The Recently Installed Captain of the Richmond Station Pledges an Inclusive and Diverse Membership on the Board.
By Janice Bressler
The Richmond District, like the City’s other nine police districts, has a community police advisory board (CPAB) designed to promote community engagement with the Richmond Police Station. But a local citizens group, Richmond District Rising (RDR), says the operation of this board is shrouded in mystery and its membership fails to include important stakeholders.
RDR is calling for more transparency in how the Richmond Station CPAB operates and is asking whether the current membership is fully representative of the District.
San Francisco instituted CPABs in each of the City’s 10 districts in 2009, following a model that originated in Los Angeles. CPABs meet on a monthly basis with their respective district captains. Their stated mission, according to San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) Manual 24, is to help the district captains “better understand the unique needs of their district” and to “collaborate to improve public safety, quality of life, and education as well as to improve police-community relations.”
The same manual states that “diversity considerations should play a significant role in selecting members.”
RDR is challenging the makeup of the Richmond Station’s CPAB, which consists of nine men and three women, as insufficiently diverse. Julie Pitta is one of the RDR members leading the call for change in the Richmond Station’s CPAB.
“We are a district that is 60-70% renters, and with an increasing number of black and brown residents,” Pitta said. “But at least half of the CPAB members appear to be white male homeowners.”
Kyra Worthy is the executive director of SF Safety Awareness For Everyone (SF SAFE) a nonprofit that works closely with the SFPD on public safety issues and participates in CPAB meetings.
“We applaud any community-driven effort, such as the Richmond District Rising group, which promotes diversity and equity in public service and public safety initiatives,” Worthy said. “It is our goal for each district CPAB to reflect the diverse makeup of the communities they represent citywide, though unfortunately it is not SAFE’s role to directly determine who from the community serves on these important bodies.”
The SFPD’s response to a public information request submitted by RDR states that district captains “have the authority to select and de-select (CPAB) members,” and that “formal applications are not used” for selecting members. It also stated “openings are not publicized but the captain may, in their discretion, but are not required.”
The SFPD’s response to RDR’s request for information regarding membership was to quote from the department’s manual: “Membership should include residents, merchants, businesses, non-profit organizations, and other community affiliations/stakeholders. Each CPAB should also reflect its district’s diversity of ethnicity, race, gender, religion, socio-economic status, and age. Members should be from diverse geographical locations within the district in order to represent different sectors…. Finally, the CPAB should hold a diversity of thought in the spirit of both productive discussion and accurate representation. Input selection should be made on the basis of a wide range of input and not restricted to those who openly support the Department.”
But the Richmond Police Station and the SFPD Media Unit offered no direct response to or comment on RDR’s contentions that the Richmond CPAB is failing to fully comply with its own policies as set out in the SFPD manual on CPABs.
Jean Barish, a Richmond resident who served on the Richmond Station CPAB from 2010 to 2015 said the board’s membership seemed to get less geographically representative of the district over the five years that she served on the board.
Retired Police Commander Richard Corriea served as Richmond Station Commander from 2008 to 2011 and presided over the Richmond Station’s CPAB during its first few years of operation. He remembered that in 2009, when then-Police Chief George Gascon issued the directive that each district station create a CPAB, there was no guidance on how district captains should select members or how CPABs should operate.
“The district captain has tremendous discretion on how to run the CPABs, so there was and still may be tremendous variation between the districts as to how CPABs are run,” Corriea said.
Corriea, who is currently director of the University of San Francisco’s Criminal Justice Leadership Institute, said the goal of the community groups is to be inclusive.
“At their core, CPABs are an effort to get back to public safety as a shared responsibility between the community and the police,” he said. “For that reason, there should be room at the table for anyone who wants to join in. To be effective the CPAB must be able to represent, to be aware of, the needs of the larger community.”
Meetings of the Richmond Station CPAB are open to the public but are considered “passive meetings” under the San Francisco Administrative Code. This means that members of the public may attend, but they are not allowed to comment during the meetings.
The Richmond CPAB meets on the fourth Monday of the month from 5-6 p.m. As a result of COVID-19, meetings are currently being conducted virtually over Zoom. The logistics of running monthly meetings is the responsibility of SF SAFE.
While the SFPD manual on CPABs states that the minutes of CPAB meetings “shall be posted on the Department’s website,” a search for meeting minutes on the department’s website returned no results.
In calling the Richmond Station CPAB a “missed opportunity” for more effective community engagement, Pitta points to specific recommendations made in a 2016 Obama administration assessment of the SFPD. That report found that “CPABs could play a more active role in policing decisions and communicating the policing activities and goals to the larger community.”
Making the CPAB more transparent and representative is a critical issue, according to RDR, because of the importance of holding the station accountable to implementing the reforms in policing practices issued by SF Mayor London Breed in June of last year. Aimed at addressing structural inequities in policing practices, those reforms include ending the use of police in response to non-criminal activity, demilitarizing the police, addressing police bias and strengthening police accountability.
“The Richmond CPAB could be a wonderful vehicle for realizing change in how we police our diverse community,” Pitta said. “In fact, that’s one of its stated goals. But it doesn’t seem that it’s being used in that way. Sadly, it’s a missed opportunity.”
Shortly before the March issue of the Richmond Review went to press, Gaetano Caltagirone took over as the captain of the Richmond Station. One of Caltagirone’s first acts was to request that all members of the current Richmond Station CPAB reapply by submitting a one-page written statement of their background, interests, past work with CPAB and their goals for the community board. In his request, Caltragirone stressed his commitment to “creating an inclusive and diverse CPAB that reflects the special makeup of the Richmond community.”
Members of the public interested in attending a meeting of the Richmond Station CPAB should email SF SAFE at email@example.com or call (415) 553-1984.
For more information about CPABs, go to www.sanfranciscopolice.org/community/programs/community-police-advisory-boards-cpabs.