Officials call for independent oversight of SF sheriff's department

Following a series of high profile incidents where San Francisco sheriff's deputies were accused of crimes or violating procedures, city officials are calling for increased oversight of the department. 

On Thursday, San Francisco supervisors officially began exploring the idea of putting an oversight body in place to investigate the sheriff's office when necessary. The idea would be to avoid the sheriff's office investigating their own.

Supervisor Shamann Walton said the aim is not to attack the sheriff or her deputies.  

"But, it is about the fact that we do have allegations of misconduct. Allegations of misconduct are investigated and they're currently investigated by the Sheriff's Department," said Walton. "That can no longer happen." 

San Francisco's Sheriff's Office has faced a series of allegations; including deputies accused of forcing jail inmates to fight in gladiatorial style bouts and forcing female inmates to disrobe with male deputies present.

"Those who enforce the law are not above it. We have allegations of widespread physical abuse, along with degrading strip searches of women up to a dozen deputies or more are implicated, said Chesa Boudin from the San Francisco Public Defenders Office.

The sheriff told the committee she welcomes outside oversight.

"I'm in favor of independent investigations for misconduct. I don't have a problem with that," said Sheriff Vicki Hennessy.

The committee is looking into whether San Francisco's Department of Police Accountability, which already oversees the police force, could oversee the sheriff's office as well.

Paul Henderson currently heads up the DPA and said his office could expand its responsibilities to include sheriff's deputies.

"We understand the work, we're familiar with doing that particular type of work. It's a matter now of moving it to scale, to incorporate in a new agency," said Henderson.

The sheriff said she looks forward to working on details of the plan going forward.

"Where we go from here is hopefully we're going to be collaboratively working on some ideas and some thoughts about whether or not this will continue the way it is with DPA or whether we'll try doing investigations a different way," said Sheriff Hennessy

At this point this is still just in the idea phase, there's no decision at this point on what outside oversight of the sheriff's office would look like, a timeline or whether it would be on a voluntary basis or of the county would force some kind of change.