Proposition G: Creating the Department of Police Accountability

This Charter amendment would rename the Office of Citizen Complaints the Department of Police Accountability, which would review use of force and claims of misconduct every two years.

The Board of Supervisors voted 11-0 to put this initiative on the ballot.

Proposition G is linked to Proposition H, which calls for the creation of a “public advocate,” who would have the power to appoint the head of the Department of Police Accountability.

Why is this on the ballot?

Proposition G follows a companion initiative that voters overwhelmingly passed in June. That measure modified the policies of the Office of Citizen Complaints, which looks into allegations of police misconduct, so that it must investigate any incident when a police officer fires a gun and injures or kills someone.

Photo by Zachary Clark / San Francisco Public Press

The office’s budget is part of the Police Department budget. When the office proposes its own operating budget — covering the costs associated with investigating claims against the police — the Police Commission has the power to modify it before it goes to the mayor for additional review or modification. The Board of Supervisors ultimately approves the spending plan.

Supervisor Malia Cohen, who wrote the June measure and represents the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood, also co-wrote Proposition G with Board of Supervisors President London Breed.

The Police Department needs increased oversight, Cohen says in the official proponent argument. The first required quarterly report on arrests and use of force found that San Francisco officers pointed their firearms at suspects in 648 cases in the first three months of 2016 — 68 percent of the instances in which they used force. None resulted in death. The total instances involved 307 African Americans, 170 Latinos, 121 Caucasians, 37 Asians and 17 whose race or ethnicity was unknown. Most were men — 83 percent.

Proposition G comes on the heels of high-profile instances of San Francisco officers fatally shooting suspects, and against the backdrop of a growing national conversation about officer use of force, especially against African Americans.

What would it do and at what cost?

If passed, Proposition G would require the Department of Police Accountability to conduct a performance audit or review every two years on use of force, how the SFPD handled misconduct claims and whether the SFPD was complying with local, state and federal laws.

The accountability department would have access to police personnel and disciplinary records; criminal investigative and prosecution files; records about Police Department policies or practices, and additional records the Police Commission can access.

The department’s budget would also be separated from the SFPD budget, which, in theory, would give the watchdog greater independence from the police.

If passed, this measure “would have a minimal impact on the cost of government,” according to the city controller.

Is there a catch?

Who would run and control a Department of Police Accountability would depend in part on which way voters lean on propositions G and H. If G passes and H fails, the mayor would appoint the department head, who could be seen as less independent and more “pro cop.” If G and H pass, that person would be selected by the new Office of the Public Advocate.

Who officially proposed it?

Supervisor Malia Cohen and Board of Supervisors President London Breed are the official sponsors, but the entire Board of Supervisors supports this ballot measure.

Who officially opposes it?

No official opposition was registered with the Department of Elections.

Vote threshold to pass

Simple majority — 50 percent plus one

Effective date if passed

To be determined.

Follow the money

One committee is spending money in support of Proposition G: “San Franciscans for Public Safety Accountability Yes on G 2016.”

Follow the money at the San Francisco Ethics Commission: all Proposition G filings.

Endorsements: our methodology

The Public Press chose to count endorsements from organizations that backed multiple candidates or ballot measures, and that made those endorsements available online. We did not count endorsements from individuals.

If you think we missed an important organization, please tell us. We’d love to hear from you.

Tracked endorsements by organization


Written by: Noah Arroyo

Published: Sept. 30, 2016