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Blue Ribbon Panel

Need for Transparency

In a post-Ferguson context, it is clear that there is a need for more transparency in law enforcement. In San Francisco, while most peace officers carry out their difficult and often dangerous responsibilities with dedication, honor, and integrity, the deplorable actions of a few SFPD officers have recently overshadowed the good of the whole and eroded public confidence in law enforcement.

In March 2015, fourteen SFPD officers were identified as participating in a series of racist text messages that expressed virulent sentiments towards African Americans, women, LGBT and others. The challenge for the SFDA became how to review the police work these officers conducted, determine the existence of racial and other inappropriate biases, and identify how these biases translated into racially driven or motivated police enforcement in approximately 4,000 incidents.

The Blue Ribbon Panel Team

To this end, DA Gascón assembled a Blue Ribbon Panel of three retired jurists from other jurisdictions, each regarded for their intelligence, experience and non-partisan interests, to conduct a top-down analysis of possible racial bias in the department. Seven law firms provided working groups to assist the panel on specific issues. In addition to reviewing the involved officers and cases, the panel and working groups examined aggregate data and policies of the SFPD, received community input, and issued a comprehensive report.

Findings of the Report

In its report, the Blue Ribbon Panel found evidence supporting institutionalized bias within the SFPD. Several key findings include:

  1. The available statistical data indicated racial disparities in the department’s stops, searches, and arrests
  2. Officer accounts described a systemic and widespread culture of bias
  3. Personnel data revealed a need for greater racial and gender diversity within the department
  4. The department lacked any meaningful internal disciplinary review process and employed use-of-force policies contrary to best practices.

The full report can be found here.