San Francisco police Friday began releasing long secret files on use of force and misconduct cases under the requirements of a new state law, a month after the city’s police officers union withdrew legal objections.
The first files released under Senate Bill 1421 disclosure requirements concerns a July 3, 2010 incident involving two plainclothes officers on patrol who saw a crowd with possible gang affiliations outside a North Beach strip club. Inspector John “Jay” Newman, then a 23 year veteran, told investigators he spotted a man who soon opened fire.
Newman got out of his car, sought cover and, when the man pointed the weapon at him, twice shouted, “Police, drop the gun!” before firing one shot. The man soon surrendered and was not injured.
“I knew I was in danger, I didn’t know where my partner was, I felt my life was threatened and I feared for my life, I took one shot from approximately 20 feet away,” Newman recounted in one interview about the incident. Newman said although he knew the department policy on how to deal with active shooters involves withdrawing to a safe distance and calling in back-up before engaging the suspect, he had to act immediately because there weren’t enough officers to put that full policy into effect.
At least three people were injured in the incident by rounds that did not come from the officer’s gun, according to the investigative reports.
Six days after the incident, an internal police discharge review board unanimously agreed to allow Newman to return to duty.
The disclosure included several police reports and other accounts as well as the results of reviews by prosecutors and a firearm discharge review board, which all concluded that the shooting was within departmental policy.
However, in releasing the documents, the department redacted personal information of those involved, medical records, criminal history, or under a broad exemption related to “disclosure of the record would pose a significant danger to the physical safety of the peace officer, custodial officer, or another person.”
Dozens of pages are redacted on that broad exemption.
The documents have long been confidential, but are now being released due to the bill that requires the release of previously confidential records of police shootings as well as sustained allegations of lying and sexual misconduct. They show the level of review such incidents have by the Internal Affairs division, a discharge review board and the District Attorney’s office.
The law mandated the files be released on Jan. 1, but triggered a series of lawsuits by police unions across the state.
The San Francisco police officers union had objected to the release of any files generated before the new law took effect in 2019, but withdrew its objection last month. On the same day, an appeals court ruled the law was indeed retroactive to records to incidents that occurred before the law went into effect.
The department says it will release more documents regularly as it finishes reviews required to comply with privacy provisions of state law.