Supervisor Mark Farrell’s statement on the public safety reforms he is proposing for the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department

Supervisor Mark Farrell’s statement on the public safety reforms he is proposing for the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department

***STATEMENT***

For Immediate Release: July 21, 2015

Supervisor Mark Farrell’s statement on the public safety reforms he is proposing for the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department


Today, I am introducing a package of public safety reforms in response to recent events that have transpired here in San Francisco.

First, the murder a number of weeks ago at Pier 14 was an incomprehensible tragedy. Every crime, every violent crime in San Francisco is unacceptable, and as the Steinle family is just today testifying in front of Congress back in Washington, D.C., as a parent of 3 young children, I cannot imagine the grief they have been enduring.

As for the likes of Donald Trump and Fox News, and any and all other individuals and organizations that have sought to take political advantage of this tragedy, they should be ashamed. And, kudos to our colleagues, in particular Supervisors Wiener and Tang, who stood up to them with great fanfare.

Over the last week, we have seen a public back-and-forth between the Sheriff, our Mayor and Deputy Sheriff’s Association, ending (for the time being) last week with a request from the Sheriff both for a public hearing with the Mayor to discuss these policies, as well as legislative clarity from the Board of Supervisors.

What we don’t need is hysteria, and while I understand election-year politics, what we don’t need is another public spectacle at City Hall. What we have needed is a thoughtful look at what happened, and a common-sense approach to ensuring this situation will not happen again in San Francisco. 

In response, I am introducing 3 items:

1. A resolution confirming this Board’s support for our existing Sanctuary City law which has been a pillar of our public safety policy in San Francisco for decades, as well as the Due Process legislation authored by Supervisor Avalos in 2013, and calling on the Sheriff to rescind his Memorandum dated March 13, 2015 which amounted to a gag order in his Department.

One of the important pillars of our Sanctuary City policy, codified in federal law, is discretion given to law enforcement personnel to communicate with other law enforcement agencies. Both our Sanctuary City and Due Process ordinances seek to proscribe limitations in certain circumstances, but it is simply impossible to proactively legislate every situation that our public safety leaders and personnel will encounter in their capacity as law enforcement personnel – there is no way we as a Board, or the Mayor, could have anticipated the circumstances surrounding Mr. Lopez-Sanchez’s presence in San Francisco, and there are sure to be similarly unforeseen circumstances in the future. 

As a result, I believe this discretion is necessary. Necessary for the public safety of our residents and part of the job of our public safety officials. If this discretion is handled well, it should be applauded, and if not, criticized. 

However, the Sheriff’s Department-wide memo issued this March took our Sanctuary City and Due Process policies a step further, and essentially amounted to a “gag” order for the Sheriff’s Department, unless the Sheriff himself approved otherwise.

This took our Sanctuary and Due Process ordinances a step further, and is not only a violation of federal law, but in my strong opinion violation of existing local laws.

The resolution calls for its rescission.

2. Although we have already been working with the City Attorney on this issue for weeks, a formal drafting request to create a requirement that before the Sheriff brings a prisoner from another jurisdiction to San Francisco on an outstanding warrant, the Sheriff receives confirmation from the District Attorney that the District Attorney will prosecute against the outstanding warrant at issue. It makes zero sense for the Sheriff to bring a prisoner poised for deportation in another jurisdiction back to San Francisco on a warrant, only to have the charges dismissed a few days later, and be forced to release that individual onto our streets. 

Nothing would have prevented the Sheriff from coordinating with the District Attorney’s office, but the Sheriff failed to do so, so we will work with our City Attorney’s office to put the requirement into law. While there are legal issues yet to be resolved, as we work on the legislation itself, my hope is the Sheriff’s office will take it upon itself to implement this policy on its own. It is simply common sense.

3. A Letter of Inquiry to our Sheriff asking why Mr. Lopez-Sanchez was held for over two weeks after the District Attorney dismissed charges against him. Much of the dialogue around Mr. Lopez-Sanchez has been focused around why he was released, but we need to look into when he was released. From 4th amendment rights to local laws we do not hold people in jail without cause. I assume there is a rational answer, but I believe we need to look at the issue and I certainly welcome the Sheriff’s response. 

As this discussion has evolved over the last few weeks, much has been focused on Mr. Lopez-Sanchez’s immigration status, but from my perspective, this should not be a discussion about immigration, but a discussion about public safety. Our Sanctuary City policy has served us well over the decades, and we need to stand behind this policy and our immigrant community, as well as the Due Process ordinance. However, if our public safety leaders are not appropriately handling the discretion proscribed by our federal and local laws, we need to take a hard look at other measures to ensure similar incidents never happen again in San Francisco.

Public safety must be a top priority of ours at City Hall, and look forward to the discussion in the weeks to come.

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