Politics trumps police oversight

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EDITORIAL

A proven advocate for the public interest was removed from the San Francisco Police Commission last week. Not only was this a missed opportunity for stronger civilian oversight at a time when the San Francisco Police Department is under federal scrutiny, it raises disturbing implications about how things get done in City Hall.

The Board of Supervisors voted to oust Police Commissioner Angela Chan, voting 7-4 to strike Chan's name from the appointment and replace it with contender Victor Hwang instead. City Hall insiders privately explained that Chinatown power broker Rose Pak, a friend of Mayor Ed Lee who wields great political influence, pressured supervisors to vote for Hwang specifically because she and her allies wanted Chan to be ousted. Supervisors who could not be relied upon to vote for Hwang were even reportedly cautioned that they shouldn't be too vocal about their positions.

A civil rights attorney who proved effective and independent as a commissioner, Chan often directed pointed questions at police, for example drilling down on the finer details of officer-involved shootings.

Hwang, also a civil rights attorney, is qualified and respected, but he didn't need to replace Chan. There's another vacant seat on the commission — up to Mayor Ed Lee to appoint — so this vote was never about Hwang's qualifications versus Chan's. There was room for both.

This was about political patronage, pure and simple. It was about getting rid of an independent voice and replacing her with the former chair of the "Run Ed Run" committee, which urged Lee to break his pledge and run for mayor — a tradeoff that hurts police accountability.

Having two civil rights attorneys on the Police Commission would have sent a strong signal that the city is serious about addressing police misconduct at a time when the SFPD officers are facing federal charges for alleged civil rights violations (see "Crooked cops, March 4).

Supervisors should have called upon Lee to appoint Hwang rather than ousting Chan. Instead, the board majority was unwilling to challenge the consolidated power of Lee and his well-connected allies, who conducted an anti-democratic closed-door lobbying effort.

Board President David Chiu, who is running for Assembly, stated at the meeting that he'd asked Lee about appointing Hwang to the vacant seat, only to be told: "It is not something that will happen."

So Chiu was unwilling to question the mayor's bizarre refusal to appoint a candidate that Lee's own allies were furiously advocating for. Instead of pushing for stronger civilian oversight of police, Chiu and six other supervisors voted to oust a commissioner with a proven track record.

If elected officials are casting votes for personal advancement, or out of fear that they'll be rendered ineffective as punishment for pissing off the wrong people, then San Franciscans have a big problem: Their local government is beholden to the whims of entrenched power.

 

Comments

If we're going to have an Asian on an advisory commission why not let the Asian community decide on who? Rather than have white people tell them, as the white liberals want?

Posted by Guest on May. 06, 2014 @ 10:39 pm

Oh please.

I remember during the RCV debate that Matt Gonzalez and others came out of the woodwork to lobby Olague to the point where she complained, during a BOS meeting, about being bullied.

Chris Daly once stood on the floor of the BOS and told Chiu that he would 'haunt him'.

But when the other side pressures supervisors it is undemocratic.

Please.

And BTW...Pay is supporting Campos against Chiu yet Chiu voted her way and Campos voted against her. So maybe you really don't know what you are talking about.

Posted by Guest on May. 06, 2014 @ 11:19 pm

tried to make mayoral appointments that suited him personally.

Posted by Guest on May. 07, 2014 @ 1:13 am

I'm sure that a strongly worded editorial followed by some Redmondesque hand wringing is going to get the goods.

The Guardian also endorsed Christina Olague who was the co-chair of "Run Ed Run," it was not a show stopper then.

Nope, this is tribalism, where one side increasingly plays Stalinist for keeps politics and the other has yet to grasp this and labors under the misapprehension that since it often appointed their opponents to positions, they were entitled to that in perpetuity.

A campaign of extermination against long term San Franciscans is well underway and the progressives are trying to negotiate with such terrorists.

The man on the beach symbolizes San Francisco's professional progressives:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuUygn7BZis

Posted by marcos on May. 07, 2014 @ 7:22 pm

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