Citywide summit on witness intimidation
slated for June
San Francisco District Attorney Kamala announces summit
to improve witness protection in wake of recent witness murder
Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice Director Allen Nance at left.
By Pat Murphy
Copyright fogcityjournal.com 2006
May 11, 2006
San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris yesterday announced
a "citywide summit on witness intimidation" will be
held June 16.
Harris made the announcement backed by a number of City officials
and community leaders in the wake of a witness being murdered
last Thursday before he was able to testify in court.
She foretold a "war on terrorism," labeling criminals
who intimidate witnesses as brazen "terrorists."
Both prosecutors and police complain that successful removal
of criminals from high crime areas is hamstrung due to the fear
which criminals are able instill in witnesses.
Intimidation has become brazen as signified by a T-Shirt message
seen increasingly in violence plagued low-income neighborhoods,
"There are too many people who are living in a state of
fear in the neighborhoods where we've witnessed the violence,"
Harris said at the morning Ella Hill Hutch Community Center gathering.
"There too many people who are being terrorized by terrorists
who are intimidating these neighborhood people in suggesting they
should not come forward."
The summit will be held at St. Mary's Cathedral beginning at
11:00 a.m. June 16.
"That's going to be... a joint effort by law enforcement
and communities together shoulder-to-shoulder saying that we will
protect, we will support, we will defend individuals in their
communities who want to stand up and not live in a state of fear
and in a state of violence," Harris continued.
The 11:45 a.m. announcement included San Francisco Sheriff Michael
Hennessey, director of the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice
Allen Nance, community organizations and the faith community.
Notably absent were San Francisco Police Chief Heather Fong and
Mayor Gavin Newsom.
As of 8:15 p.m. last night Fong had not received an invitation
to the summit, Fong told the San Francisco Police Commission.
"We look forward to being invited," Fong said.
"We are unaware of exactly what it is. We heard that it's
on June 16, I believe, and that's all we know about it at this
time," added Fong.
Police Chief Heather Fong at yesterday's Police Commission meeting.
Newsom supports efforts to improve witness protection services,
Nance related at the Hutch Center.
"Let me first say that first and foremost Mayor Newsom fully
supports the effort that's underway to address the witness protection
services that are being provided to the citizens of San Francisco,"
Let me also say that you see the individuals standing behind
me as convened by DA Harris that this is a very clear indication
of our collaborative support and effort to deal with the issues
of violence in our communities.
Community leaders gathered as Police Commissioner Joe Foster speaks.
Nance predicted witness protection collaboration will lead to
neighborhood intolerance of violence.
"We must send a message to members of this community and
other parts of San Francisco that they will be protected, that
they should step forward, that we will not tolerate violence in
our communities, that we will not allow our youth and our young
people and our families to be intimated by those individuals who
bring such vicious acts upon residents of this community.
"Therefore the Mayor's Office is committing its resources...
to support the efforts of DA Harris and other public safety agencies
to develop the degree of partnership that is necessary to support
our communities and to support our citizens know that they will
be safe and that we will not tolerate violence in San Francisco."
Two separate witness protection programs exist in San Francisco
which are not partnered, Deputy Police Chief Morris Tabak later
told the Police Commission.
"I'd like to make it perfectly clear that there is no City
witness relocation program," Tabak told commissioners.
"The San Francisco Police Department has it's own relocation
program and the District Attorney's Office has their own witness
Witness Tyrell Rollins, 22, was killed under the witness relocation
program of the District Attorney when Rollins returned to his
Rollins had been relocated out of San Francisco after Rollins
identified two men involved in a 2005 Bayview murder.
Rollins was recognized and shot dead at 10:15 a.m. Thursday as
he returned for auto repairs to the City Auto Tech repair shop
at 269 Bayshore Boulevard.
The District Attorney's Office "manages its own program,"
Both programs are "stand-alone programs," he said.
"The program unfortunately that Mr. Rollins was killed was
being managed and relocated under the District Attorney's witness
"We've had a (police department) relocation program for
many decades" under which no witness was killed, Tabak reported.
Deputy Police Chief Morris Tabak
"Are the programs similar, different - how much different
are they?" asked Police Commissioner Joe Foster who attended
the Hutch Center press conference.
Police Commissioner Joe Marshall
Tabak said he could not speak for the District Attorney relocation
"I certainly don't want to speak for their program. I can
tell you that they are different," said Tabak.
"I won't go into any details. I think it would be not unfair
but I think that it's something that they should speak to in contrasting
"I don't want this to become one of those point-counterpoint,
us against them type of thing.
"This is a tragic event and I'm sure those who were involved
in this case in the District Attorney's Office were devastated
and they don't need me sitting up here telling them they should
have done it this way - that wouldn't accomplish anything.
"However, what I can say is that we've extended our assistance
to help them bolster their program to get it to a level perhaps
it could function at a little bit better.
"And those conversations actually took place today which
were facilitated by Director Nance.
Tabak detailed components of witness protection efforts under
the SFPD banner of 'witness relocation.'
The program is entitled "witness relocation," Tabak
"However, there are components of witness relocation. There's
witness management and witness protection.
"In some parts of witness relocation that because of the
danger level of the case... we, SFPD, will offer protection on
a 24/7 basis.
"Sometimes when you relocate someone a great distance away,
"Sometimes you need to relocate them at a great distance
away or out of the state and you need to afford them someone to
be with them to make sure they are not harmed."
One commissioner raised the possibility of combining the two
"What are your ideas on perhaps combining the two programs?"
"Clearly the police department has the experience. I know
the DA's office is working on it but why are there two programs
in San Francisco?"
Tabak pointed to a lack of resources.
"We don't have the requisite staffing to take it on continuously,"
"We certainly don't have the funding. We certainly don't
have the staffing."
Developing the best program possible is essential, Supervisor
Bevan Dufty noted Wednesday morning.
"We have to have a successful witness protection program
and we have to break this cycle," stressed Dufty.
"The City has tried to step forward and we've come through
with funding that programs that hopefully are going to make a
difference in reducing gun and gang violence but I think this
is an example that no situation can be left unattended to.
As a result of last week's witness murder, Harris doubled the
number of District Attorney staff assigned to witness protection
from seven to 14, she said.
Lack of sufficient funding for successful witness protection
indicates indifference to witness plight, said Supervisor Ross
District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi.
"Strong witness solicitation should be an uncompromising
secret weapon of our law enforcement but unfortunately it is not,"
Mirkarimi maintained, who represents the high crime supervisorial
District 5 of San Francisco.
"Deficient and under funded witness solicitation I believe
communicates an indifference and an ineffectiveness to the rest
of San Francisco.
Mirkarimi noted the Police Commission will meet jointly in June
with the Select Committee on Gun and Gang Violence of the Board
"Here on June 7, Ella Hill Hutch will be host to a meeting
"That will be a joint meeting between the Gun and Gang Violence
Committee... and the Police Commission.
"What I expect to come out of that meeting is not just an
opportunity for people to vent their concerns but literally an
institutionalize commitment... that will enable the strategies
which I believe, to this day, have not been enabled."