SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco police officers disproportionately stop and search African-Americans and Latinos and the department lacks robust oversight and transparency, according to report by a panel of retired judges released Monday.
The three-judge panel was put together by District Attorney George Gascon after a series of racists and homophobic text messages exchanged by 14 police officers were made public in April 2015.
The judges' report found blacks and Latinos were searched without consent at higher rates than white and Asians. It also found complaints rarely resulted in disciplinary consequences and when they did, officers received mild disciplinary action.
There is a systemic lack of internal controls within the San Francisco Police Department and no external body overseeing its operational effectiveness, high-risk activities, or compliance with policies, the report said.
The judges' 81 non-binding recommendations include creating an Office of Inspector General that would regularly audit the department and its Office of Citizen Complaints.
"Transparency and accountability of law enforcement is absolutely essential in a free society to protect the public and instill confidence in the system," said Judge Dickran Tevrizian. "We hope this report and its findings will be seriously considered and its recommendations will be implemented."
The report comes as police departments across the nation grapple with tensions with minority communities following the police shootings of black men in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and suburban St. Paul, Minnesota, and the civilian shooting in Dallas that killed five police officers.
The judges' findings and recommendations were sharply criticized by the Police Officers Association, which represents rank-and-file officers in San Francisco.
Union head Martin Halloran dismissed the findings, saying the panel was biased because it was hand-picked by Gascon, a former police chief who has clashed with the union in the past.
"Gascon organized this whole charade to publicize his inflammatory claims of widespread racism in the police department, when in fact the problem is much more limited in scope," Halloran said in a statement.
The police department said in a statement it would analyze the report and forward it to the U.S. Department of Justice, which is also investigating.