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Why won’t SFPD turn over its assault weapons records to this group?

San Francisco Police Department officers observe a protest against “killer robots,” which stems from a policy regarding SFPD and military equipment, at San Francisco City Hall on Dec. 5, 2022. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

A Quaker group is suing the San Francisco Police Department for not providing records about the purchase and deployment of military-style weapons, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) announced Monday.

The group alleges the department is “illegally withholding public records in their entirety” in direct violation of the California Public Records Act.

“While [SFPD] did not outright deny it was in possession of records responsive to [our] request, by its unlawful delay [SFPD] has effectively withheld responsive records without justification,” the Jan. 26 complaint read.

The Quaker group, which “works for a just, peaceful, and sustainable world free of violence, inequality, and oppression,” requested records for assault weapons, chemical agents, military-grade protective vehicles and other gear.

John Lindsay-Poland, the group’s California healing justice co-director, said the lawsuit aims to prevent violence against Black and Brown communities, which is enabled by police with access to military-style gear.

“We hope that this lawsuit, and our efforts to increase transparency and accountability for law enforcement agencies in San Francisco and across the state, will help mitigate the harm and violence enacted by police,” Lindsay-Poland said in a press release.

The lawsuit is also part of an effort to make agencies comply with AB 481, which places limits on the acquisition and use of weapons by police departments, and requires them to disclose what militarized equipment they have and submit use policies for that equipment.

The organization said a previous inventory released by SFPD to comply with state law, showed it possessed 608 assault rifles.

The organization said SFPD did not respond to nearly 20 follow-up emails, and in four follow-up phone calls passed AFSC staff back and forth between its legal and media affairs units.

“It is outrageous that San Francisco has refused to comply with this request. People have a right to know what weapons police possess and how they have used them,” said Jennifer Tu, a fellow at AFSC.

AFSC said that more than 100 police agencies had complied with 350 similar records requests so far, including the Oakland Police Department, which released records related to the deployment of “chemical agents,” according to the complaint.

SFPD has been contacted for comment.

Garrett Leahy can be reached at