San Francisco police take bold stance to protect Muslims

Local police say they’re wary of federal Muslim surveillance.

San Francisco Police Chief William Scott, right, speaks next to Mayor Ed Lee. CREDIT: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
San Francisco Police Chief William Scott, right, speaks next to Mayor Ed Lee. CREDIT: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

On Wednesday, San Francisco officers took a bold stance against Trump’s new immigration laws. In response to Trump’s Muslim ban, they are cutting ties between the police department and an FBI task force.

The San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) has worked with the FBI on a Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) since 2007, with the purpose of investigating terrorism threats, collecting intel, and making arrests. The FBI, which has similar task forces nationwide, calls them “small cells of highly trained, locally based, passionately committed investigators, analysts, linguists, SWAT experts, and other specialists from dozens of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies.”

But the SFPD will no longer work with the JTTF on the grounds that the federal agency will likely increase efforts to surveil Muslims, following Trump’s recent executive order to prevent Muslims from entering the county. The order prevents refugees from entering the country for 120 days, bans everyone from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days, and shuts out all Syrian refugees indefinitely.

The SFPD’s decision was made nearly one month after the American Civil Liberties Union, Council on American-Islamic Relations, and the Asian Law Caucus wrote a letter to the city’s police commission, raising concerns that the task force would escalate surveillance of Muslim residents when Trump took office.

“When that confidence is shaken we have to slow down for a minute and make sure that the public sees us as an organization that they can trust,” said Police Chief William Scott, who was sworn in just three days after Trump. The former chief, Greg Suhr, resigned in May 2016 following public backlash over rampant police violence and racism.

The JTTF contract was up for renewal in March, but the SFPD is breaking ties immediately. It may resume coordination in the future, but not until it has clarified its First Amendment guidance and worked with the San Francisco Police Commission to determine how SFPD protocols relate to the task force.

The police department appears to be the first in the country to suspend its working relationship with an FBI task force. The audacious stance comes days after the city became the first to file a federal lawsuit against Trump regarding the executive order to strip sanctuary cities of funding. So far, 11 new sanctuary cities have sprung up, vowing not to use local police departments to crack down on immigration.