Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Angry Public Acts Up at SF Police Meeting in the Tenderloin

Unlike the March 12 police commission meeting, which didn't happen because three members - Julius Turman, Joe Marshal, Petra DeJesus - failed to show up and quorum was not met, tonight's police commission meeting took place and it was a classic example of a San Francisco government appointed panel disrespecting the public.

(Credit for all photos goes to Forrest Schmidt of the ANSWER Coalition.)

The community room at Tenderloin Recreation Center was overflowing with friends and family of Alex Nieto, the young Latino killed on Friday in an officer-involved shooting at Bernal Heights Park, District 6 residents and Supervisor Jane Kim, and members of the general public such as myself.

The first act of dissing was not putting public comment at the top of the agenda, which would have done a tremendous good and defused some of the justifiable anger in the room. You'd think after the extremely heated town hall in the Mission last night about Nieto's killing and rising tensions, the commissioners would have smartly used their privilege of adjusting the agenda during a meeting and not violating sunshine laws.

Nah, we had to sit through Chief Greg Suhr recent activities report, a staffer from the Office of Citizens Complaints reading a 6-page speech, reports from the commissioners, and no time limits for any of them. Despite the required taking of public comment after every item, and all those reports were one item, no public comment was allowed.

Yeah, I objected and commission president Thomas Mazzucco had to deal with my verbal complaint and the commission said they would take all public comment at the very end.

Next up was Cpt. Jason Cherniss, at podium, head of the Tenderloin station and his 22-slide PowerPoint presentation, full of just the most wonderful stats about how terrific a job his force is performing, and he went on so long I interrupted and asked if there was a time limit for him. Commissioners curtly said no, and soon enough Mazzucco changed the agenda and allowed Sup. Kim to deliver her Oscar speech in the middle of Cherniss' lecture.

More dissing of the public waiting to speak. I'm way over stopping any SFMTA or commission meeting and allowing a Supervisor to hijack the agenda and with no time limit. Either put the pols on the agenda or make them wait for public comment.

Kim thanked this one and that one, acknowledged community folks, said upbeat things about her district, and was received very warmly, why I don't know. She had at least four-minutes of prime time and then apologized for needing to split but mentioned her aide would stay.

Cherniss finally finished and there was rush for the podium for public comment. It was now 75-minutes into the meeting and tempers were flaring. Mazzucco had not made a single announcement about how public comment would be handled, so there was a scramble to line up.

He said each speaker would get only two minutes and all hell broke loose. After enduring their endless dissing of us we were admonished by Mazzucco and other commissioners to respect the process. Folks began shouting that the printed agenda promised three minutes and "three minutes!" became our rallying cry.

Felt damn fine to be among like-minded folks acting up over reclaiming our commissions and forcing them to listen to us.

The clash between the cops and community was on full display, amply showing us again just how incompetent and unprepared the commission, the chief, the department and the Tenderloin station staff are when it comes to, what is that great-sounding but meaningless phrase they throw around so much?

Oh, yes. Community policing. The SFPD all around gets more failing grades on community policy and I defy anyone who was present tonight or who watches the airing of it to try and persuade me that what we saw from the commission and department was effective leadership and commitment to better engage the public. Because it was out in the field, the meeting wasn't televised live but will be available on Thursday on-demand at SF GovTV.

During my two minutes of public comment, I talked about the stalking of homeless people in public restrooms at the main library by SF Chronicle photographers and held up a few of the laminated images and that it's good the SFPD has launched two investigations over this invasion of privacy.

My other point was a demand for the SFPD to spend money compiling a list of names of the dead folks killed by officers in the past thirty years. We have the wall of remembrance listing the names of officers killed the line of duty at the Hall of Justice on display at the entrance, but where is the list of people killed in officer-involved shootings?

It does not exist and it ought to be created, by the department and community groups.

I give two big thumbs down to all the officials from the SFPD, the OCC and Jane Kim for allowing such a mess of a meeting happen. If these folks can't even run a two-hour commission meeting that respects the general public and curbs the speechifying of pols and cops, and bridges the huge divides, what hope do we have that they can address the larger police department issues with effective leadership?

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