SF residents sound off at DOJ hearing

People line up, right, to address members of the U.S. Department of Justice's Community Oriented Policing Services office who held a hearing Tuesday at Mission High School. Photo: Khaled Sayed
People line up, right, to address members of the U.S.
Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services office who held a hearing Tuesday at Mission
High School. Photo: Khaled Sayed

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

of implementation.

“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

show.

“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.”

COPS_2

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

review.

“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.

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