The man reportedly shot and killed by BART police near the West Oakland station last week had a high-profile family friend: Acting Mayor London Breed.
Shaleem Tindle, 28, died Jan. 3 following a dispute with another man that ended in a uniformed BART police officer firing his gun in the area of Seventh and Chester streets. Police recovered a gun at the scene, and the officers were not injured.
“I’m heartbroken,” Breed told me. “I worked closely with him and watched him become a young man at the African American Art & Culture Complex,” which she used to manage.
Similar experiences — from growing up seeing Fillmore residents bristle against the San Francisco Police Department to watching her friends and family suffer neighborhood violence — shaped how the now mayoral-candidate approaches police reform, she told me in previous interviews.
Though Tindle was an Oaklander at the time of his death, the mentor, artist and father of two hailed from San Francisco’s Fillmore neighborhood.
In October, I sat down for lunch at Black Bark BBQ on Fillmore Street with Breed and Tindle’s brother, local boxer Karim “Hard Hitta” Mayfield. Mayfield is a charismatic, smart guy who spent time with Breed — and his brother — working to save Fillmore kids from guns and violence.
Breed grew up only “a couple blocks” away from Mayfield, Tindle and their family, she said, and they worked for her to reach out to youth. In the 1990s, she said, youth in the Fillmore were “dying every week … It was a really hard time.”
Sadly, for Breed, she’s oft-acquainted with those in her community who are killed.
When four young men were shot and killed while sitting in a double-parked car in the Fillmore in 2015, Breed knew their families. At a gun buyback shortly after she became acting mayor, Breed called out the names of those gunned down in the streets.
Breed announced her run for mayor Friday, and reform will undoubtedly be a defining issue between her and progressive Supervisor Jane Kim, who is also on the ballot.
In the wake of the revelation that SFPD officers sent racist and homophobic text messages in 2015, Breed and Kim were both outspoken on police reform — but were also sharply divided on how to approach fixing the perceived biases within the SFPD.
Also in 2015, a vote on a resolution to fully fund eight police academy classes to the tune of more than $11 million was split on ideological lines: Breed voted for the non-binding commitment to up the police’s funding along with five other moderate supervisors, and a five-supervisor progressive bloc, including Kim, voted against it.
At the time, progressives wanted to dangle the funding as a “carrot and stick” to push for reform.
Despite that backing of police, in January 2016 Breed introduced a resolution at the board calling for the Department of Justice to investigate the death of Mario Woods, a young man armed with a knife who was shot and killed by SFPD in the Bayview district.
At the time, Gary Delagnes, a consultant for the Police Officers Association, called her resolution “political posturing. It’s grandstanding.”
Former SFPD Chief Greg Suhr also asked for a Department of Justice review by its community-oriented police wing — which is considered less intensive than the “pattern and practice” investigation Breed sought — and the agency ultimately offered 272 recommendations for reform, which the late Mayor Ed Lee backed.
Though she loudly demanded change, Breed was slow to call for Suhr’s ouster. The first supervisor to announce support for Suhr’s resignation was Kim, who in May 2016 said a new leader could help usher in a “culture shift” in SFPD.
“It is time to launch a search for a new chief who can implement fundamental reform,” Kim said at the time. Eight days later, hours after an alleged car thief was killed by SFPD, Suhr resigned.
When asked if she supported Suhr’s resignation, founder of the Justice 4 Mario Woods Coalition Phelicia Jones said, “Of course!”
But was Breed’s lagging on Suhr a misstep?
“For me, that’s irrelevant for right now,” Jones said. The second year of the coalition’s existence, Jones said, “the only person who helped out was London Breed.”
For Father Richard Smith, however, a Mission-district man of the cloth who organized around the SFPD’s shooting death of Amilcar Lopez and Luis Pat Gongora, Breed is unproven.
“I’m not that optimistic about London Breed, who’s been kind of the Ed Lee-style leader,” he told me, particularly because she did not immediately call for Suhr to step down. At the time, the Frisco 5 staged a hunger strike in front of the Mission District police station, and were later joined by more than 500 people in a march to City Hall.
John Crew, a police watchdog and former ACLU lawyer, pointed out one positive attribute of both candidates: the Police Officers Association called out both Breed and Kim, along with the entire Board of Supervisors.
“I think both of them historically have been very strong in standing up to the recent nonsense from the Police Officers Association,” he said. For Crew, that’s a badge of honor.
Though Tindle died in another city, his shooting echoes San Francisco’s elusive quest to end violence. In October, Breed wondered aloud what could be done.
“How do we change the next generation to get them to understand we want them to live?” she said.
On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at facebook.com/FitztheReporter.
Bay City News contributed to this report.