SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju on Wednesday unveiled his office’s new data collection tool CopWatch SF, which contains a list of local police officers and their publicly available records, including complaints, lawsuits and news articles.
According to Raju, the database was previously used by public defenders but is now available to the public. The database includes many records recently made public through a new law, 2019’s Senate Bill 1421, which makes some records public around individual officers’ conduct, including whether they’ve been involved in an officer-involved shooting and complaints of sexual assault or use of force that resulted in bodily injury.
So far, the database includes records gathered from the Police Department, the Department of Police Accountability, the District Attorney’s Office, and the San Francisco Police Commission, Raju said.
“This database was designed by our Integrity Unit to shine a light on police conduct and encourage greater accountability. Everything included is available publicly, but nowhere else is it consolidated into an easily searchable online resource,” Raju said in a statement. “We believe this is a model that can and should be replicated across the state.”
According to Managing Attorney at the Integrity Unit Danielle Harris, the database, however, is only a glimpse into the records that exist.
“It’s been almost two years since the new law took effect and we have received less than 10 percent of what exists. At this rate, it will take twenty years to get records on all current cops,” she said. “We have worked to make what is available easily accessible to all. The database unfortunately does not tell the full picture because many police records are still shielded from public view under confidentiality laws, because police agencies have no incentive to prioritize the records’ release, and because there has not yet been the political will to create that incentive.”
Community organizer Adriana Camarena said the database is long overdue.
“The Public Defender’s Office has radically increased transparency by aggregating public records on officers into one searchable and public database, but this should and could have been done long time ago by the city agencies in charge of these records,” she said. “We are sitting in the cradle of the information economy with a myriad of solutions available for open government, and the SFPD has failed to provide user-friendly, easily relatable, open data sets that allow the public and media to find the real story behind the data and to support public policy change.”
Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, who authored SB 1421, said, “Transparency builds trust between the public and police. My office is committed to expanding public access to law enforcement records and to building the trust that public safety in every community relies on.”
The database can be found at www.sfpublicdefender.org/copwatch.
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