Training Days - May 4, 2016 - SF Weekly
SF Weekly

Training Days

Beset by accusations of bias and racism after yet another batch of bigoted text messages swapped between (now former) cops was made public, the San Francisco Police Department is attempting to train away any bias its officers may have — be it based in race, gender, or sexual orientation.

In the wake of texts at Taraval Station blasting black people and gays, Chief Greg Suhr announced that all of the city's roughly 2,000 police will undergo two hours of training in “Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination in the Workplace.” Suhr pledged to remove the “cancer of intolerance” from his department — although how apparently racist cops managed to glide past the police department's background checks undetected remains an open question.

One training module that new cops won't get, however, is on-the-job experience in the city's most diverse police precinct. Once majority-black, Bayview-Hunters Point is now roughly one-third each black and Asian, with whites and Latinos combined making up the other third. Suhr's old post, Bayview Station is one of the city's busier places for police by reputation — station-by-station statistics are not available on the SFPD's website — and it used to be a rite-of-passage for rookie San Francisco cops.

After graduating from the Academy, green police were sent here during a 19-week period of working under a more experienced field training officer. This on-the-job training preceded a year-long “probationary” stint at a station, the final step before assignment to a “permanent” full-time post.

But not anymore.

In 2016, rookies are no longer being sent to Bayview, one of the community-sensitive moves made by police brass after the Dec. 2 shooting death of Bayview man Mario Woods. (The other stations that don't receive newbies are Richmond, Taraval, and Park.)

“This is a great thing — this is what the community has been crying out for, for some time now,” says Supervisor Malia Cohen, who represents the Bayview (and who has taken criticism from the Police Officers Association for comparing Woods' death to a firing squad). “We need more seasoned and experienced officers on the streets.”

Instead of Bayview, the stations with the most rookies are now Mission Station and Northern Station, the latter of which patrols an area ranging from the Marina to the Fillmore.

This comes at a time when there will be more rookie cops on the streets than at any time in recent memory. There are going to be “three to four” academy classes per year for the next few years, with about 50 cops in each class — which means as much as 10 percent of city police could have under a year's experience on the streets.

But there are still inexperienced cops in Bayview — as in cops not experienced with San Francisco. Police transferring into SFPD from other jurisdictions — lateral transfers — are working in Bayview. As of early April, there were nine lateral transfers learning the city at Bayview Station (plus another 10 on their year-long probationary period).

This shouldn't be a problem — so as long as racist texting wasn't on the menu at the old department.