New bill pressures SFPD, DA to release more data on domestic violence cases

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A bill that aims to put pressure on the San Francisco Police Department and the San Francisco District Attorney's office to release more data on domestic violence cases moved forward in committee Thursday.

"I urge the DA to release what we've requested and more," said San Francisco Supervisor Catherine Stefani during a hearing in the Public Safety and Neighborhood Services committee.

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Stefani says there's evidence victims of domestic violence are being short served in the criminal justice system. She introduced legislation in May that if passed, would require SFPD and the DA's office to submit reports every quarter to the Board of Supervisors, the Mayor, and other city departments on the status of domestic violence cases.

"The reporting will require how many calls are made to 911 that are domestic violence related and how many of those calls include a child or a firearm," Stefani said.

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The legislation would also require the number of domestic violence cases presented to the DA to be disclosed along with the charges filed and the outcome of those cases.

The bill's hearing is coming on the heels of a report recently published from the Family Violence Council that found 79 percent of people fleeing abuse and/or seeking shelter were turned away during the pandemic due to capacity restrictions and heightened demand.

"It's very difficult for survivors of domestic violence to leave," said Jenny Pearlman who works with Safe and Sound, a children's advocacy organization. "When a family who's experiencing violence does not have shelter, the family will most likely have to return to the house where the abuse is happening."

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According to SFPD, in the fourth quarter of 2020 there were 131 arrests for felony domestic violence in San Francisco. 86 percent of those cases were dismissed, only nine percent were charged.

ABC7 reached out to the DA's office requesting a larger sample size of that data to see how many domestic violence cases were charged throughout the entire year. Our team didn't get those specifics before our deadline, but did receive the following statement:

"The numbers dipped during the pandemic, in particular during shelter in place periods, which affected domestic violence cases in particular. As a result, our office also devoted significant resources towards expanding support for domestic violence victims to secure housing and transportation during the pandemic."

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The DA's office also told ABC7 filing and charging rates for domestic violence cases in San Francisco have increased from 24 percent in 2020 to 31 percent so far this year. To put that in perspective, over the past five years the highest charging rate reported for these types of cases was 35 percent in 2018.

"I just think that we have to do better," said Stefani.

The bill will go to the Board of Supervisors for its first full vote in two weeks.

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