Justice Department to investigate San Francisco police amid troubles

San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr listens to public speakers during a meeting of San Francisco's Police Commission in San Francisco, on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015.

San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr listens to public speakers during a meeting of San Francisco’s Police Commission in San Francisco, on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015.

(Jeff Chiu / AP)

The U.S. Department of Justice is beginning a review of the San Francisco Police Department, which recently came under fire for the shooting of a young black man and for a separate incident in which officers sent homophobic and racist text messages.

Representatives from the department will announce the details of the review Monday afternoon. A spokeswoman for the department would not say Sunday what the investigation would focus on.

In December, San Francisco police officers shot and killed a 26-year-old black man who was armed with a knife.


The killing of Mario Woods was captured on cellphone video and has stirred protests in the city. On Saturday, hundreds of people marched in the streets, calling for the firing of San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr.

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John Burris, the lawyer for Woods’ family, has said he asked the Justice Department to investigate the five officers who shot Woods. He said they acted like a “firing squad.”

“This is a golden opportunity for everyone to take a look at the San Francisco Police Department,” Burris said at a news conference earlier this month.

Those expected to be at Monday’s news conference include Suhr; San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee; Brian Stretch, the acting U.S. attorney for the northern district of California; and Ronald Davis, director of the department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

Lee had also asked for a federal probe of the shooting last week.

In December, a judge also ruled that officers who exchanged racist and homophobic text messages would be allowed to keep their jobs because the Police Department had waited too long to address the misconduct.

That decision raised objections and officials said they will appeal.

“The fact that San Francisco is forced to retain police officers that demonstrated explicit racism will have ramifications for the reputation of the department, the fair administration of justice, and the trust of the community SFPD serves,” Dist. Atty. George Gascon said after the ruling.

Scandals at the Los Angeles Police Department prompted the Justice Department in 2001 to impose a consent decree on the troubled department.

The decree spelled out dozens of major reforms the police agency had to implement and frequent audits as well as monitoring from the federal court.

The decree was finally lifted in 2009.

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