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Full Panel - November 6, 2013 - Meeting Minutes

Justice and Courage Oversight Panel - November 6, 2013




Wednesday, November 6, 2013

9 – 11 am

City Hall, Room 408

1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Street

San Francisco, CA 94102


Members Present:

Members Present                            

Kathy Black, La Casa

Emily Murase, DOSW

Jamel Perkins

Antonio Ramirez, POCOVI

Dion Roberts, Mary Elizabeth Inn

Ken Theisen, Bay Area Legal Aid

Beverly Upton, SF DV Consortium


Other Attendees/Speakers:

Lisa Hoffman, Department of Emergency Mangement; Marshall Khine, Domestic Violence Response Unit, District Attorney’s Office;  Sunny Schwartz, Adult Probation Department; Lt. Trenia Wearing, San Francisco Police Department; Minouche Kandel and Kristin Snell, Department on the Status of Women.



I.                    Call To Order/Agenda Changes       
Dr. Emily Murase called the meeting to order.  The Oversight Panel approved the agenda with no changes.   (Theisen/Perkins/Unanimous)


II.         Approval of Minutes          

The minutes from August 6, 2013 meeting were approved without objection.



III. Reports


A. Department Updates


            1. Adult Probation Department

Sunny Schwartz reported on the Batterer Intervention Program (BIP) audits that Adult Probation has been engaged in over the last year. A review team consisting of Sunny Schwartz, Beverly Upton, and Andrea Wright carried out a comprehensive review and audit of all certified BIPs in San Francisco.  The group visited all 10 certified BIPs, sat in on 28-30 groups and all but one BIP was re-certified. The participants in that program that was de-certified were reassigned to another BIP.   A lot of these programs had issues with compliance measures, and the Probation Department is working with these programs to remedy these issues. The review team identified a need for programs that serve Cantonese speaking offenders, transgender offenders, and young adults.


There are 3 programs that work specifically with women, and work to create a balance between not justifying violence, within the lens of a trauma-focused approach, recognizing that many women offenders have been victimized themselves. APD has the goal of engaging in an in-house study that tracks violent re-arrest and recidivism rate for offenders going through these programs. There have been 540 domestic violence cases in APD from 2011-2013.


A suggestion to distribute the list of certified batterer’s program to Family Court was made, as they have an outdated list.


APD also recently sponsored a shelter-based training, provided by the Domestic Violence Consortium, that was very comprehensive.


There is a 50% rate of voluntary participants in the only free BIP, which is the GLIDE program.  This community-based program had a bit of a different focus than the court mandated BIPs, and there were different levels of accountability observed at this program.


                        2. Department of Emergency Management

Lisa Hoffman from the Department of Emergency Management discussed the department’s efforts toward language access for 911 calls and with first responders. She noted that a victim will sometimes be detained or arrested, in some cases because they don’t have an interpreter available.   The consistent message DEM gives to current callers is to please note first if they speak a language other than English, and DEM will make sure to get someone fluent in that language on the line.


DEM is working closely with the Police Department, as well as with the Domestic Violence Consortium to address these issues. DEM is working with the Police Department to develop a training video for staff on Limited English Proficient issues.  DEM is updating their computer system, set to roll out in March 2014. 


In order to be certified as a call taker, there is a long process of in-depth training including a lot of training for domestic violence. Dispatchers are trained to listen to background noise, and try to ensure that the voice is heard.  Regarding the adequacy of current funding and staffing, DEM struggles like every other department.  There is a finite amount of overtime.  DEM is doing a study with the controller’s office, investigating how they can do what we do better with retention, which is a constant struggle, and it’s so hard to train staff for such a difficult job.


Ms. Hoffman was recognized as spearheading many of the reforms at DEM.



                        3. District Attorney

Marshall Khine from the Domestic Violence Unit at the District Attorney’s Office gave an update.  There are no major changes within the unit.  Their office continues to struggle to get judges to enforce the requirement that offenders participate in Batterer Intervention Programs.  They have implemented a new policy that any deviation from this requirement must go through a separate approval process – only used in about  5-6 cases (mostly female offenders with mutual violence).


When a new offense is committed by someone on probation, their office evaluates the strength of case to determine whether to charges as a new offense or go through probation violation process if there is not enough proof for a new charge.   All cases are reviewed by Mr. Khine and Linda Allen to ensure consistency, as well as ensuring every domestic violence case is given due process.


When the discrepancy between the large number of domestic violence calls to the police and the number of prosecutions was raised, Mr. Khine explained that they review all cases that result in a

 felony/misdemeanor arrest.  Last year they reviewed 1600 cases.  They are trying to find ways to improve filing rate.  They recently invited the District Attorney who heads the Domestic Violence Unit in Riverside County and was awarded the California District Attorney “teacher of year” award to review their policies.  He conducted a double-blind assessment of case decisions and drafted a review, and didn’t find discrepancy between the way he would do it vs. how San Francisco is doing it.


When asked whether the DA’s office is satisfied with the quality of work of the police department, he remarked that he was not satisfied with any of the work that any of us do, as we could always improve investigations, conviction rates, etc.  The stage is set at the initial scene, and a lot of work can be done in further training first responders to document better what happens at scene.  Lapel recorders would leave far less room for doubt.


The DA’s office is also working to improve retention of attorneys.  There has been much burnout in the past.  They have assembled a team with great chemistry and morale at an all-time high.  This is due in part to manageable caseloads, which are down to 20-25 cases from 40+ before.


