U.S. News

Justice Department launches review of San Francisco police

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department said on Monday it would launch a review of the San Francisco Police, in the wake of the fatal police shooting of a black man that spurred protests and demands that the city’s police chief be fired.

Although the American Civil Liberties Union had asked for a federal investigation into the San Francisco Police Department following the death of Mario Woods, 26, at the hands of police in December, the review will result only in recommendations, not court-enforceable reforms.

“We will examine the San Francisco Police Department’s current operational policies, training practices and accountability systems, and help identify key areas for improvement going forward,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement.

At the conclusion of the review, the Justice Department will give San Francisco police a list of best practices it can follow to insure fairness in its interactions with citizens.

San Francisco police will then report back to the Justice Department on a periodic basis to show it is following the practices, a Justice Department official said.

Other police departments, such as Baltimore, have asked the Justice Department to conduct similar reviews of its policies following accusations of discrimination.

In the case of Baltimore, a review was ongoing before the death of black detainee Freddie Gray. Gray’s death then prompted a more formal investigation, the results of which will be enforceable by law.

Protests have flared in San Francisco over the fatal police shooting on Dec. 2 of Woods, which was filmed by bystanders and described by San Francisco’s public defender as unnecessary. Demonstrators have repeatedly called for Police Chief Greg Suhr’s ouster.

Suhr has said that Woods was a suspect in a stabbing, that he was holding a knife and was a threat to officers who had tried to subdue him with pepper spray and bean bag rounds.

In video recorded by onlookers, officers could be seen with their weapons pointed at Woods, who was standing with his back against the wall of a building. In the video, Woods does not seem to be holding anything when he is shot multiple times, although police have said they recovered a kitchen knife.

Woods’ family filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city in December for wrongful death, describing his killing as a “horrific public execution.”

The death came amid unrest across the United States over high-profile police killings of black citizens in cities such as Ferguson, Missouri, and Chicago since mid-2014, and a renewed civil rights movement dubbed Black Lives Matter.

Additional reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco