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Breed’s nominees for Police Commission clear first hurdle, back Tasers

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Former federal and state prosecutor Damali Taylor, left, and Bayview community organizer Dion-Jay Brookter were appointed by Mayor London Breed to the Police Commission. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Mayor London Breed’s choice candidates for the Police Commission moved toward confirmation on Thursday after expressing support for the controversial decision to arm officers with stun guns in San Francisco.

The Board of Supervisors Rules Committee unanimously voted to support the nominations of former federal and state prosecutor Damali Taylor and Bayview community organizer Dion-Jay Brookter to the Police Commission.

The mayor nominated Taylor and Brookter to the seven-member commission last Thursday after the Board of Supervisors rejected the reappointments of former commissioners Sonia Melara and Joe Marshall.

The prominent oversight body has focused on reform in recent years in the wake of the police shooting of Mario Woods and the discovery of homophobic and racist text messages sent between officers. The commission is in charge of police policy and discipline.

The vote came after the San Francisco Examiner reported that Breed had drawn criticism over the nominations for not selecting a Chinese American for the commission, which has no members with close ties to the Chinese community.

But, the discourse at the Rules Committee focused on whether Taylor and Brookter were the right candidates to balance the often competing views of the community and the San Francisco Police Department.

Taylor, a former prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and District Attorney’s Office who has also worked as a defense attorney, is a Jamaican immigrant who was raised by her single mother in the Bronx and attended Yale Law School.

Brookter, who was raised in Fresno and moved to San Francisco in 2010, is the deputy director of a job training program in Bayview-Hunters Point called Young Community Developers.

When asked about their positions on the controversial devices known as Tasers, Taylor and Brookter each said they supported the previous decisions of the Police Commission to equip officers with the stun guns.

“I trust their analysis, I rely on it, and wouldn’t second guess it,” Taylor said. “The goal of everyone is or certainly should be to reduce the number of children who are killed. No one wants that.”

Brookter said of Tasers, “We just need to make sure that our protocols and systems for implementation, which also means adequate training for our officers, are put in place.”

The Police Commission voted to support equipping officers with stun guns last November after years of fiery debate over the devices.

In March, the commission doubled down on the decision by approving a policy for the use of the weapons.

But the Board of Supervisors rejected funding to purchase the weapons in the current fiscal year in June, delaying plans to roll them out by the end of 2018.

After the hearing, Taylor and Brookter both declined to say whether they supported Proposition H in June. The measure from the police union would have have created less-restrictive rules for the use of the devices.

But Brookter said the Police Commission’s current policy on the devices could be tightened.

“I think there is still some work that needs to be done,” he told the Examiner. “I think it could use more work.”

The candidates both also criticized the lenghty labor negotiations that the Police Commission engages in with the San Francisco Police Officers Association over policies that impact officers. The union says it has the right to negotiate over reform policies that impact the working conditions of officers. Critics say the process waters down the policies.

Brookter and Taylor said the meet-and-confer process delays police reform.

“How long things take currently are unnacceptable,” Taylor said. “It feels as if things are mired in bureacracy.”

“I can defintely say that,” Brookter told the Examiner of the delays. “We see that with the frustration in the public.”

Brookter suggested that the Police Commission not negotiate over the full recommendations for reform, but only certain elements of the recommendations as needed.

Both candidates drew support from local politicians and community members at the hearing.

Former Police Commission President Suzy Loftus endorsed both and said she hired Taylor to work at the District Attorney’s Office years ago under then-District Attorney Kamala Harris.

“This is a tough job,” Loftus said. “It requires incredbile vigor, it requires incredible legal skill. She has all of it and she deeply cares about what’s right.”

Lt. Yulanda Williams, former president of the SFPD’s Officers For Justice, also supported both nominations from Breed.

“She has selected the right people to do the job that is required right now, which is totally about reform,” Williams said. “We need prominent role models and people who have courage. Both commissioners will represent that for us.”

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