By Curtis Skinner
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - San Francisco police have gone ahead with the transfer of an officer who was involved in the fatal shooting of a homeless man earlier this year to an internal bureau focused on reforming the agency, police said on Wednesday.
San Francisco Police said Sergeant Nate Steger had been set for reassignment to an administrative position in the Professional Standards and Principled Policing Bureau before he and another officer opened fire on Luis Gongora on the morning of April 7.
The professional standards bureau was established just two months before Gongora was killed to oversee reforms around use of force issues in the department as well as to work with a collaborative review of the police force led by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Critics of the police department questioned the transfer of Steger.
"It appears that he has been put in a position of preventing people from doing exactly what he did," San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi told the San Francisco Examiner newspaper.
A group called Justice for Luis Góngora Pat called the move "a slap in the face," in a blog post.
Police said Steger was transferred after the shooting occurred and is still working in the bureau.
"The Department is aware of the concerns raised by the community," San Francisco Police spokesman Michael Andraychak said in a statement. "Acting Chief (Toney) Chaplin has been conducting a top-to-bottom review of the Department."
On the morning of the shooting, the two officers responded to a call about Gongora waving a knife and shot him with multiple bean bag rounds before opening fire with their handguns.
The San Francisco Police Department has been racked by scandals and protests since the December shooting of 26-year-old Mario Woods. Since then, police have killed two other people, including Gongora. In addition, a second racist text scandal in two years came to light, and the department's police chief resigned under pressure from Mayor Ed Lee.
Three former judges examining accusations of racial bias by police in San Francisco said in a report released on Monday they found indications of institutionalized bias and problems with transparency and accountability in the department.
The news comes amid heightened racial tensions in the United States in the wake of protests sparked by police killings of black men in Baton Rouge and near St. Paul, Minnesota, last week, as well as a fatal sniper attack against police in Dallas that killed five officers.
(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Leslie Adler)