A proposal to require San Francisco police to adhere to local and state laws when they assist in federal counterterrorism investigations was given final approval by the Board of Supervisors today but faces a possible veto by Mayor Ed Lee.
The legislation focuses on how the Police Department collaborates with the FBI and its local Joint Terrorism Task Force while collecting intelligence in potential terrorism cases.
Under a 2007 memorandum of understanding with San Francisco police, the FBI authorizes a variety of intelligence gathering activities not allowed by state or city laws, such as the surveillance of someone who is not suspected of any criminal activity.
Supervisor Jane Kim, who authorized the ordinance approved today, said that it “would ensure our community, once and for all, that we’re protecting their civil rights” by codifying into law that police officers must follow the local and state laws.
She said the ordinance was important to the community and cited the dozens of people who came out to a March 1 committee hearing on the issue to tell emotional stories of racial profiling and discrimination.
The ordinance passed by a 6-5 vote for a second time. It was given initial approval on March 13, but the final vote was delayed for two weeks after Lee expressed reservations, saying he wanted to talk to police Chief Greg Suhr about the legislation first before deciding on whether to sign it.
Police spokesman Sgt. Mike Andraychak said last month that the department considered the ordinance redundant because its purpose was already addressed in an internal Bureau Order that Suhr issued shortly after becoming chief last May.
A mayoral spokesperson was not immediately available this afternoon to confirm that Lee plans to veto the ordinance, but Kim acknowledged that “we were not able to come to a compromise.”
The board would need eight votes to override a mayoral veto. Supervisors Scott Wiener, Malia Cohen, Carmen Chu, Sean Elsbernd and Mark Farrell were the five board members who opposed the proposal.
Before the vote, Kim addressed criticisms of the legislation, including that some considered it redundant and that supervisors should not codify Police Department general orders.
“Why do those philosophical arguments carry more weight than the safety, trust and civil rights of our citizens?” Kim said.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News