Monday, January 12, 2015

SFPD Withholds Suicide-by-Cop Surveillance Video

The body of Matthew Hoffman was barely cold before the San Francisco Police Department released what it said was a cell phone letter absolving officers of guilt in killing him on January 4 near the Mission Station.

Hours before he appeared in the station's parking lot at Valencia and 17th Streets, he was exhibiting clear signs on the street of mental health challenges, the SF Chronicle reported.

The paper quoted only SFPD sources and a narrative has been laid out by the cops that needs to be questioned, which is why I requested the surveillance tapes of the cameras on the station's property.

Here's the response from the SFPD's spokeswoman Briseida Banuelos: "[We have] determined that this case is still an open investigation and disclosure of the requested video at this time may endanger successful completion of that investigation. Please be advised that the case file records are exempt from public disclosure pursuant to Government Code section 6254(f) as investigatory file information."

Surveillance video cannot be released to the public, but the dead man's alleged Dear Police Department letter giving them a pass for fatally shooting him is shared with the press.

One police accountability advocate, Mesha Irazarry, isn't taking anything the cops are saying at face value. She's pointed out Hoffman's phone must have been password-protected, making it impossible to gain access to his data, and that the language rings hollow and inauthentic from a mentally unstable person.

We need an independent watchdog, perhaps the Office of Civilian Complaints, to examine the cell.

The SFPD must face questions why it didn't handle the situation as one needing a psychological response instead of reacting so quickly with deadly force, and on a bustling street, and why officers didn't shoot-to-wound.

Every instance of an officer-involved killing needs serious scrutiny, particularly when the cops are the primarily source of info and the death concerns a potential suicide-by-cop tragedy.
 Mesha Irizarry speaks at the SFPD's January 6, 2015, town hall meeting about the killing. Credit: Michael Barba.

Chief Greg Suhr, left, address the town meeting and the death of Hoffman. Credit: Jonah Owen Lamb.

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