SF Officer Involved in Police Shooting Leaves Reform Position

first_img Share this: FacebookTwitterRedditemail,0% After police reform advocates voiced outrage at news that one of the police officers who shot and killed a homeless man earlier this year had been assigned to a police oversight bureau, Chief Toney Chaplin announced on Wednesday that the officer had agreed to be removed from the reform bureau.“We reached out to him and he is voluntarily agreeing to be reassigned,” Toney Chaplin, the interim chief of the department, said at a Police Commission meeting at City Hall on Wednesday night.Sergeant Nate Steger, one of the two officers who fired seven shots at Luis Gongora Pat on April 7, had been assigned to a division created to implement use-of-force reforms recommended by the Department of Justice, the San Francisco Examiner reported on Wednesday morning. The federal agency is investigating the police force after charges of racial bias and excessive use of force. In particular, the agency is looking at recent police shootings and revelations of homophobic and racist texting by police officers. 0%center_img Before the chief’s announcement, both Gongora Pat’s family and advocates for police reform voiced their outrage at the Steger’s assignment to the bureau.Cousins of Gongora Pat took the mic — flanked by some six supporters and aided by a translator — and asked the commission to intervene. “The news that we’re hearing is that one of the members of the police who killed our cousin is part of the reform bureau of the SFPD,” said Luis Poot Pat, a cousin of Gongora Pat. “We ask that you do something and don’t let this happen. We are worried, very, very worried.”“Do something please,” added Carlos Poot Pat, another cousin. “This is unconscionable.”Reached on the phone before the commission meeting, advocates for Gongora Pat reacted to the original news that Stenger had been placed in a reform position within the department.“Basically we just feel this is a huge slap in the face to the family,” said Adriana Camarena, a resident and activist against police shootings.News of the assignment was also criticized strongly by Public Advocate Jeff Adachi, who has long called for reforms to the department’s use of force policy. Camarena, Gongora Pat’s family, and other activists want the city to bring criminal charges against Steger and Mellone and want a formal apology from the Police Department and Mayor Ed Lee. District Attorney George Gascón has not indicated he will bring any charges against the officers.“Gascón has been absolutely remiss in addressing the case of Luis Gongora Pat,” Camarena said. “There has been absolutely no outreach from any city official from the family.”Police did not return a call requesting the reason why Steger was assigned to the Professional Standards and Principled Policing Bureau in the first place. Chaplin did not specify Steger’s new role. On Wednesday, the chief attempted to assure those at the commission hearing that the sergeant had not been “in charge of reforms” at his position under the reform bureau and would have been working under several others. “He was part of a gigantic bureau that consisted of several people and several different units,” he said. “He understands the concerns the family had, and agreed to be reassigned.”Controversy over the assignment came amidst mounting criticism against the department, most recently in the form of a report released on Monday by an oversight panel that found black and Latino individuals are stopped and searched more frequently by police than their white counterparts. The report also found that black people made up a disproportionate number of police shooting victims, that the department had inadequate record-keeping policies, and is unduly influenced by the Police Officers Association.The Blue Ribbon Panel also accused the department of taking too long to investigate police shootings and criticized a lack of transparency in those investigations.Two recent standoffs between police and someone apparently in a mental health crisis have recently ended without major injuries including a four-hour standoff in front of Hibernia Bank with a mentally ill man armed with a firearm on July 6 and a 22-hour standoff  on July 11 with a man threatening suicide in Visitacion Valley. In the latter case, the  was arrested after he threw bleach on officers and attempted to drink some himself. David Elliott Lewis, a member of the crisis intervention team mental health working group who helps train officers, has previously criticized Steger and Officer Michael Mellone’s confrontation of Gongora for not creating the stipulated time, distance, or a rapport with the suspect in crisis. “I did not see what we see in crisis intervention team training being applied in the tactic, they closed distance too quickly, they didn’t step back and create a safe perimeter,” Lewis said.In the majority of these kinds of encounters, Lewis said, nobody is injured – but those encounters rarely make the news. Lewis said there were thousands of calls a month involving mentally disabled individuals and some  360 reached a point where the person had to be transported to “a psychiatric emergency services, put in restraint, and then taken to hospital, often against their will.” “About 12 times a day,” he said that their procedures worked.  “What happened with Luis Gongora is the sad exception, not the rule,” he said. As for the internal reform bureau in general, Lewis doubted it would have much of an impact. “I think it’ll be helpful but I think reform is going to come from the community through the police commission,” he said. “I think we’re making progress, it’s an uneven slope but we are making progress.” last_img read more