As Sunshine Task Force Chair Bruce Wolfe said the final “aye” at the April 3 meeting, community activist Magick Altman jumped from her seat and threw her fists in the air. It was a unanimous and unprecedented decision: The task force called on the District Attorney, the Board of Supervisors and the Ethics Commission to demand that the Police Commission comply with the task force finding that their vote to approve Tasers was a violation of the Brown Act.
“I was ecstatic, everyone in the room was, because finally, the Sunshine Task Force had decided to stand up for itself and demand that other branches of government support them in their work,” Altman said. “I’ve been working on this for two years and we’re moving to the next level and it’ll be amazing to see what the DA and everybody else says.”
In November 2017, City Hall was shut down during the Police Commission vote, making it so the general public could not be present during the vote. Altman, among others, filed a complaint with the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force, which ruled unanimously that the meeting was illegal.
The Brown Act protects the public’s right to participate in local legislative meetings.
After activists fought to get the issue on the agenda, the Police Commission addressed the SOTF’s determination at the Feb. 20 meeting, but the motion by Petra DeJesus to rescind the vote but not re-vote, went down, 3-3.
The SOTF called the April 3 meeting and put this issue on the agenda on their own. It is very uncommon for the task force to find a vote illegal, according to Wolfe, who has been with the committee for around 10 years.
“This is kind of a big deal and in actuality, whether there’s Tasers or not can be a life or death situation. They are tired of this disrespect and they decide to pull out all the stops and send this referral,” Altman said.
Wolfe started the meeting by making a motion to forward the SOTF order of determination to the Ethics Commission for enforcement. He also offered a motion to ask the supervisors to pass a resolution to urge the commission to act in accordance with the law. The Task Force also asked the district attorney to investigate.
The Sunshine Task Force agreed with Altman’s original recommendation, which was to rescind the vote and review and implement the 271 recommendations the Obama-era Department of Justice. There are four mayoral appointees on the seven-member commission so if it’s a simple re-vote they’d likely vote yes on Tasers.
“There are 271 other recommendations that need to be reviewed and implemented before we go back to the Tasers,” Altman said.
According to Altman, the commission’s refusal to comply with the SOTF determination, “not only is this an obstruction of the democratic process, but their defiance could result in injury and death to the people of San Francisco.”
There have been more than 1,000 deaths by Tasers in the US.
Because the Sunshine Task Force has no legal teeth, it is up to the commissions to be ethically and morally compliant with their recommendations.
“We need to uphold them not just for us but as an example in the country. Many people have modeled what they do in other cities after San Francisco. San Francisco is meant to lead in this and this shows a lack of leadership, so now it’s up to the DA,” Altman said.