News Releases
The latest news and announcements from Mayor London N. Breed

Mayor London Breed Announces Audit of Law Enforcement Employment Examination and Hiring Practices

New program will identify and implement processes to screen for bias in hiring and promotion of law enforcement officials

San Francisco, CA — Mayor London N. Breed today announced the San Francisco Department of Human Resources will conduct a targeted audit of all upcoming law enforcement job examinations. Changing the way San Francisco hires and promotes law enforcement officers is a key part of Mayor Breed’s vision to fundamentally change the nature of policing and address structural inequities.

The Department of Human Resources will lead a process in collaboration with the Civil Service Commission, the Police Department, and the Sheriff’s Office to review current entry-level and promotional exams to ensure that the City’s testing process helps identify candidates who possess the requisite ethics, judgment, and temperament to serve as a San Francisco law enforcement officer.

On June 11, Mayor Breed announced a set of public safety reforms, including policies to address police bias and strengthen accountability. Mayor Breed directed the Department of Human Resources, Department of Police Accountability, and San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) to identify and screen for indicators of bias, improve training systems, improve data sharing across Departments, and strengthen the SFPD’s Early Intervention System in order to enhance the tools being used to root out bias within law enforcement agencies. Today’s announcement addresses Mayor Breed’s request to identify and screen law enforcement officials for indicators of bias during the hiring and promotion process.

“We want our law enforcement officers to reflect the best of our City and our values. While most do, we can improve how we are identifying the qualities that we want as well as those we know we don’t,” said Mayor Breed. “I thank the Department of Human Resources for being a partner to reduce the influence of implicit and explicit bias, which will strengthen the relationships between law enforcement and our communities and ultimately save lives.”

The pending examination for Police Sergeant will be canceled, until after the conclusion of the audit and adoption of any necessary modifications. The Police Captain exam, scheduled for July 2020, and any hiring from existing police promotional lists will incorporate an assessment for these critical job-related principles in the final selection procedures used by the Police Department. The Department of Human Resources will also suspend the continuous entry-level police officer and deputy sheriff exams until the audit is completed. The underlying job analyses will also be reviewed to give proper weight to these important job-related factors.

There are inequities at every level of the criminal justice system. Many studies show that often unconscious or implicit bias plays a significant role in the split-second decisions that lead to the disproportionate policing, incarceration, and use of force. The Department of Human Resources seeks to use the hiring process to proactively identify candidates through the examination process who possess the values, skills and abilities that match those of a law enforcement agency that is grounded in reform, has the tools to manage bias, and respects the sanctity of life.

“It is our responsibility as a City to use the tools we have available to identify candidates for law enforcement positions who would not be too quick to use force, who are patient and compassionate, or who would not be likely to let racial bias drive their attitudes and actions,” said Micki Callahan, Human Resources Director. “This is an opportunity to implement the most modern and enlightened assessment systems available. When it comes to selecting peace officers, the stakes are too high for us to make mistakes.”

“The San Francisco Police Department stands for safety with respect for all, and there should be no place in law enforcement in our City for candidates who fall short of our values,” said San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott. “I’m grateful to Mayor Breed for her leadership in ordering this audit to identify and implement all necessary improvements to our examination, hiring and training practices. Recruitment and hiring are critical elements in SFPD’s groundbreaking, voluntary, department-wide Collaborative Reform Initiative. Although recent CRI reforms are already making measurable strides to reduce uses of force and eliminate bias, Mayor Breed’s bold initiative will speed our progress and help us to fulfill CRI’s promise to make the San Francisco Police Department a national model in 21st Century Policing.”

The audit will: bolster the City’s on-going commitment to the Collaborative Reform Initiative (CRI), which began in 2016; is in line with recommendations from the Obama Administration’s 21st Century Policing Task Force; and meets the urgency of the movement for reform in law enforcement practices. The Task Force encouraged states to elevate hiring standards for those who seek to become police officers, and it recommended that agencies ensure that the officers they hire possess “the character traits and social skills that enable effective policing and positive community relationships.”

Screening for bias in the hiring process is an extension of implicit bias training that the Department of Human Resources developed and has led citywide, including for both the Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office, for the last five years. To date, 1,712 sworn Sheriffs and Police Departments employees have taken implicit bias training delivered by the Department of Human Resources. Citywide, the Department of Human Resources has delivered over 3,900 in-person trainings to City employees.

“The San Francisco Sheriff’s Office has been a national leader in supporting change that has reduced the city’s incarceration rate to one of the lowest levels in the country,” said Sheriff Paul Miyamoto. “Our use of force policy is a living document we continually reassess and update.  We are committed to hiring, training and implicit bias reforms that reflect our promise to treat everyone fairly and keep the community safe. With one of the most ethnically diverse departments in the city, we are still ever mindful that we reflect not just the people of the community, but the values of the City that we serve.”

The Civil Service Commission recently asked for a high-level report on the various practices in place to raise awareness about bias and the preventative efforts underway to ensure that the City does not recruit, hire, or promote individuals who have a high propensity for bias in policing or abuse of power in their careers as a San Francisco law enforcement officers. The Department of Human Resources agreed and determined that a larger scale audit and process reevaluation was appropriate.

“I asked for a report on how we are ensuring we do not hire or promote police officers and deputy sheriffs who would perpetuate racism, the abuse of power, and the abuse of People of Color,” said Elizabeth Salveson, President of the Civil Service Commission. “I am looking forward to that report and the Commission’s participation in this audit.”

The Department of Human Resources will work with experts in bias to define the characteristics needed in a San Francisco peace officer that go above and beyond what is minimally required in California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) mandates. Testing practices are expected to be evaluated and changed as necessary to screen for values and skills such as integrity, problem solving, and community-oriented skills. The audit is expected to be completed within three months.