SF police spar with supervisor over resolution backing Ferguson protests 

click to enlarge San Francisco Unified School District high school Black Student Unions held a Solidarity Rally at Mission High School regarding the killing of Michael Brown Jr. and other tragic attacks on African Americans by the police on Monday. - GABRIELLE LURIE/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Gabrielle Lurie/Special to the S.f. Examiner
  • San Francisco Unified School District high school Black Student Unions held a Solidarity Rally at Mission High School regarding the killing of Michael Brown Jr. and other tragic attacks on African Americans by the police on Monday.

For more than two weeks, two of the Bay Area's largest cities have been the scenes of raucous protest and at times forceful responses by police. From San Francisco's Market Street to Oakland's freeway overpasses, protesters have shown their outrage over the deaths of two unarmed black men at the hands of police in Missouri and New York.

Now San Francisco's politicos have stepped into the fray with a resolution backing the protests' calls for reform, and the Police Officers Association is none too happy.

The union has said the resolution that a city supervisor is proposing incites violence and paints all police with a broad brush as militarized racists, even if the actual resolution commends the San Francisco police for their measured response to the protesters.

Supervisor John Avalos' resolution is set to be reintroduced today -- it was first introduced in late November -- at the Board of Supervisors. The resolution as it is written condemns the nation's "broken and racially biased police and justice system" and calls on the national government to take a hard look at judicial and police practices so there is truly "equal justice under the law."

If passed, the resolution would act as an official voice of support -- from the Board of Supervisors, anyway -- for calls to reform police use of force following the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in Staten Island, NY. Both men were killed by police, none of whom will face charges since the grand juries declined to indict any of the officers.

If San Francisco' legislative branch passes the resolution, it would be one more step from local elected and unelected officials -- from a congressman and congressional staffers to the Richmond police chief -- in support of the protests and the cause of their outrage.

But such fully voiced backing of protesters -- some of whom have actively targeted police -- does not sit well with the POA, which represents 2,750 police officers, the very people whose job it is to make sure the marching hordes don't step out of line.

"Dissatisfied with simply condemning the Ferguson and Staten Island incidents, you have instead used a very broad brush to paint all of

America's law enforcement professionals as racists, militaristic occupiers," a Dec. 12 letter from POA President Martin Halloran to Avalos noted.

Halloran's letter continues to say the resolution is based on false assumptions and specious facts, so its assertions cannot stand without reply.

"I cannot allow your inflammatory rhetoric to go unchallenged," he writes. "The good people of this city deserve to know the truth and should expect balance from their elected officials and public servants. It will be, after all, their shops, their streets that suddenly erupt into the predictable violence that your language likely instigates."

Halloran said that the resolution should point to milestones of inclusion in the department instead of attacking police.

"There is no more diverse, enlightened, better trained, and better educated urban law enforcement agency than is the SFPD," the letter noted.

The letter ends with a specific demand: All mention of the SFPD and the POA should be removed from the resolution.

The latest version of the resolution contains the following language:

"The Board of Supervisors pledges to work with the community and public safety departments to review local ordinances, officer training, and policies to address racial profiling and the use of excessive force and to ensure transparency and accountability within public safety departments."

It continues by noting the board's support for the "First Amendment right of the public to engage in nonviolent peaceful protest, free from excessive use of force and intimidation through military tactics and equipment; and ... that the Board of Supervisors commends the SFPD for not deploying military-grade equipment in response to recent protest."

Despite such statements, the resolution also notes that "San Francisco is not immune to tensions between communities and police after incidents involving the use of force, including officer-involved killings."

Further along, it mentions the Police Department shooting death of Alejandro Nieto and other such incidents.

To approve the resolution today, Avalos would need a majority of supervisors since it was first introduced in November just after the Ferguson grand jury decision. At that point, the resolution had no mention of the Police Department.

But when the resolution was revised and reintroduced Dec. 9, new language was added reflecting requests from the community to point to excesses that also exist in the Police Department, Avalos aide Jeremy Pollock said.

Additional revisions are expected in light of ongoing talks Avalos is having with police officials and colleagues. The Police Department did not return calls for comment.

As of Monday, Avalos said he had support from supervisors Eric Mar, David Campos, Jane Kim and Malia Cohen.

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About The Author

Jonah Owen Lamb

Jonah Owen Lamb

Bio:
Born and raised on a houseboat in Sausalito, Lamb has written for newspapers in New York City, Utah and the San Joaquin Valley. He was most recently an editor at the San Luis Obispo Tribune for nearly three years. He has written for The S.F. Examiner since 2013 and covers criminal justice and planning.
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