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A devious move to oust SF’s best Police Commission member

It appears that Ahsha Safai is trying to replace the best Police Commission member in the city with one of his political allies

A close political ally of Sup. Ahsha Safai who has little or no connection to local police-reform groups is trying to out the city’s best Police Commission member.

Olga Miranda, president of SEIU Local 87, has applied to replace Petra DeJesus on the powerful panel. DeJesus’ term ends April 30 and reports that she may not be reappointed shocked police reform advocates. 

It appears that Ahsha Safai is trying to replace the best Police Commission member in the city with one of his political allies
It appears that Ahsha Safai is trying to replace the best Police Commission member in the city with one of his political allies

There’s a clear stink of politics here: Miranda helped Safai get elected, and he chairs the committee that will screen applicants for the job.

Police commissioners have to live in San Francisco, and in her application, Miranda said she is both a resident and a registered voter.

But that’s a stretch: She has lived in the East Bay for years, and only registered to vote in San Francisco on April 6, 2017 — five days before she filed an application to be on the Police Commission — voter registration data shows.

The move is odd: Miranda owns a house on Stannage Ave in Albany. She has been registered to vote there until early April.

She has, if her filings are accurate, moved from there to a single-family house on Paris Street that has at least three other residents, according to city planning and voter-registration data.

Planning Department records show that house is owned by Roberto and Macaria Canchola, who are registered to vote there along with Andrea Canchola. Multiple sources close to the matter told 48hills that Roberto Canchola is a former board member of Local 87. At the time of filing of this report, we weren’t able to independently verify this information. 

DeJesus has been a leader on the Police Commission during the most crucial period of police reforms, including deliberations on the use of force policy, the scathing Blue-ribbon report, the Department of Justice’s critical assessment and list of more than 200 recommendations, and the appointment of a new police chief.

Miranda, local activists involved in police issues say, has no known experience on police reform. However, she and her union have been known for their victories against Airbnb, Uber, and Square for better treatment for custodial workers. She is linked to Assemblymember David Chiu, who honored here as Woman of the Year. Mayor Ed Lee also recently honored her, saying “her years of fighting for good wages, health care and retirement benefits for the thousands of her mostly-immigrant members is legendary.”

Miranda’s application is supported by Safai, whom Miranda strongly backed during his race for supervisor. Safai chairs the Rules Committee, which will consider the application.

Miranda’s tenure at the helm of Local 87 has been controversial. Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez of the Examiner reported that Miranda’s allies proposed that members who didn’t work for Safai would be fined $150.

Safai worked as a consultant for the union until 2012. Miranda refuted the allegations and said supporting Safai came down to choosing a candidate that had policies that worked for the janitors.  

Former District 11 Supervisor John Avalos says there are eligibility questions that need to be asked when it comes to Miranda’s application: “I think people on the Board of Supervisors are looking at whether Olga Miranda’s application is legitimate, and it’s known that she has been living in Albany. The question is, I hear she’s registered to vote in San Francisco now, but she hasn’t voted in the recent elections. So if you just moved to the city and just registered to vote does that meet the qualifications?”

Progressive politician and former Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, who led the movement for a more independent Police Commission, said that reports of DeJesus being ousted is like “pouring vinegar on our wounds at a time when police reforms are being attacked by the Trump administration and Jeff Sessions is working towards undoing all the hard work done to push for police reform in the country. Removing one of the most viable and effective police commissioners San Francisco has ever seen is an attempt now to further erode the independence of the commission.” 

In her application submitted to the Board of Supervisors, Miranda talks about experiencing police and gang-related violence as she grew up in Los-Angeles: “(…) those formative years I survived shootings, beatings and was well aware of the mistreatment that many in my family experienced in the hands of police officers; I attended more funerals than school dances. It’s these type of experiences that foment a lack of trust from minority communities towards law enforcement,” she wrote. 

 “…the commission needs people who will act and understand escalated discipline, collective bargaining agreements and can work hand-in-hand with all stakeholders, that is me.”  

