SF Public Defender launches police officer database, SFPOA questions accuracy

The San Francisco’s Public Defender's office Wednesday launched a new website called "Cop Watch" 

It publishes information of officers across the city involving misconduct and is available free to the public.

But not everyone feels comfortable with some of the information that's available for the public.

Development of the database began in January of 2019, when California legislators passed Senate Bill 1421, making serious allegations against police public says

Brian Cox with the public defender's office integrity unit.

"The thought is to put that out there for the public because I think right now in the George Floyd era, the public is demanding accountability and transparency. And so these records are part of that process," Cox said. "So people can see actually what's happening so people can see what the officers are doing and how they're policing." 

Cox says the centralized database details the names of officers and in some cases is accompanied by the paperwork of lawsuits of allegations against the officers.

But San Francisco Police Lt. Tracy McCray takes issue with the information on the site that not only includes officer misconduct but media articles in which an officer is quoted address various issues. 

In Lt. McCray’s case, it's an article in which she expressed frustration that prosecutors declined to press charges against some people arrested for criminal activity. 

"I'm like, OK, is an opinion now equated to being misconduct? Lt. McCray said. But it's like, are you trying to squash our ability to debate and talk about things, about how we may see one thing as a police officer."

For its part, the San Francisco Public Defender's Office said that the database isn't just a tool to dispense information on police misconduct but to give community insight into those who police their city. 

But the Police Officers Association says the site is riddled with errors and points to one case in which it identified a San Francisco Police Officer as being involved in an officer-involved shooting. 

The information turned out to be incorrect and was for a different officer in another city. 

Well, I think for, say, your name, and especially when it's the wrong information, it's misinformation. You could be putting an officer in harm's way," said Lt. McCray.

Cox, with the public defender's integrity unit, says it's since corrected the error and says the efforts are designed to provide better insight into policing 

“I think in part so, in part, it's to understand who the officers are, sort of what they believe, what they say. But, you know, I think that that it's their actions and words that speak for them. We are not in a position to interpret what they're doing and we don't make an interpretation of what they're doing.”  

The database can be found at www.sfpublicdefender.org/copwatch.