SF police commission considering expanding rules for car chases on SF streets

BySuzanne Phan KGO logo
Thursday, July 11, 2024
SF police commission considering expanding rules for car chases
The SF Police Commission is meeting to decide on how to push forward Proposition E--a measure that would expand police powers to chase after suspects.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The San Francisco Police Commission is meeting to decide on how to push forward Proposition E--a measure voters passed that would expand police powers to chase after suspects on San Francisco streets.

The measure also allows police to use drones in chases and allows officers to cut down on paperwork so they could spend more time in the field.

Back in May, a police chase started in the San Francisco's Tenderloin District and wound its way through North Beach before ending on the Embarcadero.

Along the way, a 14-year-old girl was injured--hit by the suspect's car while trying to cross the street near Francisco Middle School.

But police say without their action, others could have been hurt.

MORE: Teen girl among 2 hit-and-run victims injured in SF; driver arrested, police say

SFPD says two pedestrians, including a 14-year-old girl, were hit and injured by the same driver in separate downtown San Francisco locations.

On Wednesday night, the San Francisco Police Commission reviews Prop E.

Prop E was passed by voters in March.

It gives voters more latitude when it comes to car chases. The measure was put on the ballot by Mayor London Breed.

"I don't think anyone wants their child, their mother, their family member, anyone being hit in a police pursuit, or officers being injured 233 so we have to be very careful about how we adjust this policy," said SF Supervisor Asha Safai. "100% people want to make sure police are putting safety first. If we have the lowest capture rate and highest injury rate in these high-speed chases, we have to be very careful about how it's implemented."

"We continue to believe Prop E puts San Francisco residents in danger by increasing police chases and covering up use of force incidents," said Yoel Haile with ACLU of Northern California. "We will monitor SFPD's practices to protect people's constitutional rights."

On Wednesday afternoon, San Francisco's Deputy Public Defender Brian Cox released this statement:

"San Francisco and many other large, dense cities have long restricted the use police car chases because they are dangerous and result in hundreds of deaths each year nationwide. Loosening those restrictions and giving officers more discretion goes against best practices that SFPD itself has recognized and reaffirmed over the last 20 years," said Cox.

MORE: Person detained after leading SFPD officers on high-speed chase through city

A person has been detained after leading San Francisco police officers on a high-speed chase that ended in the Mission District on Tuesday afternoon.

Kevin Benedicto is a San Francisco Police Commissioner who originally opposed Prop E.

"I continue to think that Prop E carries real risk. I continue to disagree with many of the changes in Prop E.

But as a commissioner, it's my duty to continue to implement the laws of San Francisco and voters approved Prop E," said Benedicto. "We work closely with department to expand the circumstances as Prop E requires but try to make sure that there as many safeguards as many protections and steps as we can as possible."

The San Francisco Police Commission will discuss seven amended policies in Prop E.

They will allow police to initiate a pursuit if they believe the suspect is involved in any felony or a violent misdemeanor.

MORE: Assault in SF leads to police pursuit, 'suspicious devices' thrown at officers, officials say

An assault suspect led police on a pursuit in SF and reportedly tossed "suspicious devices" out of their vehicle along the way, police said.

Prop E also allows officers to use drones in chases.

"I'm certainly in favor of certain technological innovations that keeps our officers safer," said Benedicto.

The measure also permits officers to cut back on paperwork so they can return to the field sooner .

"All those (amended policies) can make them more efficient and protect San Franciscans," said Frank Noto with Stop Crime Action-- a victim's right organization involved in curbing crime in San Francisco.

Noto says while officers will not chase after suspects if the circumstances are too dangerous, Prop E will give them more ability to do their job.

"It's not a huge change but giving police more leeway," said Noto.

"This will reduce drug dealing, this will reduce serious crimes, it will reduce car break-ins and it will save lives."

"By freeing up officers to spend more time out in the community and giving them the tools to be more efficient and hold people accountable, we will make San Francisco safer," said Mayor London Breed.

MORE: 4 Lululemon store theft suspects arrested after chase from Napa to Oakland: police

A car connected to a Lululemon store burglary flipped over after a pursuit from Napa to Oakland Monday afternoon, authorities said.

San Francisco's police union released this statement Wednesday:

"The people of San Francisco spoke clearly in support of giving our officers the innovative tools to solve crime efficiently and prioritizing our time in the community to deter crime before it happens. These policies make San Francisco safer, period," said Lt. Tracy McCray, President of the San Francisco Police Officers Association.

If the amended policies are approved, the SF Police Commission will send them to the union for review. There's an October deadline for final approval.

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