Claims Of Misconduct In San Francisco Jail Prompts Calls For Investigation

The San Francisco sheriff department
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San Francisco supervisors are considering ways to increase oversight of the sheriff's department following allegations of officer misconduct.

San Francisco supervisors Shamann Walton and Sandra Fewer on Thursday called the hearing in the wake of misconduct allegations, including accusations the department mishandled an investigation into guards forcing inmates to compete in so-called "fight club" brawls

“You do not forfeit your humanity because you are incarcerated,” Walton said at the hearing.

Walton wants oversight over misconduct claims against sheriff’s deputies at the jail “because it is impossible, virtually, for independent, unbiased investigations," Walton said. 

Those investigations need to also be thorough, Walton said.

Last month, prosecutors dropped charges against three deputies accused of making inmates fight.

“And that is why we do not allow the fox to be in the henhouse,” he said.

Speakers at the meeting, including citizens and attorneys, told stories of intimidation and abuse.

The late Public Defender Jeff Adachi had accused deputies of beating and illegally strip-searching inmates at county jail late last year, after the initial fight club allegations came to light. 

San Francisco Sheriff Vicki Hennessy is on board with the new proposed oversight.

“I am in favor of investigations for misconduct,” she said. “I don’t have a problem with that.”

Currently, the Department of Police Accountability does independent investigations of police conduct, and Paul Henderson, the head of that department, said they could do the same for the sheriff.

“We understand the work. We’re familiar with doing that type of work,” he said. “It’s a matter now of moving it to scale to incorporating it into a new agency and what that would look like. Obviously, it involves a longer-term conversation.”

That includes expanding his department’s budget and personnel to make sure the investigations continue on beyond a few cases.

The Department of Police Accountability has seen a 61 percent increase in complaints in the last year.