Advisory Boards in Action: Healing Circles
Community Dialogue Led to the Following Recommendations:
In 2015, several advisory boards expressed concerns about officer involved shootings, racist and homophobic text messages exchanged by SFPD officers, and the national climate post-Ferguson.
Specifically, our advisory boards communicated a deep mistrust of law enforcement and a greater need for accountability in the police department. Our advisory boards also made clear that affected communities needed an opportunity to heal; they needed to be, and feel, supported by law enforcement, and have their communities made whole.
As part of San Francisco’s law enforcement apparatus, our office heard their concerns and took action by partnering with USF to host the first of its kind “healing circles.”
We hosted two circles, one on May 30, 2015 and another on July 28, 2015, at the USF McLaren Center. Both circles were co-facilitated by USF law professor Rhonda Magee, an expert in mindfulness law, and Marisa Rodriguez, SFDA Director of Community Relations and Assistant District Attorney. The Dean of USF School of Law, John Trasvina, the President of USF, Father Paul J. Fitzgerald, as well as diverse community members from law enforcement, educators, whistleblowers, members from the Office of Citizen Complaints, and District Attorney George Gascón, attended both circles.
The circles were open to all San Francisco residents and gave members of the community an opportunity to come together, voice their concerns, respond to each other’s thoughts, and devise solutions to improve law enforcement and community relations.
In the morning portion of each session, participants shared their opinions within a larger circle before breaking into groups of 4-5 in the afternoon. With several questions guiding the dialogue—what brings you to the circle, what steps must we take to organize and identify community views and needs, and what specific policies or practices do you suggest we demand from various City leaders—, a host of recommendations emerged.