That worries former ACLU police watchdog John Crew who says the reference to “collective bargaining agreements” reminds him of the approach the Police Officers Association has taken: “They’ve been perpetrating a myth that negotiations are needed to implement the [recommended] reforms,” Crew told us. “Many police issues — especially those that involve how the police act towards the public — aren’t treated as working conditions questions that must be negotiated under state law or under the city charter because of their impact on the public. If she thinks the SFPOA has more rights than the public, that’s inconsistent with law and would reveal her to be an opponent of reform,” Crew said. 

We reached out to Miranda for clarity but she declined to answer questions.

This episode appears to be strikingly similar to ousting of Angela Chan from the Police Commission in 2014. Chan was removed from the Police Commission with a 7-4 vote by the Board of Supervisors in a move driven far more by politics than by qualifications.

It’s important to note that for commissions such as this one when an incumbent comes up for re-appointment, the standard is usually simple: Is he or she doing a good job?

There’s little question that DeJesus is the most progressive member of the commission, and she’s done a great job holding the department accountable and pushing reforms. There’s no reason to oust her – except, perhaps, to repay a political favor to someone who has nowhere near the same qualification and until a couple of weeks ago didn’t even live in the city.

 

‘This is my home:’ Yemeni-American reunites with family, says about 50 others detained  

Mustafa Abuzeid landed in San Francisco from Kaula Lumpur and was swiftly escorted to a room: “I was in a room with other people. They just told me to stay there and wait and they took my passport,” Abuzeid said. 

Abuzeid’s family anxiously awaited his arrival and organizers made announcements before his release: “We need to stay together and embrace the families and wait with them until their loved ones are released,” organizers said.

Abuzeid runs a small business and has had a green card for more than 20 years. His brothers and father are US citizens: “I’ve never had to face this, I travel often. Last time I came back home it took me five minutes to go through immigration.” 

Mustafa Abuzeid, a Yemeni- America, stands alongside his father as he reunites with his family after being detained for 6 hours. Abuzeid has been a green card holder for the past 20 years and was returning home from Kaula Lumpur. Photo by Sana Saleem.
Mustafa Abuzeid, a Yemeni- America, stands alongside his father as he reunites with his family after being detained for 6 hours. Abuzeid has been a green card holder for the past 20 years and was returning home from Kaula Lumpur. Photo by Sana Saleem.

Abuzeid said he saw approximately 50 people in detention alongside him. This is the first we’ve heard about approximate numbers; so far officials have not released any details of number of being detained at San Francisco International airport. The lack of information has left many in limbo but protests have continued to grow. 

Abrahim Abuzeid was worried as he waited for his brother to arrive: “I was very very worried. It was very hard for me and family.” Abrahim lives in Oakland and works for a building maintenance service providing office cleaning services in the Bay Area.

Abrahim Abuzeid says he was anxious for his brother's arrival but comforted when he saw the crowds of supporters against the #muslimban. Photo by Sana Saleem.
Abrahim Abuzeid says he was anxious for his brother’s arrival but comforted when he saw the crowds of supporters against the #muslimban. Photo by Sana Saleem.

“We live here. My father came here decades ago this is where we live,”  said Abrahim. He was overwhelmed to see people showing up in support: “It was great to see so many people coming out and supporting. When I saw them I was hopeful that I’ll see my brother,” he said expressing his frustration over the executive order: “I’m Muslim but I never think of people as different because of color and religion. We are one people, we are the same we are one,” he said.

Mustafa Abuzeid xhausted but teary with joy on being reunited with his family: "This is my home". Photo by Sana Saleem.
Mustafa Abuzeid xhausted but teary with joy on being reunited with his family: “This is my home”. Photo by Sana Saleem.

Abuzeid said he wasn’t mistreated but was exhausted and thirsty after two days of travel and six hours in detention. The family embraced each other as Abuzeid looked exhausted but teary eyed with joy: “This is my home,” he said. 

Lawyers are now approaching families of those detained to facilitate phone calls and advice people on approaching questions from immigration officers: “No need to sign anything unless you’ve a lawyer present.”