Tipping point - Page 3

Battle for a Police Commission appointment reflects ongoing problems in the department

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Turman responded in July 2006 to what he described as Horne's "unverified complaint," arguing he acted in "self-defense" and that the conduct Horne complained of "constituted mutual combat." He added that "damages, if any, suffered by Horne were caused in whole or in part by entities or persons other than Turman."

In the end, no criminal charges were ever filed against Turman and the case was settled out of court. Turman now says "I've done nothing wrong and these allegations are false."

Campos warns people not to jump to conclusions. "We need to remember that there is a presumption of innocence," Campos said. "Yes, there was a court case, but there was never a conviction. Yes, there was a settlement, but people do that for a lot of reasons."

Turman told the Rules Committee that the incident was from "an extremely difficult time that is now being used against me as a political sideshow."

Meanwhile, Campos notes that without a reform-minded mayor, there will be only so much any board-appointed police commissioners can do. "What we really need to implement police reform is a mayor who is willing to do that," he said. "Otherwise it's going to be very difficult because the mayor still gets to appoint four commissioners and mayor still gets to control who is in charge of the police department."

 

WHAT DIRECTION?

Civil liberties advocates praised as a "first step in the right direction" Suhr's May 18 decision to issue an order clarifying that SFPD officers assigned to the FBI's joint terrorism taskforce should adhere to SFPD policies and procedures set by the Police Commission, not FBI guidelines.

But in the coming months, the commission will have to decide whether to push a Portland-style resolution around SFPD involvement with the FBI. The commission also will be dealing with fallout from the other scandals, including the crime lab, the use of force against mentally ill suspects, and videos that allegedly show police conducting warrantless search and seizure raids in single residential occupancy hotels.

These scandals have progressives arguing that it's critical that the board's three seats on the commission are occupied by applicants with proven track records of reform.

Waggoner notes that in 2003, voters approved Prop. H., which changed the composition of the commission from five to seven members. Four are appointed by the mayor; three by the board.

Last year, he said, the commission made significant progress in the right direction when it adopted new rules after the Jan. 2 shooting of a man in a wheelchair in SoMa. "That was not the first time an unarmed person with a disability was killed," he said. "After Prop. H and a crisis, the commission finally took steps. It remains to be seen if Chief Suhr will implement that."

Waggonner said the current arrangement "creates tension between people who are more willing to defer to the chief on policy issues and being in an advisory capacity, as opposed to people who want to be in the forefront of setting policy."

That tension played out when Commissioners James Hammer, Angela Chan, and Petra DeJesus tried to find consensus on the Taser controversy last year. "Overall they worked well together. But there's been no progress yet on Tasers," he said, noting that the commission eventually decided on a pilot project.

Waggoner said he would be in favor of the commission having a more active role and exerting its authority under the city charter to set policy, but in collaboration with the chief.

The Police Commission's May 18 joint hearing with the Human Rights Commission about FBI spying concerns was a symbol of the broader issue at the Police Commission. The majority of the commission didn't see any major problems — but the progressives were highly critical. "Is the commission there to set policy and take leadership, or is it there in an advisory capacity?" Waggoner asked.