Supes panel rejects Breed’s Police Commission picks

Rules Committee says it's the wrong time for people who are not deeply committed to major reforms.

With the ongoing outrage over police shootings as a backdrop, the Board of Supes Rules Committee today rejected two candidates Mayor London Breed had nominated to the Police Commission.

The highly unusual move came after several hours of testimony from hundreds of community activists who urged the committee not to put Nancy Tung and Geoffrey Gordon-Creed on the panel that oversees SF cops.

Sup. Hillary Ronen said the community is “begging [us] not to do business as usual.”

The nominations now go to the full board, which has the final say.

The overwhelming majority of speakers expressed outrage over the nomination of a sitting district attorney and a lawyer who has no experience in police reform.

Tung recently ran for San Francisco DA with the support of the Police Officers Association. Gordon-Creed is a lawyer in private practice and a former deputy city attorney.

Neither candidate has any record of working with any organization that advocates for police reform.

In fact, during the hearing Gordon-Creed showed little understanding of law-enforcement issues.

Sup. Matt Haney isn’t a member of the committee but he made a statement at the beginning of the hearing, saying that the people named to the commission should have a demonstrated expertise in police accountability, be someone who has actively worked on Police Commission issues, and understands the failures of current laws and policies.

The statements from the candidates suggested that they fulfilled none of those qualifications.

Sup. Hillary Ronen, who chairs the committee, said that she is “truly surprised that at this moment the mayor would chose two candidates who are not leaders in police reform.”

Tung, she noted, said that she didn’t think the officers who shot Mario Woods should be prosecuted – or even fired. She didn’t think the officers who shot Jessica Williams should have prosecuted or even fired. Gordon Creed said he has no opinion on that issue.

Neither candidate was a big supporter of AB 392, which changed the rules on police use of force in California.

Tung supported Prop. H, which would have overridden the Police Commission and forced the city to arm cops with Tasers.

“These are two extremely good people, but not the right representatives to implement the radical change we need,” Ronen said.

Catherine Stefani, a member of the committee, said she trusted the mayor’s judgment and would support her nominees. Sup. Gordon Mar, the third member, said that “I trust the mayor isn’t a position. It’s a cop-out.”

Stefani, who is a former prosecutor, tried to defend Tung’s statement that she would not have prosecuted the killers of Woods or Williams, saying that the district attorney at the time, George Gascon, also didn’t prosecute saying the legal standard wouldn’t allow it.

Gascon’s decision created a huge uproar and is likely one of the reasons he decided not to run again in San Francisco.

Ronen said that the police killings, not just of George Floyd but of so many people of color over the years – including in San Francisco – created a mandate for serious change.

“People are begging anyone with any political power not to conduct business as usual,” she said. “We have to make moves that are big and urgent.”

She said that there are “thousands of people in the police-accountability movement” that the mayor could choose.

There are. Thousands. Some of them are allies of the mayor. I don’t understand why she would have nominated candidates for such a critical job right now who are either past allies of the POA or have no history with police reform at all.

The vote to send the nominations to the board with a recommendation to reject was 2-1, with Ronen and Mar in favor and Stefani opposed. This will be a huge issue at the full board; most of the time, the supes are wary of rejecting mayoral commission nominations.

But this isn’t most of the time. The national battle over police accountability is going to play out, in its own local way, at City Hall next week.