Last November voters approved Prop H a ballot measure that was thought to be the saving grace of the San Francisco Police Department. Voters flocked to the polls and chose reform over the same ol’ same ol’. After the appointments of new commissioners April 20, concerned citizens are now asking what happened to the promise of a radically different commission?
This time last year, concerned San Franciscans sat around a table attempting to iron out the details of what was to become Prop H. During these discussions we thought our toughest opposition would be the Police Officers Union, not the Board of Supervisors. San Franciscans spoke and the Police Offices Union was defeated in the battle over Prop H. A great deal of faith was placed in the supervisors desire to make a difference in policing, this very board yesterday voted to replace our current commission with one that is sure to be only slightly better than their predecessors. Yesterday was a sad day for San Francisco, our board whom we thought understood the gravity of the issues around policing has failed us, they clearly are looking at this commission as an opportunity to appoint individuals with strong political ties, paying little attention to the average folks in our communities that bear the burden of policing issues. We knew that policing is a hot sexy topic in San Francisco, one of which in the last year everyone has tried to get on board with, to better their names, but we did not expect the board to go the way that it did. This process should have been one that gave equal footing for those that are from the community and those that have political ties to the community, but what we got was a mix of folks that have some ties to the community along with those that have none, but not a commission that reflects true diversity.
In today’s rules committee meeting of the Board of Directories Supervisor Gonzalez stated that the purpose of Prop H was not to create a board that was distinguishable by appointments, but the expectation of the board was not to appoint people that mirror the nominations of the mayor, but to ensure that there was fair and equal representation, they have failed at this task. There is not equal representation on this commission. On paper it may appear that both the mayor and the board worked hard to bring diversity, but they did not, there is no representation of the Latino community. Additionally there are serious questions into the new commissioners ability to speak for the communities they are charged with representing. As we saw with the outgoing commission, simply appointing individuals based on their race does not mean that they will be advocates for the communities that they represent. To think that race alone will fill the need ignores many nuances that exist within these communities. When dealing with policing issues age, economic status, and gender will condition the manner in which an individual experiences the police. The assumption that race alone should be the criteria is a flawed one, and has led to countless years of commissioners that are indifferent to the communities they are suppose to serve.
Those that worked to get Prop H passed are definitely disappointed by these latest developments, but will work hard to ensure that the communities voices are heard throughout the tenure of this commission, and if this commission is another that is indifferent to the community and clearly in bed with the police we will demand their removal.
Malaika Parker, is the director of Bay Area PoliceWatch www.ellabakercenter.org