The San Francisco board of supervisors and several city offices will soon receive regular reports on domestic violence in the city thanks to a new ordinance, though the ordinance comes with some new caveats.
Introduced by Supervisor Catherine Stefani, who represents District 2, the ordinance requires the San Francisco Police Department and the District Attorney to send quarterly data on domestic violence reports, cases and case results in the city to the board of supervisors, the mayor and a handful of city entities starting next year. Both agencies must also send data dating back to September 2019 by Dec. 31, 2021.
At a board meeting on Tuesday, Stefani recounted recent domestic violence reports, some involving children and firearms, and voiced concerns about cases she said were not charged or minimally charged because survivors didn’t cooperate or were involved in sentencing decisions. Of 131 felony domestic violence cases in the final three months of 2020, 113 were dismissed, according to city data. Thirteen out of 19 involving children were dismissed.
"It is so hard for victims to get out of domestic violence situations, and we have a responsibility to make sure that we help them,” Stefani said. “When we return the abuser to a situation that hasn’t been handled correctly, we are placing them in harm’s way.”
The COVID-19 pandemic may have raised dangers for victims and survivors of domestic violence, according to the Department on the Status of Women. In a recent report, the department identified 7,241 domestic violence-related 911 calls in San Francisco in 2020, but also cited concerns that pandemic lockdowns may have discouraged victims from reporting.
Starting next year, the new data disclosures will include the number of domestic violence calls that police and emergency responders receive and the number of cases SFPD presents to the District Attorney’s office, also counting those that involve children or firearms. The District Attorney will be required to report the number of domestic violence cases it charged, what charges were filed, the number of cases resolved and the final outcome of those cases. Stefani posited that having the final outcome is particularly important to prevent future abuse.
But that isn’t the end of the data the board wants to see. Also on Tuesday, the board voted to send a copy of the ordinance back to the board’s public safety committee to consider three amendments, introduced by District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen. She asked that data on domestic violence that isn’t physical, like threats, violations of restraining orders, stalking or theft, be included in the reports.
“As we all know, domestic violence and the cycle of violence can take many forms, some of which do not involve touching,” Ronen said.
Ronen also suggested a requirement to include data from the city’s Survivor Restoration Program—a program administered through the Sheriff’s Department that connects domestic violence survivors with case managers and services—on the numbers of survivors who are contacted, how many receive services from the program and the types of services they receive. Finally, she requested that the District Attorney be allowed to provide additional information where contextual notes would bolster the data.
District 1 Supervisor Connie Chan supported the ordinance, saying that it is the board’s responsibility to work with law enforcement to enact policies that support domestic violence survivors and go beyond looking at data. District 7 Supervisor Myrna Melgar, who disclosed that she is a survivor of domestic violence at a recent board meeting, agreed.
“I think that data is just the bare minimum,” Melgar said.
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