San Francisco police probed after shooting of black man

2016-02-02 12:45
(File: AP)

(File: AP)

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Washington - The US Justice Department announced Monday the launch of an investigation into the police force in San Francisco, the latest to face national scrutiny over the use of excessive force in fatal incidents involving African Americans.

The federal investigation comes two months after the fatal shooting of a black man triggered outrage in the Californian city, and follows similar probes into suspected police misconduct in Baltimore, Ferguson and, most recently, Chicago.

Local residents and citizen groups in San Francisco were calling for the federal government to step in after video footage of a 26-year-old black man named Mario Woods dying in a hail of police bullets went viral in December.

Defending their actions

The announcement of the review - which did not refer specifically to the Woods case - comes two days after hundreds of protesters marched in the city to demand the resignation of its police chief Greg Suhr.

"In the days and months ahead, we will examine the San Francisco Police Department's current operational policies, training practices and accountability systems, and help identify key areas for improvement going forward," Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement.

Carried out by the Justice Department's community policing division, the independent inquiry aims to ensure, she said, that "every member of the San Francisco community has the protection and service they deserve."

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee wrote to Lynch asking her to open the review in the interest of transparency and preserving trust between police and the population.

The city's police department issued a statement promising its full cooperation with the review.

"In regards to the Mario Woods case, there are three ongoing active investigations. The officers involved in the case are on paid administrative duties," it added

San Francisco's police force previously defended the conduct of its officers in the events leading to Woods's death on December 2, saying he was a suspect in an earlier stabbing, was armed with a knife and was refusing to drop his weapon.

It said they fired their guns after failing to disarm him using non-lethal force.

Allegations of racial bias by US police have been the subject of an intense national debate since riots erupted in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014 over the shooting death of an unarmed black teen, 18-year-old Michael Brown.

Videos triggered probes

Police in cities across the United States have since come under criticism for using excessive force against suspects, many of them black, and often with lethal effect.

The city of Ferguson last week reached a deal with the Justice Department to reform its police force and courts.

A probe launched in the wake of the Brown shooting had found a widespread pattern of racial discrimination and rights violations in the St Louis suburb.

In May last year, the Justice Department opened a similar investigation into Baltimore's police force following the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, a black man who suffered a snapped spine while being transported unrestrained in the rear of a police van.

And in Chicago, it opened an investigation into city police tactics two months ago following the death of black teenager Laquan McDonald, who was shot 16 times as he was walking away from officers.

As in San Francisco, a video of the Chicago shooting incident triggered the probe.

The city of Cleveland, Ohio, pledged to overhaul its police force and aspire to "bias-free" law enforcement last year, after a Justice Department probe found that its police had engaged in a pattern of using excessive force.

But the city's police made headlines once against in December after a grand jury declined to bring criminal charges against officers involved in the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice - a black child who was carrying a replica gun in a playground.

The investigation in San Francisco will be carried out by the Justice Department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, which will make its findings and recommendations public and will assess their implementation.

"The findings will allow the police department to implement best practices in law enforcement and empower the community to hold the department to those standards," COPS Director Ronald Davis said.

Read more on:    michael brown  |  us  |  ferguson

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