Bay Area Legal Aid Reaches Settlement to Protect Survivors of Domestic Violence

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This fall, Bay Area Legal Aid reached a final settlement in a lawsuit filed in 2019 to compel the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) to fulfill its legal and ethical responsibilities to survivors of domestic violence. The lawsuit was filed in response to SFPD’s long-term failure to comply with California Family Code § 6228, a statute enacted 20 years ago, which requires police departments to produce incident reports within five working days. The settlement includes a new SFPD Unit Order defining compliant procedures for issuance of domestic violence incident reports, additional SFPD staff training, and quarterly reports to the Police Commission on compliance, which serve as a mechanism for SFPD transparency and accountability, as well a $49,000 attorney fee award payable to Bay Area Legal Aid.

“Domestic violence survivors in San Francisco will no longer endure dangerous delays in accessing their incident reports and will be able to obtain restraining orders without unnecessary barriers in place,” said Bay Area Legal Aid Senior Staff Attorney Fawn Jade Korr.

Bay Area Legal Aid raised this issue with SFPD more than three years ago; other domestic violence advocates in San Francisco have been working even longer to draw attention to SFPD’s noncompliance. Before filing the lawsuit, attorneys and advocates worked in good faith with SFPD and members of the Police Commission to negotiate a plan for SFPD’s compliance.  But, after repeated delays and communication breakdowns, Bay Area Legal Aid took legal action to hold SFPD accountable and compel their compliance with the law.

“I feel safer now,” says Plaintiff Lina Lu, “just knowing the police department has to follow laws made to help people like me.”

“The impact of this settlement is significant for our clients and for all unrepresented survivors in our community,” says Korr. “This is an important achievement in the movement addressing violence against women.

Read press coverage of this case by Julian Mark in Mission Local.

Read BayLegal’s earlier coverage of Lu v SF.