Feds open review of SFPD in wake of Mario Woods killing

- The U.S. Department of Justice announced today they will conduct a "comprehensive review" of the San Francisco Police Department in the wake of the controversial police killing of Mario Woods.

Woods was shot dead by several police officers in the Bayview in December. Police have said he was armed with a knife; his family and protesters have said officers did not need to use deadly force.

Today, federal officials said they will step in to take a look at SFPD from top to bottom, everything from officer training and use of force, to discipline and misconduct. They said they hope to find ways to help the department bridge the gap between officers and the community.

"The review is in response to requests made by the mayor, from the chief, from elected city officials and community members, asking the Justice Department to examine the San Francisco Police Department and their use of force and their practices," said Brian Stretch, acting U.S. attorney in San Francisco.

Mayor Ed Lee and Police Chief Greg Suhr had asked for the federal review. In a letter last month to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Lee pledged to open the department's doors, saying he was "inviting transparency and accountability."

But the review will likely include only recommendations for the department. Some protesters have sought a higher level of federal involvement, in the form of a federal civil-rights probe that could force court-ordered reforms. 

Officials said today, though, that the issues raised in the Woods case so far do not rise to the level of a civil-rights investigation, although that could still happen in the future.

Suhr said the issues that the feds will review are concepts that "all departments across the country are struggling with, especially with weapons short of a firearm. We just have to deal with, find a way to deal with folks with edged weapon or other weapons, especially folks who are in crisis, with something other than a firearm."

Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris, who represents woods' family, says he supports the federal investigation, so long as it's without any limitations.

"This can be the first step in healing the division between the minority communities and the Police Department,” Burris said. “Of course, the investigation should be without limitations and should allow for a wide open investigation into the circumstances surrounding the shooting and the policies, procedures and training, and let the chips fall where they may.”
Police say woods was a stabbing suspect, who confronted officers while armed with a knife.

Officers say they first fired bean bags at him, with no effect. Video of the incident has sparked outrage.

Suhr has acknowledged that the situation could have ended had his officers been allowed to carry Taser stun guns.

The federal review will take at least eight to 10 months, during which time the public will be able to offer input at town hall meetings across the city.


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