Tipping point

Battle for a Police Commission appointment reflects ongoing problems in the department



On June 14, members of the Board of Supervisors will vote to appoint a new member of the Police Commission — in the wake of a messy string of alleged police misconduct scandals that, progressives argue, underscore why having strong civilian oversight is critical to ensuring a transparent, accountable police department the public can trust.

The appointment comes less than two months after San Francisco native Greg Suhr was sworn in as chief in the wake of Mayor Gavin Newsom's decision to appoint former Chief George Gascón as the next district attorney — a move that has served to muddy the D.A. Office's efforts to investigate the alleged police misconduct.

Further complicating the board's choice is the heated battle that erupted over the appointment, led in part by members of two Democratic clubs that represent lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities.

The Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club has officially endorsed Julius Turman, a gay attorney and community activist who was a former assistant U.S. attorney and the first African American president of the Alice club. Turman currently works for Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, where he represents companies in actions for wrongful termination, employment discrimination, and unfair competition. He is also state Sen. Mark Leno's (D-SF) proxy to the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee and serves on the Human Rights Commission.

On the other side, members of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, the voice of the city's queer left, are supporting David Waggoner, an attorney and community activist who is a former Milk Club president. Waggoner has worked on police use-of-force policy and as a pro bono attorney for the National Lawyers Guild at the Oakland Citizen's Police Review Board, and been a passionate advocate for the LGBT community, immigrants' rights, people with disabilities, and the homeless.

The other two applicants for the post are Vanessa Jackson, a staffer at a women's shelter with experience in counseling ex-offenders; and Phillip Hogan, a former police officer who serves on the board of the Nob Hill Association and has been trying to get on a commission for years.

Although both Jackson and Hogan have diverse experience with law enforcement — Jackson as an African American woman who claims the police have "no respect for people of color" and Hogan as a former police officer of Lebanese-Irish descent who manages real estate — neither has the support of the LGBT community. The position occupied by Deputy District Attorney James Hammer for the last two years, and Human Rights Commission director Theresa Sparks occupied before that, is widely considered to be an LGBT seat.



So now the fight is about whether Turman or Waggoner would be the strongest reformer.

In a recent open letter, former Board Presidents Harry Britt, Aaron Peskin. and Matt Gonzalez expressed support for Waggoner. "While most hardworking police officers perform their jobs admirably, insufficient oversight and poor management systems have led to significant problems," their letter stated. "Despite these widely reported problems, the Police Commission has failed to adequately address these issues. San Francisco needs real reform, not more of the same. We believe David Waggoner will be that voice at this critical time."

At the June 2 Rules Committee hearing, Waggoner proposed taking away master keys to single-resident occupancy (SRO) hotels from the police. "Significant abuse of that resulted in seriously tarnishing the department," he said.


Chris Roberts at the SFAppeal searched through the Human Rights Commission's minutes and discovered that police commission candidate Julius Turman has a spotty attendance record.

Here is the story:


Now that this fact along with the domestic violence history Sarah Phelan wrote about is known to the full Board of Supervisors will David Campos support David Waggoner on Tuesday, June 14th? That is the question that counts now.

Waggoner is the only applicant to the Police Commission with a history of working on behalf of police reform. It is legitimate to ask members of this Board of Supervisors, "What would it take for you to act on the fact that the SFPD has no respect for basic civil liberties in 2011 and why won't you support a qualified candidate for the police commission?" Someone who will have to recuse himself on domestic violence police misconduct cases and doesn't even show up to the Human Rights Commission is not substantive change.

David Campos represents arguably the most progressive supervisorial district in San Francisco. He was the endorsed candidate of the SF Bay Guardian in 2008 which has a history of promoting enlightened policing and reform of the SFPD. How do these electoral roots match up with voting for the Alice Co-Chair Julius Turman -- who may be like "family" but then the basis of the vote would be something akin to nepotism-- but who is a compromised pick for a commission that cries out for change and reform? The legitimate needs of San Francisco for a functioning police department outweigh the narrow political calculus being used here.

The existing commission with the exception of Petra DeJesus has made a mockery of the Proposition H reforms. The Fajitagate scandal --that led to Proposition H's passage --was caused by the same police culture that still runs the SFPD. Greg Suhr was promoted by Alex Fagan. Today, there are members of the Board of Supervisors, who for reasons that remain unclear, are choosing to enable that very culture while describing themselves as progressives.

Posted by guest on Jun. 11, 2011 @ 11:58 am

I am shocked to learn what Turman has been accused of. I can't imagine any supervisor voting for such a problematic candidate --- for the POLICE COMMISSION???

And what is all of this crap about Turman "earning" support from Campos because he is longtime friend. This isn't about friendship; it's about qualifications. Right? And not being arrested for such a violent assault should be the number #1 qualification for being on the Police Commission.

Or maybe that's just me.

Posted by Common Sense SF on Jun. 11, 2011 @ 7:17 pm

DHS is expanding their polygraph program to fight corruption of their CBP agents. http://t.co/fMENr60
All levels of law enforcement should follow their lead. Corruption on any and every level is no longer an option we can ignore. It has become a National & World Security issue. Responsibility and accountability starts with us.

Posted by CA_target on Jun. 12, 2011 @ 2:42 pm