                        4. Special Victims Unit - Police Department

Lt. Trenia Wearing present for the police department. SFPD is doing a lot of cross-training, with the wave of retirement, and are training officers to handle domestic violence, sex crimes, and child abuse.  SFPD is updating the victim referral card, and working with the Domestic Violence Consortium to reach out to other organzations that would like to be added to the card.


SFPD is creating a training video that is domestic violence-centered.


SFPD is also in the process of working with the Department of Public Health to make sure they have mandated health care reporter process in place.  They would like to put a PSA together to distribute to DPH to give to hospitals, so that if they are seeing domestic violence or human trafficking victims, providers will forward to SFPD in a timely manner. 


SFPD has also created a centralized database for sorting data.  They are also in process of putting together another training for first responders, particularly so they can gather evidence that makes a case strong, given the constraints of Crawford v. Washington.

There are currently 41 SVU inspectors; 17 work on domestic violence but not exclusively.  There are 2 retirements coming up.


The referral card is available in 6-7 languages.


Lt. Wearing was asked about a presentation she gave at a panel at UCSF, where it appeared that SFPD had changed how they were dealing with mandated medical reports.  In the past, the policy had been that the victim could note they didn’t want to be contacted, but it appeared from the recent comments that now police officers may show up to respond to mandated medical reports unannounced without victim consent.


Lt. Wearing indicated that SFPD is not receiving mandated reports that it should be getting, particularly from certain types of providers, like dentists or dermatologists.  Lt. Wearing clarified that SFPD still has to make an incident report if they receive a report from a health care provider, but SFPD would not just show up at the victim’s home if the victim does not want follow up.


The issue of conflicting definitions for domestic violence in the JUSTIS computer system was highlighted. 



            B. Report Back on Meetings with Department Heads


Dr. Murase reported on the Department’s meetings with Police Chief Greg Suhr, District Attorney George Gascon, and Adult Probation Chief Wendy Still. 



            C. Committee on Housing for Survivors for Domestic Violence


Dr. Murase thanked Dion Roberts for her leadership on the Housing Committee.  The Committee has had two very good meetings with the Housing Authority.  The current director, Barbara Smith, has been  very open to all suggestions,  including possibly hosting a domestic violence advocate at the Housing Authority and making section 8 vouchers available to persons with emergency transfers.  The group has also discussed if it is possible for a domestic violence survivor who vacates a unit to still stay on the emergency transfer list, and the possibility of inter-county transfers.


SFHA activities that may impact survivors are that it has been going through their tenants, and moving forward on evictions for non-payment, and they are purging the waitlist.   If people on waitlist did not update their address with SFHA, they will be purged, which could affect lots of domestic violence survivors.


SFHA is also moving to privatize housing, by contracting out the management of developments.  Then those managers create their own rules, which are sometimes tougher than the federal rules – i.e. credit checks – and this may limit who can get in to the housing.  




            D. JUS.T.I.S. Governance Council


Progress continues to be slow but is occurring.  The JUST.I.S. work group is  now fully staffed for the first time as of last month. It is very slowly moving forward with various departments that need to come online.


            E. Family Violence Council

The Family Violence Council is going well.  There are many department leaders at the table.  It is celebrating a  5 year anniversary of policy change, with the combined focus on elder abuse, child abuse, and domestic violence.


            F. Current Issues in DV


Panel members discussed the problem of treating all domestic violence cases the same, and the misuse of research that claims that women are just as violent as men.  There have been efforts to challenge the Violence Against Women Act as  discriminatory, and we should be able to take some leadership against this trend.




            A. Officer Involved Domestic Violence Policy

Beverly Upton reported on the Police Department officer involved domestic violence policy.  She thanked Ms. Kandel for breathing new energy into the conversation, which had stalled.  The policy is close to being ready to take to the police commission, and is based on 5 model policies and tailored to San Francisco.  Dr. Murase recognized Ms. Upton’s leadership on this policy.  If this policy is adopted, we hope to take it to the Attorney General’s office and request that it be implemented statewide.


            B. SF Workplace Policy on Domestic Violence

Supervisor Mar has made a domestic violence workplace policy for the city a priority, and the Department on the Status of Women has made some headway with the Department of Human Resources (DHR). DOSW was invited to train 100 DHR personnel analysts in October and Ms. Kandel delivered a really effective presentation, involving staff in role plays.




            A. Transitioning Justice and Courage

Ms. Kandel gave a presentation on where Justice and Courage has been, and where we are now.  The Panel discussed wrapping up the work of Justice and Courage, with the issuance of a final report.  There is considerable overlap between Justice & Courage and the Family Violence Council.   The Department will put together a final report to be ready in the spring.  Panel members were invited to give feedback on what elements they want to see. 


Mr. Theisen recommended continuous oversight, and to recognize the work that was done prior –with the Charan investigation. 


Mr. Ramirez noted the groundwork that we’ve done and expressed concerns that Justice & Courage was appointed by the Mayor whereas the Family Violence Council is not.


Ms. Roberts noted the important ground covered with the Housing Authority – helping to inform administrative plan, providing proposals, and a whole community of housing providers is now educated on domestic violence housing rights.


Ms. Upton noted that as one of the original members, she is very proud of work the Panel has done.  It has saved a lot of lives and kept many children from being orphaned, and been huge and important for San Francisco.


Ms. Black noted that a tremendous amount of credit goes to the departments that opened themselves up to audit and to make changes.


The meeting adjourned at 11:00 a.m.




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