Officer Involved Shooting FAQ
In the wake of an Officer-Involved shooting, members of the community, the media, and concerned stakeholders often have questions about the investigation. In an effort to encourage transparency and accountability, the San Francisco Police Department would like to provide the following information regarding the investigative process. We will be updating this page as we continue to hear from our community and as more information becomes available.
The following content was provided by the San Francisco Police Department and the San Francisco Civil Grand Jury report dated June 2016, titled “INTO THE OPEN: OPPORTUNITIES FOR MORE TIMELY AND TRANSPARENT INVESTIGATIONS OF FATAL SAN FRANCISCO POLICE DEPARTMENT OFFICER INVOLVED SHOOTINGS.”
**The San Francisco Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office, the two agencies fundamental to Officer-Involved Shooting (OIS) investigations, recognize the importance of accountability in OIS investigations:
Peace officers perform a vital and often dangerous job in our communities. Situations occur where peace officers must use deadly force; however we expect that such force will be used only when legally necessary and as prescribed by law. When peace officers use deadly force, the public has a right to expect that a thorough and neutral examination will be conducted into these incidents and that all parties will be held legally accountable for their actions.**
Questions & Answers:
When does the investigation begin, what is the general time frame by which the public may expect the investigation to be completed, what variables may affect this time frame, and how does the OIS investigation actually work?
1. Who is involved in the investigation, what are their roles and responsibilities, and why are they involved?
There are several agencies and units, both within and outside the San Francisco Police department, responsible for responding to OIS incidents.
● SFPD Homicide Detail
The Homicide Detail of the SFPD is responsible for investigating unlawful deaths, officer involved shootings with injury, in custody deaths, and deaths that are deemed suspicious by the San Francisco Medical Examiner.
With regard to Officer Involved Shootings, the mission of the Homicide Detail is to conduct timely and complete criminal investigations of all Officer Involved Shootings. The Homicide Detail responds to all incidents of lethal force by an officer. It takes command of the scene and leads the investigation.
Homicide investigators are some of the most experienced and highly trained members of the Police Department. Aside from years of investigations training and experience, homicide investigators attend rigorous Officer-Involved Shooting investigation courses, including a two week Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) OIS course.
● Forensic Services Division
The mission of the Forensic Services Division is to assist in the criminal justice system through efficient and reliable identification, collection, evaluation, analysis, and comparison of physical evidence and to provide clear, objective interpretations of all findings.
The Forensic Services Division includes:
○ Crime Scene Investigation (“CSI”), which provides scene processing and documentation; evidence collection; associated field forensic work, such as latent print processing, bloodshed splatter interpretation, trajectory analysis, crime scene sketches; incident reconstruction, if needed; and the securing of officer firearms used in OIS incidents.
○ Crime Laboratory, which performs test firing, comparison, examination and forensic analysis on firearms involved in the shooting (both officer(s) and suspect(s)); gunshot residue analysis; DNA analysis; and any other crime lab work required by the investigation.
● Behavioral Science Unit (“BSU”)
The mission of the Behavioral Science Unit is to provide and coordinate psychological support and education to all members of the San Francisco Police Department. [Its] role is to advise and consult with the chain of command on the impact of psychological issues; to minimize the negative effects of incident trauma on department members; and to assist all department members and their dependents with access to their psychological benefits and services.”
● Psychiatric Liaison Unit
“The Psychiatric Liaison Unit’s mission is to provide support and education regarding mental health issues” for the SFPD. The Psychiatric Liaison Unit assists at the scene of OIS incidents to defuse the situation, to gather information about the psychiatric history of those individuals with mental illness from family, coworkers, neighbors, etc., and to provide appropriate referrals to medical or mental health professionals.
● Return to Duty Panel
The Return to Duty Panel is tasked with reviewing the facts surrounding the OIS incident and determining “whether it is appropriate for the involved member to return to duty.”28 The Panel asks: “Are there issues or indicators that preclude the officer from returning to his/her regular assignment at this time?
The Panel is comprised of high ranking SFPD officers and incident investigators.
It is important to note that the panel does not consider whether the use of lethal force was “in policy” or “not in policy.” That determination is made at a later date by the Firearm Discharge Review Board (“FDRB”).
The Chief of Police may either concur or disagree with the Return to Duty Panel’s recommendation. The Chief of Police forwards his or her decision in writing to the Police Commission. At its first meeting after it receives the Chief of Police’s report, the Police Commission meets with the Chief of Police in closed session to review the Return to Duty Panel’s findings and the Chief of Police’s decision.
