FAQ for Community Members

How long has the DPA been in existence?
The DPA first became staffed and began its operations in 1983.

What caused the DPA to be established?
The DPA was created by a majority vote on a local ballot measure.

How does the DPA fit together with the Police Commission structurally?
The DPA is a civilian-staffed local governmental agency. The Police Commission is a volunteer civilian body of seven (7) members, four (4) members nominated by the Mayor and three (3) members nominated by the Board of Supervisors. Each member must be confirmed by a majority of the Board of Supervisors. The Police Commission appoints the Director of the DPA, subject to approval by the Mayor and Board of Supervisors; the Police Commission holds the power to terminate the services of the DPA's Director. The Director of the DPA reports to the Police Commission at its weekly meetings. By Charter, the Police Commission holds the power to manage, organize and reorganize the DPA. In practice, these powers generally are exercised by the Police Commission through the DPA Director.

How does the DPA fit together with the Police Commission functionally?
The DPA receives, investigates and makes findings on civilian complaints of on-duty misconduct (including acts and omissions) by sworn members of the San Francisco Police Department. Where the DPA sustains one or more allegations against one or more officers in a given case, the case can either go to the Chief of Police or to the Police Commission. The factors governing whether the Police Commission hears a case that has been sustained by the DPA include: severity of misconduct and of potential discipline; complexity of issues presented; degree of public interest in the matter; DPA recommendation to the Chief of Police as to forum (Chief or Commission). The Chief of Police either refers the case to the Commission, or hears it directly. The Chief of Police has disciplinary power to issue a 10-day suspension, or less; the Commission holds all greater disciplinary power, including the power to hear appeals from the Chief's disciplinary decisions. Both the Chief and the DPA (after conferring with the Chief) may file charges of officer misconduct with the Commission.

What is the size and composition of the DPA staff?
As of February 1, 2009: There are thirty-five budgeted positions in the Department of Police Accountability, including a director, a chief investigator, three (3) senior investigators and seventeen (17) line investigators. The DPA legal staff consists of four (4) attorneys, including two trial attorneys, a policy analyst and a mediation/outreach coordinator. Support staff totaling nine (9) positions includes clerical, accounting, and information technology personnel.

What if I speak a language other than English?
The Department of Police Accountability has staff who speak a variety of languages including Spanish, Tagalog, Russian, Mandarin, Cantonese and Burmese. If you speak a language other than those languages spoken by DPA staff, they will provide an interpreter free of charge.

What procedures apply to the handling of misconduct charges against a police officer?
Consistent with the Peace Officers' Bill of Rights, officers accused by DPA complaints receive notice of allegations against them, an opportunity to be heard by the DPA and to be represented during the investigative process, and notice of the outcome of the DPA's process. Officers are required by local law to appear upon written notice from the DPA, which order is enforced, if they fail without sufficient cause to appear, by means of appropriate discipline. Officers are served with written charges where a case is sustained by the DPA, and officers are provided with hearings by either the Chief or the Commission (see above).

What kinds of police misconduct complaints does the DPA receive and investigate?
By City Charter, the DPA is obliged to take every complaint of alleged police misconduct or improper performance made by a member of the public, where the complaint involves one or more SF Police Department sworn members engaged on-duty. All complaints are investigated unless they show proper conduct on the face of the allegations, and those outside DPA's jurisdiction which are forwarded to proper authorities.