Updated 11:19 pm, Sunday, January 31, 2016
The U.S. Department of Justice will conduct a “comprehensive review” of the San Francisco Police Department in the wake of the Dec. 2 killing of Mario Woods by officers in the Bayview neighborhood, federal officials said late Sunday.
The agency, headed by former East Palo Alto Police Chief Ronald Davis, collaborates with local police forces to build stronger relationships with communities, and Suhr had requested such a review.
Woods’ family and the American Civil Liberties Union had asked for an additional federal intervention — an investigation of San Francisco police by the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, which enforces federal antidiscrimination laws and can force reforms.
The Obama administration opened such civil rights probes in cities including Chicago, Cleveland and Ferguson, Mo., in many cases finding patterns of excessive force and racial bias.
Attorney John Burris, who represents Woods’ family, said late Sunday that he strongly supports the Department of Justice review.
“This can be the first step in healing the division between the minority communities and the Police Department,” Burris said. “Of course, the investigation should be without limitations and should allow for a wide open investigation into the circumstances surrounding the shooting and the policies, procedures and training, and let the chips fall where they may.”
The killing of Woods, 26, sparked widespread outrage after video footage of his death emerged.
Suhr said Woods was allegedly still armed with a knife he had used in an earlier stabbing, and that the five officers who fired on him had no choice but to use lethal force after attempts to disarm him with beanbag rounds and pepper spray were unsuccessful.
Critics said the video of Woods’ last moments ran counter to the police account, showing him struggling to walk with his arms at his sides and posing little threat to the officers surrounding him.
The shooting sparked calls for reform, with the city’s Police Commission setting a Wednesday deadline for officials to come up with a draft proposal for a new use-of-force policy that may include giving officers Taser stun guns.
Suhr said he instructed the department to change firearms training to put more of an emphasis on de-escalation, and outfitted some patrol cars with riot shields. The department also issued a bulletin requiring officers to file a use-of-force report whenever they point their gun at a person.
Vivian Ho, January 31, 2016, SFGate “Justice Department to review SFPD in wake of Mario Woods killing”, http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/Justice-Department-to-review-SFPD-in-wake-of-6797515.php?platform=hootsuite#item-39786