thwart its success. The POA sent a letter of disapproval to John Avalos saying that SFPD was much better behaved than other police forces. (Read the Letter at the bottom of the SF Examiner’s story.)
The POA however failed to address the fact that of those killed by SFPD, since 1985, 71% of those have been people of color, and 41% of those Black, when the Black of population in San Francisco was 6% in 2013. (Source: AntiEviction Mapping Project) In other words, SFPD has a history of disproportionately killing people of color in San Francisco. It is a simple fact. This Resolution was an acknowledgement of the local and national reality.
The POA who claims SFPD is the most racially diverse police force forgot to mention in their letter a recent incident in which SFPD officers “racially profiled, choked and wrongfully arrested [a Black off-duty SFPD officer, Lorenzo Adamson] during a traffic stop by several colleagues who ignored him when he said he was an officer.” Officer Adamson filed a lawsuit against SFPD for racial profiling. (Source: “SF cop sues, claims traffic-stop racial profiling”, SF Gate.)
The POA also avoided any mention about the recent indictment of two SFPD officers on federal felony corruption charges. (Source: SF Gate) One of those officers —Furminger— was one of the eight police officers who killed Idriss Stelley in 2001 at the Metreon. None of the officers who killed Idriss were ever indicted on criminal charges. Furminger had already killed another person while on duty, before killing Idriss, and continued to have complaints filed after Idriss’ death. (Source: SF Gate.; Account by Poor Magazine of Idriss Stelley’s shooting. )
The POA, and for that matter SFPD, also failed to address the extreme lack of transparency in hiding the names of the officers involved in the shooting of Alex Nieto after nearly 9 months since he was killed. Every name of every officer ever involved in a shooting in San Francisco is public information, except for the names of the officers who shot Alex Nieto. A recent CA Supreme Court decision ruled that releasing the names of officers cannot be denied, unless there is an exceptional reason. The reason publicly given by Chief Suhr for withholding names (and now defended by the City Attorney) is ridiculous and continues to point to a police cover-up. Also, as the case of Furminger shows, community members deserve to know the background histories of these officers working in their midst.
Cohen originally supported the Resolution, but after pressure by the POA and SFPD, she introduced another amendment to strike out any mention of Alex Nieto’s shooting and any statistics revealing racial bias by SFPD in who they shoot:
“Supervisor Malia Cohen, for example, wanted to eliminate any reference of Alex Nieto, a Latino man killed by police officers March 21 when he was shot at least 10 times. An investigation is ongoing and the names of officers involved have yet to be released.”
“We are not Ferguson,” said Supervisor London Breed, who spoke of having a strong relationship with local police officers. “I am not comfortable with a comparison of our local law enforcement to what’s happening in Ferguson.” (Source: SF Examiner)
London Breed also demanded that all data on racial bias in San Francisco officer-involved shootings be removed from the Resolution.
David Campos pointed out that he usually did not support Resolutions without specific legislative proposals, but backed this Resolution, because despite comparatively better behavior by SFPD vis-a-vis other national police departments, it was important to acknowledge that there is a problem in San Francisco and that Alex Nieto’s shooting significantly hurt San Franciscan communities. He mentioned that insistence to strike Alex Nieto’s name from the Resolution also hurt police credibility, giving the impression that they have something to hide. (Hey! We agree.)
While Supervisor David Campos has explicitly withheld judgement on the shooting, he was attacked by the POA almost nine months ago, when he showed support to Alex’s family for their mistreatment by SFPD in the aftermath of the shooting. (Read more about this mistreatment in the bottom section of Alex’s Story.)
Supporters also believe that the D.A. Gascón has failed to declare whether he will indict officers-involved, because he is working in a concerted manner with SFPD, and cannot declare himself until SFPD reveals the names of the officers. We continue to demand a federal criminal investigation into the death of Alex Nieto. We do not believe the former Chief of Police, Gascón, can secure an unbiased investigation.
Despite the failure of the Resolution, we want to commend the Board of Supervisors for holding an important conversation about police brutality, racial profiling by police, the Ferguson Action demands, the right to protest, the role of police in community, and the case of Alex Nieto and other cases like O’Shaine Evans’ shooting. We believe that the San Francisco BoS has the potential to issue legislation that could model effective ways to curb racial profiling by police departments, demilitarize police departments, demand transparency, decrease use of force, and end impunity in cases of police brutality. We expect more and better from you in the future!
Supporters of Justice & Love for Alex Nieto came out in strong numbers to express their support for the Resolution during public comments. After 9 months of hiding basic facts, his shooting has become emblematic of a police cover-up. You can help uncover the truth! Please learn the facts and tell Alex’s Story to a friend.