When law enforcement bungles something, we grab for that familiar dig by likening them to the silent film era’s comedically incompetent police force, the Keystone Kops.
But when it comes to the paper bag containing disciplinary cases that was found recently at the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department, the comparison could not be more fitting.
Last week during an office cleaning at City Hall, a paper bag — with handles, mind you, not some tiny school lunch-size waste of paper — was discovered stuffed in a filing cabinet under other paperwork, according to the SF Examiner.
Inside the bag were three incomplete Internal Affairs cases, two of which reach their statute of limitations for taking action in June and July.
[jump] Sadly the department would not disclose to the Examiner details of any of the cases, citing that warm blanket of confidentiality. Also, no one who spoke with the paper — former Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, who lost his re-election bid in November; the undersheriff at the time, Frederico Rocha, who was supposed to deal with the cases; department chief of staff Eileen Hirst, or new Sheriff Vicki Hennessy — wanted to accept responsibility for the lost files.
Rocha and Mirkarimi both denied involvement, seemingly calling out the department for lying about the circumstances surrounding the discovery of the bag.
Nevertheless, this appears to be another piece of the past the new sheriff wants to get rid of.
After winning office last year, Hennessy vowed to rescind Mirkarimi’s controversial policy on department cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement over undocumented immigrant detainees. Kate Steinle’s death made a mess out of that situation. In May, she and the Board of Supervisors eventually worked out a compromise.
And, as the Examiner pointed out, Hennessy has spent much of her first months in the job dealing with other leftovers — clearly staking her claim as the new sheriff in town. Hennessy also reversed Mirkarimi initiatives on use of force and inmate legal services (the department keeps watch over the County Jail system).
Mirkarimi signed his use-of-force policy on his final day in office, but it was never implemented under Hennessy. It addressed de-escalation training, pointed out when force was allowed, and dictated who was responsible for reporting inmate abuse cases. It came in the wake of an inmate fighting scandal in which several deputies were accused of staging fights.
What comes of the Paper Bag With Handles Scandal remains to be seen, but with those statutes of limitation expiring soon, hopefully we’ll have an answer before long.