“We are confident that this process can work,” Davis said. “We are confident that recommendations will be implemented.”
The differences between a “pattern or practice” investigation and a collaborative review are significant, though both are broad Justice Department investigations designed to help police departments craft training and policies that reduce racial bias, cut down on unjustified use of force and bring about other reforms. A “pattern or practice” investigation, supervised by the department’s Civil Rights Division, typically results in a court-enforceable agreement. A collaborative review, overseen by Davis’s office, relies on local authorities to make changes voluntarily, with local oversight groups and elected leaders making sure the reforms stick.
The Justice Department announced it would pursue a collaborative review in San Francisco earlier this year after officers fatally shot a man in an incident that provoked outrage and protests. But the recent shooting of a homeless man by two city police officers, along with the revelation that a group of officers exchanged bigoted text messages, prompted renewed calls for a “pattern or practice” investigation.
Davis said he expected the collaborative review would yield a report by the end of the summer exploring the police department’s use of force, training, recruitment and hiring and internal investigation mechanisms. He said the city already had “one of the strongest civilian oversight systems in the country” and that, while the Justice Department could eventually launch a pattern or practice investigation, that might not be necessary.
“I’m going to reject the notion that the only way to require the department to change is through federal courts,” Davis said.