OPINION: The "people's seat" on the Police Commission

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Editor's note: School Board member Kim-Shree Maufas submitted this opinion piece on the upcoming Police Commission appointment.

On Friday, October 11, 2002, what began as an early morning school fight turned into a uniformed police officer-driven melee against students and teachers at Thurgoom Marshall High School. A total of 126 cops (some in SWAT/Riot gear) and sheriff’s deputites (tactical training was nearby) with firefighter and helicopter air support occupied the campus into the late afternoon.

That was so awful -- but the real crime and shame for San Francisco was the subsequent behavior of the then Police Commission, which ignored hundreds of requests (delivered in writing and in person at commission meetings) for accountability, transparency, and reform to address ongoing police misconduct and bad practices so that San Francisco and its youth could actually feel safe and secure - not just from the criminals but from the city’s police force. 

I recall that one woman, who lived in Pacific Heights, asking the commission to “deal with what happened at that high school across town because we all want to know what happened.” 

After attending Police Commission meeting after Police Commission meeting with staff from the Ella Baker Center, Coleman Advocates for Youth and their Families and the ACLU of Northern California, the only response that I ever heard from that commission about the incident was: “We handle things in our own time.” 

These painful memories had me in tears as I walked home after attending the recent Board of Supervisor’s Rules Committee meeting on June 2, 2011, where I watched the recommendation for the board’s appointment to the commission go forward.

Back in October 2002, I was the Parent Teacher Student Association president at Marshall, my daughter was a student, and I suddenly thrust forward to a public podium over and over again to demand justice for our families ... goodbye fundraising and bake sales.

My social justice journey to the Board of Education is closely tied to the 2003 Proposition H, the police reform measure that gave people a voice for reform and accountability by expanding the  Police Commission from five to seven, three to be selected by the Board of Supervisors and four by the mayor.  San Franciscans slapped the old Police Commission squarely in the face, screaming that the people MUST have a VOICE.

Because of what my family and countless others have been through and died for, I will forever consider the seats appoinnted by the board as “the People’s Seats for the People’s Voice,” meaning that those seats are for people who openly fight on behalf of disenfranchised community members, for people who stand as unashamed/outspoken advocates for common sense police policies and practices -- and as seats for those who don’t get mayoral appointments because they’re a part of the in crowd.

On June 14, 2011, the entire Board of Supervisors will vote for the Police Commission appointment -- and it doesn’t have to be the recommendation from the Rules Committee. The supervisors can take a different position – they can stand with the people on this one.

With all due serious respect to the other applicants, this opening on the Police Commission belongs to David Waggoner, who represents that “People’s Voice for the People’s Seat” -- and I believe all those voters who reformed the commission in 2003 would say so too.

 

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