● Risk Management Office
The Risk Management Office (“RMO”) controls all Internal Affairs Units, the Legal Division, and the [Equal Employment Opportunity] Unit in the SFPD. RMO investigates cases that involve officer misconduct and officer involved shootings. The RMO uses a structured system that identifies and manages behaviors that result in performance related problems by individual members.
○ Internal Affairs Division
The Internal Affairs Division is responsible for investigating officer misconduct as well as officer involved shootings/discharges. Two units within the Internal Affairs Division are responsible for investigating allegations against SFPD officers: one is criminal, while the other is administrative.
- Internal Affairs Criminal Unit
The mission of the Criminal Investigations Unit is to conduct thorough, timely, and impartial investigations into allegations of criminal misconduct by SFPD employees, including any potential criminal conduct by SFPD officers involved in OIS incidents.
- Internal Affairs Administrative Unit
The mission of the Administrative Investigations Unit is to continue to conduct thorough, timely, and impartial investigations of allegations of procedural violations by [SFPD officers]. It is comprised of both sworn and civilian legal staff. Additionally, this unit also administratively investigates all officer involved shootings and in-custody deaths.
○ Legal Division
The function of the Legal Division is to be prepared to assist the Office of the City Attorney for future possible civil litigation in defense of the SFPD.
● Firearm Discharge Review Board
According to SFPD General Order 3.10, “it is the duty of the San Francisco Police Department to review every instance in which a firearm is discharged whether or not such discharge results in an injury or death. The Firearm Discharge Review Board shall review every discharge of a firearm by a member. The purpose of this review is to ensure that the department is continually reviewing its training, policy and procedures in light of the circumstances that lead to firearm discharges by members and to determine if the discharge was in policy.”
● San Francisco Police Commission
According to the Police Commission website, the mission of the Police Commission is to set policy for the Police Department and to conduct disciplinary hearings on charges of police misconduct filed by the Chief of Police or Director of the Department of Police Accountability, impose discipline in such cases as warranted, and hear police officers’ appeals from discipline imposed by the Chief of Police.
Commissioners are appointed by the Mayor [four seats] and the Board of Supervisors [three seats] and they oversee the Police Department and the Department of Police Accountability. With regard to OIS cases, the Police Commission meets with members of the Return to Duty Panel and the Chief of Police to determine whether involved officers shall be allowed to return to duty; receives and considers periodic reports on the status of OIS investigations from SFPD IAD; and conducts disciplinary hearings on any charges of misconduct filed by the Chief of Police or the DPA against any officer arising from an OIS incident.
● Office of the Chief Medical Examiner
The function of the OCME is to protect the public health and legal requirements of the City and County relating to forensic pathology. It performs the autopsy on the deceased in OIS incidents and determines the cause, circumstances, manner and mode of death.
● District Attorney’s Office
The District Attorney’s role in an officer involved shooting is to conduct an independent criminal investigation. The purpose of the District Attorney’s investigation is to accurately, thoroughly, and objectively determine the potential criminal liability, or lack thereof, of any party involved.
In other words, the DA determines if any criminal laws appear to have been violated. The DA’s Office conducts its own investigation, then reviews evidence obtained from that investigation and evidence provided to it by the SFPD Homicide Detail, analyzes the pertinent laws, determines whether any appear to have been violated and considers whether sufficient evidence exists to bring criminal charges against any of the involved officers.
● Department of Police Accountability (DPA)
The mission of the Department of Police Accountability is to promptly, fairly and impartially investigate civilian complaints against San Francisco police officers and make policy recommendations concerning San Francisco Police Department practices. The DPA was created by a charter amendment in 1982 as a civilian staffed agency charged with the duty to take complaints from members of the public regarding SFPD officer misconduct or improper performance while on duty. All complaints are investigated unless it can be determined from the allegations themselves that the officer’s conduct was proper or the accusations are outside the DPA’s jurisdiction.
The DPA performs four main tasks:
- Investigates complaints, makes findings on those complaints, and, when warranted, makes recommendations on discipline to the SFPD Chief of Police and/or Police Commission;
- Mediates complaints;
- Makes policy recommendations concerning SFPD policies, practices and procedures; and
- Performs community outreach.
Historically, the DPA responded to the scene of each OIS incident to obtain a general understanding of what occurred but did not begin any type of investigation unless and until someone filed a complaint regarding the incident with the office. On June 7, 2016, the voters of San Francisco overwhelmingly passed Proposition D, an initiative ordinance amending the Administrative Code to require the DPA to “investigate any incident occurring within the City in which a San Francisco police officer fires a gun killing or physically injuring someone.
