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DeJesus fights for SF police panel seat

by Seth Hemmelgarn

Petra DeJesus. Photo: Rick Gerharter
Petra DeJesus. Photo: Rick Gerharter  

A lesbian longtime San Francisco police commissioner is fighting to keep her seat after a labor leader with a history of verbal and physical outbursts who just moved to the city applied for the post.

Two of the three members of the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee say they're supporting Petra DeJesus, an attorney who's been on the police oversight panel since 2005. People who don't earn the committee's recommendation don't typically make it to the full board, so it's unclear whether Olga Miranda, who's president of Service Employees International Union Local 87 and moved to the city from the East Bay this year, will get a vote.

The battle for the seat comes as the city works to reform the police department, which has seen years of controversy related to fatal officer-involved shootings, racist and homophobic texting among officers, and other problems.

Miranda didn't respond to the Bay Area Reporter's interview requests. But asked in an email whether she'd withdraw her application, given that she apparently lacks the rules committee's support, Miranda replied that she would not.

Her strongest backer is Supervisor Ahsha Safai, who worked for years with Miranda and now chairs the rules committee.

"As someone who fundamentally believes in term limits, I think 11 and a half years is a significant amount of time to serve on one commission," said Safai, referring to DeJesus' tenure

Miranda's outbursts were covered in an April 26 article in the San Francisco Examiner that quotes extensively from a recording of her berating a man at a meeting.

According to the Examiner, the man reported to police that at a December 2016 Local 87 meeting, Miranda "lunged" at him and threw a cup of hot coffee in his face.

"The charges were not pursued," and there were no arrests, the paper said, but it quotes Miranda from a recording made the same day, when she had a meltdown over "a bunch of fucking pizza."

She told the man she's accused of throwing coffee on, " Then go fuck yourself then. Walk like a little bitch and walk the fuck out. ... Fuck you, motherfucker. Fuck you, motherfucker. And your mother and your wife, too. Your wife and your mother, too." (Miranda also told the man he'd called her a "bitch.")

Asked about the story, Safai said, "I never condone bullying," but "that tape is probably one side of the story," and he said the incident had been "illegally recorded."

He added, "I wonder if [Miranda] were a man if we would be making such a big deal about it."

Others have accused Miranda of assaulting them, too, though, according to court records.

In a request for a restraining order filed in May 2015, government contractor Martha Lutt, who initially met Miranda at a bargaining meeting, wrote that as she left a restroom, Miranda "shoved me forward so hard that my right elbow hyper extended" and "stated that she was going to show up at my house."

Miranda "is aggressive and unpredictable," Lutt wrote. "If she was brazen enough to shove me in front of others, she will harm me on the street or when I am alone."

The records show that Lutt filed a police report.

A temporary restraining order was issued, but the case was eventually "dismissed without prejudice," when at least one of the parties didn't appear at a hearing.

Lutt, who's president of Exemplar Enterprises, told the B.A.R. she didn�t want to say much about the case.

"The facts are as you see them in the documentation," she said, but "We're still in negotiations with that union, and so I just don't want to taint our relationship."

In a small claims case filed in 2010, Flor de Maria Rivas said Miranda owed her $7,500 for translation services and other expenses. Rivas said in a filing that Miranda "was extremely rude and even assaulted me."

Rivas told the B.A.R. that Miranda had thrown a purse at her and tried to scratch her face. She didn't report the incident to police. Rivas declined further comment and falsely claimed a reporter didn't properly identify himself when calling her.

Rivas also said Miranda still hasn't paid her, despite a judge's order for Miranda to pay more than $4,000.

Three people filed requests against Miranda in March 2008 for injunctions to prohibit harassment, but a judge ultimately denied those requests, according to court records. Miranda filed responses, the records say, but her filings weren't immediately available for viewing.

Safai, who said he hadn't heard about any of those incidents, said he's seen Miranda as "someone who's very much about fighting for underrepresented communities" and who's always advocated for immigrants, LGBTs, women, and others.

Miranda's "very fiery for sure," he said, but "I've never seen her be physical with anybody."

He also said that Miranda has "transferable skills" that would make her a good police commissioner. As someone who does disciplinary reviews "on a daily basis," she is "consistently doing what a police commissioner does," said Safai.

He's also untroubled by the fact that Miranda just recently moved to the city.

"I think we should be celebrating people that are talking about uprooting their families and moving into the city, not condemning them," he said, adding that Miranda, who has a husband and son, has worked in San Francisco for decades.

Safai said his backing of Miranda is unrelated to DeJesus' opposition to allowing police officers to carry Tasers.

Supervisor Norman Yee, who's also on the rules committee, said he'll be supporting DeJesus.

"My personal policy is when people come up to be reappointed, I look at their record," said Yee. "... It has nothing to do with Olga, it has more to do with an incumbent who's doing their job."

Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, the third member of the rules committee, said in response to the B.A.R.'s emailed questions that she's also backing DeJesus.

"Petra DeJesus has a proven track record of holding the police department to a higher standard of transparency and accountability, asking the hard questions and yet tempering it with compassion and respect for those who are doing the hard work of policing. To replace her with someone with less experience is doing a disservice to [the] impacted communities," said Fewer, whose husband is a retired police officer.

In a phone interview, DeJesus, who's being supported by the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, among other groups, said she wants to remain on the commission in part because of all the effort she and others have put into reforming the police department.

"I'd like to see it through," she said. "I've done a lot of hard work on this commission."

Referring to community meetings held to discuss officer-involved shootings, DeJesus said Miranda "hasn't participated in any of that."

Gay Supervisor Jeff Sheehy didn't respond directly to interview requests, but his office stated in an email, "Supervisor Sheehy appreciates the vital role the police commission plays in protecting neighborhood safety and implementing needed reforms. He is in the process of meeting with and getting to know the people who are interested in being a police commissioner and looks forward to the recommendation of the rules committee hearing" when it happens.

Miranda's and DeJesus' applications had been expected to be on the rules committee's May 10 agenda, but they've been delayed. The date for the next committee meeting hasn't been set.

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