Shooting at the OCC - Page 2

Police union claims the problem isn't rogue cops, but the agency that investigates them

Allen stated in his response letter to the commission that Leff's effectiveness at doing what the OCC was formed to do had made her a target "for those POA members who believe that no officer no matter how egregious his or her misconduct should be disciplined."

"The POA has long engaged in these thug-like tactics to undermine and intimidate the OCC," Allen's letter reads. "I have personally been subject to their attacks, as have members of the Police Commission. I will not tolerate these attacks on OCC employees."

The commission essentially agreed, because a week later it appeared to reject the complaint and chided the POA for leveling a personal charge at Leff and the OCC in the first place. The City Attorney's Office told us that so far, no city officials have requested an investigation.

With police officers experiencing so much uncomfortable scrutiny right now, the timing of Delagnes's letter looks terribly convenient.

Partly as a response to the Chronicle stories and a resulting vow to "run roughshod" over the department made by Mayor Newsom, the police department recently began drafting a new Early Intervention System designed to identify disturbing patterns of police misconduct among problem officers. Early last month, the OCC noted "several glaring weaknesses" in the department's current EIS draft.

Publicly, the POA insists the group is not opposed to the idea of civilian oversight. But comparing San Francisco's cop-watch agency to other such offices around the country, POA spokesman Steve Johnson told us in a phone interview, "I know no other agency that has as much power as they do."

"There's a real problem with the process itself," he complained.

Further, just as Delagnes submitted his letter to the commission, the POA was buoyed by a San Francisco judge's ruling, handed down in early May, in a lawsuit filed by four police officers against the OCC. The OCC had charged the four officers with wrongdoing after a suspect was shot and killed during a May 2004 car chase. The court tossed the charges against the officers, citing an administrative mistake on the part of the OCC. But the judge made clear that the OCC could still file new charges against the four cops.

In the wake of the decision, Johnson told us that the POA was looking to discuss changes to OCC procedure during an upcoming law enforcement summit organized by former police chief Tony Ribera and former mayor Frank Jordan scheduled to be held at the University of San Francisco.

Formed as the result of a ballot measure passed by voters in 1983, the OCC is one of the few citizen-review entities in the United States with the power to subpoena officers. But otherwise, it simply investigates complaints and determines whether to sustain them. Only the chief of police and the police commission can file actual charges or exact disciplinary measures against officers.

Anonymous complaints, which the POA has long decried, cannot be sustained without additional evidence. And under the state's Peace Officers Bill of Rights, details of complaints and investigations are not publicly accessible unless they make it all the way to the police commission. Between January and September of last year, 55 cases were sustained, but the OCC has hundreds of pending cases.

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