About 100 people gathered inside Mission High School’s auditorium
Tuesday to voice their concerns about San Francisco police officers as
part of a listening session held by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Most people who spoke were angry at the San Francisco Police
Department in light of recent killings of men of color, including
Alejandro “Alex” Nieto in 2014 and Mario Woods last December.
The meeting was held by the justice department’s Community Oriented
Policing Services, or COPS, division.
People in the audience raised posters with names and sketches of Woods,
Nieto, and others who were shot by SFPD officers.
Darryl Roger, 70, who is a San Francisco native, said he feels that it is
important to get something resolved, and that can’t happen when there is a
committee that has no power.
“This committee has no enforcement power no matter what they
recommend and no matter what they say,” Roger said.
Roger believes that the only thing COPS is doing is listening to the
people in public forums and making recommendation with no guarantee
“My hope is that we can have community policing, and the police officers
walk into our communities without guns,” he said “When the community
sees the police officers walking in our communities without guns they
will think that they are there to help.”
Francisco Dacosta, 65, described the public forum as a dog and pony
“These people from Washington, D.C. are here in San Francisco with no
knowledge of the communities who live here, and can’t help the people in
San Francisco,” Dacosta said. “They are government people who know
nothing about the people here.”
Hatim Manswiery, 18, a high school student, spoke before the COPS
representatives about his fear of the police officers because he is a person
of color. He is hoping to go to college, but like many other youth of color,
he fears harassment by the police.
“I shouldn’t be fearing the police every time I walk by them but I do,” Manswiery said. “The police are there to serve and protect us,
not to terrorize us.
“I feel this kind of meeting is all talk and not enough action,” Manswiery said. “I have seen these kinds of meetings many, many
times over the years, and a lot of the time nothing happens.”
Attorney Edwin Lindo said he thinks that there should be a federal civil rights investigation of the SFPD. Last month, the justice
department announced that it would investigate SFPD, including its training and practices. Tuesday’s forum was not part of that
“We need an independent investigation of the Mario Woods, Alex Nieto, and Amilcar Perez-Lopez cases,” Lindo said.
Perez-Lopez was shot by San Francisco police last year; police said he had been attempting to steal a bike. Perez-Lopez’s family
members and attorney say he was not a robber and was running away from plainclothes officers. A federal civil rights lawsuit has
been filed in the case.
In the Nieto case, a civil wrongful death trial is now underway in federal court in San Francisco
“The SFPD needs anti-racism training, and we also need to reinstate the African American Police Community Advisory Council,
and create the Latino Community Advisory Council,” Lindo said.
Lindo added that he thinks the listening sessions – one was also held in the Bayview – were mostly positive.
“Without a doubt, our power is in organizing,” he said. “I believe the hearings are only effective when the community knows it has a
direct impact on the changes and reform needed within the criminal justice system.”
The main issue that was raised many times throughout the forum is that SFPD doesn’t hire from the community and that there is no
accountability when police shootings happen. People also chanted for Police Chief Greg Suhr to be fired.