Two Separate, Concurrent Investigations: Criminal & Administrative
OIS incidents mandate two separate, but concurrent, immediate investigations: criminal and administrative.
A criminal investigation is conducted to determine whether anyone involved in the incident committed a crime, including whether the officers involved exhibited criminal conduct or criminal negligence during the shooting. In other words: “Did the officers break any law by taking the action they did?”
Two different law enforcement agencies begin immediate independent criminal investigations once an OIS occurs: SFPD Homicide Detail and DA’s Office.
If the OIS criminal investigation uncovers or raises significant issues, state and federal agencies may also participate in or conduct their own investigation, typically at the request of the City.
These agencies may include the Department of Justice or Office of the Attorney General at the state level, and the United States Department of Justice or the Federal Bureau of Investigation at the federal level.
An administrative investigation is also conducted to determine whether the officers involved violated any SFPD policy or procedure during the shooting. In other words: “Did the officers act in accordance with SFPD policy and procedure and use appropriate law enforcement tactics under the circumstances or should the officers be disciplined, retrained or fired because of their actions?”
SFPD IAD conducts these administrative investigations. The DPA also conducts an independent administrative investigation by: (i) sending their own investigators to the scene to observe; (ii) conducting an independent review and analysis of evidence that is forwarded to it after being collected by the SFPD Homicide Detail; and (iii) performing any additional investigative tasks and interviews that it deems necessary to conduct a thorough investigation of the incident.
The reason for separate criminal and administrative investigations is because, while police officers receive due process protections and Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination as subjects of a criminal investigation, along with specific protections under the Peace Officer’s Bill of Rights (Cal. Gov’t Code § 3300 et seq.), police officers can be compelled by their employer to make a “statement against interest” as subjects of an administrative 45 investigation. (See Cal. Gov’t Code § 3303.) Therefore, it is necessary to maintain a one way flow of information:
While investigators from the administrative investigation get all information and evidence obtained from the criminal investigation, the criminal investigation receives no information from the administrative investigation. We were informed, but have not been able to substantiate, that the administrative investigation work, by and large, is completed within a few months following an OIS incident. However, it cannot be fully wrapped up and no disciplinary proceedings may occur until after the criminal investigation is fully completed and the DA’s Office has issued its charging decision letter.
3. When does the investigation begin, what is the general time frame by which the public may expect the investigation to be completed, and what variables may affect this time frame? How does the OIS investigation actually work?
OIS Investigation Timeline
When an OIS occurs, per the General Orders of the SFPD and other internal and related documents, the subsequent investigation should proceed as follows:
I. Day 1
A. An officer involved shooting occurs.
II. Immediately or As Soon As Practical
● Involved officers shall notify their immediate supervisor and Emergency Communications Division (“ECD”), which notifies the Field Operations Bureau, which then notifies key responders to OIS incident scenes, including personnel from SFPD: Command Staff, Homicide, Crisis Incident Response Team (“CIRT”), IAD, FDRB, Legal Division, RMO, Police Commission; DA; and DPA.
● Supervisor shall be responsible for scene until Homicide arrives.
● Homicide Detail, upon arriving at scene, shall assume command of scene and investigation, coordinate with all responders, and manage all aspects of evidence collection, non-officer witness interviews, and incident scene “walkthroughs.”
● IAD representatives shall participate in “walk through” of scene and observe Homicide interviews of officers via closed circuit feed.
● CSI shall collect physical evidence, and perform associated forensic field work.
● Legal Division shall ensure evidence beneficial for litigation is seized and document scene.
● BSU shall send members of CIRT to offer psychological support to involved officers.
● Media Relations Unit shall provide information to the media and act as a liaison with the family of the individual shot during the incident.
● Police Range personnel shall replace involved officers’ firearms.
B. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner
● Medical Examiner Staff, when a fatality occurs, shall provide expert resources to criminal and administrative investigators at scene, remove the body from the scene, and conduct an autopsy on the remains.
C. District Attorney’s Office
● On-Call Assistant DA and DA Investigators, upon arriving at scene, shall meet with Homicide Detail to walkthrough scene, participate in collection and documentation of evidence, participate in non-compelled interviews of law enforcement witnesses and interviews of civilian witnesses, and confer with Homicide Detail regarding investigative process to follow.
D. Department of Police Accountability
● On-Call DPA Investigator, upon arriving at scene shall walkthrough and observe scene with Homicide Detail, so that the investigator has a basic understanding of the circumstances and environment of incident.
