The review by the Justice Department's Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS. office comes about two months after city police shot and killed a young African-American man, The shooting, captured on video, prompted widespread community complaints and unruly public meetings at which people demanded the police chief resign.
The review is expected to take about two years to complete and will examine police operations, training, accountability, stops and searches and use of force, acting U.S. Attorney Brian Stretch said. Community members, rank-and-file officers, command staff, police commissioners and others who interact with the police will be interviewed.
"The review will examine whether racial and ethnic disparities exist with respect to enforcement actions taken and not taken by the San Francisco Police Department," Stretch said.
"This is about building trust and confidence in the community," said Ronald Davis of the COPS office.
Some local law enforcement sources in San Francisco were dismissive of the planned COPS review, saying much more was needed in the wake of the shooting and a texting scandal made public last year in which officers sent homophobic and racist messages to one another.
"It's not a real investigation," said a San Francisco law enforcement source familiar with the matter.
"It's window dressing," added another.
Stretch said Mayor Edwin Lee, Police Chief Greg Suhr, other city officials and community members requested federal involvement after officers fatally shot Mario Woods, 26, on December 2.
'Our city has grappled with a crisis'
in a letter addressed to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the mayor wrote: "In the past few weeks, our city has grappled with a crisis all too common in so many other American cities -- the dissolution of trust between communities of color and law enforcement -- following the death of a young black man shot and killed by police officers. ...
"We want to throw our doors open, inviting transparency and accountability. We seek answers, not just to the facts of Mr. Wood's case, but also answers about how as a police department and a city we can build deeper, stronger trust between law enforcement and the communities they're sworn to protect," he said.
Suhr said he welcomed the review, noting "the trust of many in San Francisco was broken" after the shooting.
Stretch said a separate federal investigation into the Woods shooting will not be ordered at this point.
The local district attorney will investigate the shooting and the Justice Department will review the findings. The Justice Department could launch a civil rights case if it's considered warranted, Stretch said.
Five officers fired on Mario Woods
In the videos of the Woods shooting, a barrage of gunfire reverberates in the Bayview neighborhood of San Francisco as a man, surrounded by a sea of police officers, is shot and killed.
In a statement, San Francisco police laid out their version of events, saying officers first confronted Woods because a witness identified him as the attacker in a stabbing earlier in the afternoon. Police said Woods refused numerous demands to drop a knife and was a danger to others.
Despite being struck with police bean bag rounds and pepper spray, Woods, still armed with a knife, attempted to walk away. An officer moved to block him from fleeing, police said. Woods moved toward the officer. "At this point, fearing serious injury or death, officers fired their department handguns at the suspect," police said.
Five patrol officers involved in the incident have been placed on administrative leave.
The first community listening meeting will be February 24.