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Citizens concerned with police policies
attend police and housing commission meeting

Public housing policing discussed

A special meeting of the San Francisco Police Commission was held tonight
at the African American Art and Culture Complex in the Western Addition.
Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

By Brent Begin, Bay City News Service

March 28, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - Several community activists criticized the San Francisco Police Department tonight for their treatment of African Americans at a rare joint meeting of the police and housing authority commissions.

The comments come only days before a city controller's report on alleged racial bias and profiling in the police department is set to be released.

Several speakers made sure to thank the officers who are doing good work in the community -- several mayoral awards were given out at the beginning of the meeting -- but strong words were also exchanged.

Held in the African American Art and Culture Complex, the meeting was designed to address the success of a gang injunction in the Oakdale housing development and the recent agreement between the housing authority and the police department in regards to trespassing enforcement.

What emerged from the community activists were concerns that police would begin to use heavy-handed tactics that could result in more people of color being behind bars.

London Breed, the executive director of the center and the vice president of the city's redevelopment agency, brought a 15-year-old girl in front of the commissioners to tell her story.

According to Breed, the girl was "aggressively handled" for a crime she didn't commit and was held in jail for an entire weekend without being allowed to talk to her parents.

"The youth in our community are very impressionable," Breed said.

London Breed (left)

"As public servants, we have an opportunity to impress upon them self respect, compassion and community service. Instead, we choose disrespect, lies and deceit and I think we need to change that completely."

Housing authority commissioner and former Supervisor Amos Brown agreed there was a problem with the justice system.

"In other communities when kids get in trouble, how often has it been the case that kids have been slapped on the wrist... and taken home to their parents?" Brown asked.

"But when it comes to African American youngsters, not all the time but for the most part, conveniently they are booted into juvenile hall and locked up and with intent to throw away the key and keep them in this system."

Reverand Amos Brown

But Housing Authority Director Gregg Fortner said that a new partnership with the police department that allows officers to patrol public housing will be a major step in improving community and police relations.

He said that with officers actively seeking the input of community members, the city would "bringing back the philosophy of beat cops."

Housing Authority Director Gregg Fortner

Gang task force Sgt. Mikail Ali also defended recent police activities, giving for the first time the early results of beat patrols on public housing sites.

Ali said that since the beginning of March, officers have advised 93 people that they were trespassing on Housing Authority property. Of those 93 people, only six were cited for returning to the property following a warning, Ali said.

Sgt. Mikail Ali

In all, Ali said, seven people have been arrested for trespassing violations at public housing sites.

"The idea is not to go and mass arrest people who violate this section of the law," Ali said. "It is simply to change the behavior."

Copyright © 2007 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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