III. The First Ten Days After the Incident
● Involved officer(s) shall be assigned to respective Bureau Headquarters for a minimum of ten calendar days and shall not be allowed to return to duty until cleared by the Chief of Police and reviewed by the Police Commission. During that time, the officer(s) shall: (i) participate in mandatory debriefing with BSU; (ii) report to Police Range for post discharge firearm debriefing, (iii) report to Training Academy for modified force options training, and (iv) participate in interview with IAD.
● Homicide Detail shall meet within 72 hours with DA, CSI, Forensic Services Division, and other offices and disciplines to determine investigative actions to be taken.
● Crime Laboratory shall conduct ballistics and firearms examinations, and perform DNA and other testing as requested.
● Media Relations Unit shall respond to media inquiries and convey information to family of individual shot.
● BSU shall conduct a mandatory debriefing with involved officers within 72 hours, assess involved officer’s ability to return to duty or need for additional support, participate in Return to Duty Panel hearing for involved officers and provide follow-up and psychological support.
● Return to Duty Panel shall conduct a return to duty hearing (not open to the public) within five business days of the incident, in which it reviews preliminary investigative findings by IA criminal investigators and votes on whether to recommend that involved officer(s) should be allowed to return to regular duty.
● Chief of Police shall determine, after consulting with the Return to Duty Panel, whether the involved officer(s) should be returned to regular field assignment and then forward written decision (not available to public) to Police Commission and DPA.
● Police Commission shall meet in closed session with the Chief of Police to review the Chief of Police’s findings and decision regarding whether to allow involved officers to return to regular duty.
● IAD shall schedule interview of involved officer(s) and witness officers, obtain information from Homicide Detail and other evidence processing personnel, and participate in return to duty hearing for involved officer(s).
B. Office of Chief Medical Examiner
● Medical Examiner Staff shall notify Homicide Detail of any physical evidence collected during autopsy.
C. District Attorney’s Office
● DA Personnel shall meet with Homicide Detail investigators to: (i) review the status of the evidence collected and witness and involved officer statements; (ii) obtain copies of all relevant case documents; (iii) agree on evidence to be submitted for further analysis and testing; (iv) agree on next steps to investigation; and (v) participate in interviews of additional witnesses.
IV. Within 45 Days of the Incident
● Homicide Detail shall submit its final criminal investigation report to FDRB.
● IAD shall prepare final recommendation and report for submission to FDRB and Chief of Police.
● Legal Division shall work with IAD and DPA regarding evidence/document production and obtain incident report for any claim investigation.
B. DA’s Office
● DA’s Office shall, upon conclusion of its independent investigation and receipt of all reports from Homicide Detail, evaluate all evidence to determine potential criminal liability, or lack thereof, of any party and then notify SFPD of its decision in writing.
V. In Response to DA’s Criminal Charges Against an Officer, If Any
● Chief of Police shall suspend accused officer without pay when the officer is charged with a felony or any serious crime.
● Accused Officer shall remain on suspension pending resolution of criminal prosecution and adjudication of any pending administrative investigation.
VI. Within 60 Days of the Incident
● IAD shall submit to the FDRB the completed administrative investigation with recommendations.
VII. Within 90 Days of Incident
● FDRB shall convene within thirty days of receipt of the Internal Affairs investigative report (i.e., within ninety days of incident).
VIII. Within 210 Days of Incident
● FDRB, within 120 days following their first meeting (i.e., within 210 days of incident), shall complete its investigation and issue its findings in accordance with General Order 3.10.
● DPA Director shall attend FDRB as an advisory member and receive and review FDRB’s quarterly reports to Police Commission and provide written responses as appropriate.
4. Where may the public go for more information about OIS investigations generally, as well as about specific OIS investigations?
SFPD Homicide Detail
Thomas J. Cahill Hall
of Justice 850 Bryant Street, Room 455
San Francisco, CA 94103
Phone (415) 553-1145
Fax (415) 553-1885
Homicide Tip Line
(415) 431-2127 (100% Anonymous) or SFPD Operation Center (415) 575-4444
San Francisco Civil Grand Jury (Officer Involved Shooting) Report:
Source: INTO THE OPEN: OPPORTUNITIES FOR MORE TIMELY AND TRANSPARENT INVESTIGATIONS OF FATAL SAN FRANCISCO POLICE DEPARTMENT OFFICER INVOLVED SHOOTINGS.; June 2016; Retrieved on October 17, 2016 from http://civilgrandjury.sfgov.org/2015_2016/2015-16_CGJ_Final_Report_Transparent_Investigations_Fatal_SFPD_Shootings_7_6_2016.pdf