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Farrell Taps Gay Man to Head DPA

by Seth Hemmelgarn

Paul Henderson
Paul Henderson  (Source:Steven Underhill)

San Francisco Mayor Mark Farrell has nominated a gay African-American man to permanently lead the city's Department of Police Accountability, which investigates complaints against a police department that's been working to address bias against people of color and LGBTs.

Paul Henderson, Farrell's nominee, has been the DPA's interim executive director since July 2017. The agency's last permanent executive director, Joyce Hicks, left earlier last year amid reports of criticism from her staff.

In a statement to the Bay Area Reporter Tuesday, Henderson, 50, said, "Leadership in law enforcement oversight benefits not only the individual complainant, but also the larger community, police, and even elected officials. I've spent almost my entire career in public service and remain committed to improving the lives of our citizens with an effort to increase inclusion and justice. I want to make sure that there are no barriers to any community or person exercising their civic duties or their rights as they relate to law enforcement."

He added that he'd like to see cooperation among community groups and law enforcement.

"As a native San Franciscan, I want to see a greater collaboration with, and inclusion of, community stakeholders; to improve training, policies, and practices to reduce the use of force; and to encourage stronger mechanisms for transparency and accountability," Henderson stated. "My vision is a model for other cities and states to follow that defines San Francisco as a city where no community has to fear law enforcement and where arrest and use of force by law enforcement agencies are a last resort, not first options."

Prior to his post at the DPA, Henderson served as deputy chief of staff and public safety liaison for former mayor Ed Lee, who died in December. In 2016 he ran unsuccessfully for Superior Court judge.

He previously served as chief of administration for then-District Attorney Kamala Harris, who's now California's junior U.S. senator. In that job, he served in "the highest position ever held by an African-American or LGBT male in the history of the office," according to his bio. Henderson has more than a decade of experience as a prosecutor, handling cases ranging from nonviolent misdemeanors to homicide.

Farrell, who is serving as mayor until the winner of the special June 5 mayor's race is declared, received Henderson's name from the Police Commission as its pick to head the DPA. The mayor submitted an appointment letter Monday to Board of Supervisors Clerk Angela Calvillo, who will prepare a motion and refer Henderson's nomination to the chair of the board's Rules Committee. The chair, Supervisor Ahsha Safai, will schedule a committee hearing within 30 days. That panel may then recommend Henderson to the full Board of Supervisors. If the board doesn't take up the appointment within 30 days, it will be deemed approved.

In his letter to Calvillo, Farrell wrote, "I am confident that Mr. Henderson will serve our community well."

Safai didn't respond to an email Tuesday asking whether he'd support Henderson.

Henderson's salary will be $226,000.


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