San Francisco ordinance to limit local police and FBI collaboration

sfpdThe San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance this week to protect residents' civil rights and curb the collaboration between the San Francisco Police Department and the FBI. The ordinance is still awaiting the Mayor's approval.

The ordinance is to "ensure that today and in the future, at least our San Francisco employees will never engage in this type of racist profiling which does not make our city any safer but instead engenders mistrust, fear, and frankly anger and frustration," explained Supervisor Jane Kim at a rally this week.

Brought forward by the Coalition for a Safe San Francisco, a local coalition that the Bill of Rights Defense Committee helped to organize, the ordinance alters a 2007 agreement between the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) and the FBI that created their Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF).

Shrouded in secrecy, the agreement was revealed to authorize new surveillance rules that were unlawful by both city and state standards. The FBI's agreement with the city police—the boilerplate for agreements between the FBI and city police across the country—allowed the SFPD to spy on people and groups without any reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.

This has led to an increase of profiling against South Asian, Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and immigrant communities, say civil rights advocates.

"Let's be frank, said a recent piece in the San Francisco Advocate. "When there isn't reasonable suspicion, what the police are relying on is unreasonable suspicion—racial and religious profiling. So much for Mayor Moscone’s 'right to be left alone'."

The civil rights ordinance seeks to stop this and other profiling practices by requiring the JTTF to have the same standards as the rest of the city and providing more civilian oversight. A nearly identical law was passed in Portland with great success, and BORDC is sponsoring similar efforts across the country.

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