Policy Recommendation 06.23.2003

Subject:  Written Policy Concerning Timely Disclosure of Information in Police Matters of Public Concern

Recommendation:  The Office of Citizen Complaints recommends that the San Francisco Police Department implement a written policy concerning the timely disclosure of information in police matters of public concern (e.g. officer-involved shootings, death-custody cases, arrests of police officers) to family members, the public and the press that includes the identity of officers involved in an incident, the release of the incident report, the status of the case, and other relevant information.

Case Background:

The OCC has received complaints from the public and from family members whose children and siblings have been injured or killed by SFPD actions that the Department has not provided them information about the incident itself, the identity of the officers involved, the status of the case and other relevant information.

For example, in the Martin Luther King Jr. day felony stop of four juveniles, families of the juveniles complained that the Department would not release the incident report to them and that they could not obtain information from the Department as to the identity of the officers who detained and pat-searched their children.  In an officer-involved shooting case, the victim’s family did not receive the incident report for several months after the death and then when they finally received it, it was significantly redacted   In the case of three off-duty SFPD officer arrests, two complainants stated that the Department’s failure to release the incident report and explain the investigative steps it was taking in the matter undermined the public’s confidence in the Department.

The Department has no written policy concerning the timely disclosure of information to the press, the public and family members affected by lethal and/or injurious actions taken by SFPD officers.  The non-disclosure or delayed disclosure of basic information (including identity of officers involved in an incident and release of the incident report) fosters community suspicion and hostility toward the Department and permits rumor and speculation to circulate instead of information and facts. 

Investigated by: David Aulet, Ed McMahon, Alan Barnes, Mark Scafidi & Charles Gallman
Prepared by: SAMARA MARION, Senior Attorney
Approved by: KEVIN ALLEN, Director
Date: June 23, 2003