SF police panelist's supporters rally
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Supporters of lesbian San Francisco Police Commissioner Petra DeJesus rallied in support of her Tuesday, May 16 outside City Hall, saying DeJesus' efforts are critical to reforming the city's troubled police department.
DeJesus, who's been on the police oversight panel since 2005, is facing competition by Olga Miranda, who's president of Service Employees International Union Local 87.
Updated 5/18/17:Thursday afternoon, gay Supervisor Jeff Sheehy told the Bay Area Reporter that he's supporting DeJesus. His decision calls into question whether Miranda would receive enough votes on the board.
"I'm supporting Petra," Sheehy said in a phone call to the paper.[End of update.]
Tom Ammiano, a gay former supervisor and state assemblyman, said supporters of Miranda are "pitting two Latinas" against each other, and a statue should be erected for DeJesus, who's shown "a fierce commitment" to reforming the police department, which has seen years of controversy related to fatal officer-involved shootings, racist and homophobic texting among officers, and other problems.
Supervisor Ahsha Safai, Miranda's strongest backer, has said that his position is unrelated to DeJesus' opposition to allowing police officers to carry Tasers, but Ammiano said it's "all about" Tasers.
He said even though the city has rules against public nudity, "apparently there is no law against naked politicking."
Lito Sandoval, the queer co-president of the San Francisco Latino Democratic Club, said, "Can we call 'bullshit' on Supervisor Safai's statement that this is not a political move?" Some in the crowd of about 25 people complied and shouted "Bullshit."
Safai is "an ally" of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, said Sandoval, and "we need someone who is critical of the POA" on the police commission, "not someone who holds their hand." (SFPOA President Martin Halloran didn't respond to the Bay Area Reporter's email asking whether his group supports Miranda's bid to join the panel.)
"If the Board of Supervisors supports police reform," it will keep DeJesus on the panel, said Sandoval.
Kim Alvarenga, the lesbian co-president of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, called support for Miranda "a slap in the face" to LGBTs, Latinos, and workers.
Miranda has faced allegations of abusing people verbally and physically over the years, according to court records and at least one media account.
"You don't treat people with disrespect, you don't treat low-wage workers with disrespect and expect to speak on their behalf" on the police commission, said Alvarenga, whom Safai defeated last year for the District 11 supervisor seat.
After the rally, DeJesus' supporters headed into City Hall to visit the offices of gay District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, District 5 Supervisor and board President London Breed, and District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen, who Alvarenga suggested are the most likely to be undecided on supporting DeJesus.
In an email exchange Tuesday, Miranda indicated she still wants to unseat DeJesus. In response to a question about Sandoval's remark that if she were on the police commission she'd side with the SFPOA, Miranda said, "Interesting, I'm a Latina and a Democrat and I wasn't invited by the Latino Democratic Club to speak."
She continued, "Some men feel they need to speak for the sisters because they might be concerned we're capable of having our own opinion. Some Latino men haven't overcome that challenge. As a woman in labor I don't condone bad behavior. I do believe in due process. ... SEIU 1021 represents the hard working civilians within that department and the POA represents officers."
DeJesus and Miranda's applications are expected to go before the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee before they go to the full board. Safai chairs the rules committee, but the group's two other members â€" Supervisors Sandra Lee Fewer and Norman Yee â€" are supporting DeJesus. Candidates don't typically make it to the full board without the committee's recommendation. (Fewer's husband is a retired police officer.)
A statement Sheehy's office provided last week to the B.A.R. said he's "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.
Bill Barnes, an aide to Sheehy, said Tuesday that the supervisor's position "remains the same."
In response to a B.A.R. email, Michael Howerton, Breed's chief of staff, said she's supporting Miranda.
Safai and Cohen didn't respond to emails from the B.A.R. Tuesday.