Blue Ribbon Panel on Bias in SF Police Department Releases Findings, Recommendations

Munger, Tolles & Olson played a leading role in the San Francisco Blue Ribbon Panel on Transparency, Accountability, and Fairness in Law Enforcement, which released its report on July 11, 2016 detailing the findings of a year-long investigation into potential bias in the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD).

Comprised of three retired state and federal judges LaDoris Cordell, Cruz Reynoso and Dickran Tevrizian, the Panel was initiated by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón to investigate bias in light of a 2015 scandal in which police officers were found to have exchanged blatantly racist and homophobic texts. In the year since the Panel began investigating, additional incidents – both in San Francisco where several unarmed African Americans were shot and killed by police officers and across the nation (including recent tragic events in Louisiana, Minnesota and Texas) – highlighted the importance of the Panel’s work.

“The Panel found that the SFPD is in need of greater transparency, lacks robust oversight, must rebuild trust with the communities it serves, and should pay greater attention to the potential for bias against people of color, with respect to both its own police officers and members of the public,” according to a press release.

Munger Tolles attorney Jerry Roth served pro bono as the Panel’s General Counsel, and Munger Tolles was among eight law firms that provided pro bono support through working groups that examined the extent to which bias was institutionalized within the SFPD’s policies and practices. Munger Tolles lawyers also led the External Oversight Working Group.

“The issues we were investigating are at the forefront of a national dialogue right now and they are a critical issue for our city as well. We took the job of investigating potential bias by the San Francisco Police Department very seriously and we’re confident that we engaged in a robust process in conducting that investigation,” Mr. Roth said during a press conference held in Munger Tolles’ offices at which the report was issued to the public.

Among the recommendations in the report, the Panel urged the creation of an Office of Inspector General to audit the SFPD and related agencies for effectiveness and policy compliance.

The Panel’s report and executive summary can be downloaded at http://sfblueribbonpanel.com/.

The matter has received significant media coverage by outlets including The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and KQED, as well as the top broadcast affiliates in San Francisco.

Other Munger Tolles attorneys involved in this pro bono matter include Carolyn Hoecker Luedtke, Blanca Fromm Young, Kyle W. Mach, Joshua Patashnik and Nicholas D. Fram.