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Combative police union leader to serve another term

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The main entrance of the San Francisco Police Officers Association office in San Francisco August 31, 2016. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

The vocal and at times controversial leader of San Francisco’s police union will serve a second term as the powerful organization’s leader after he was unopposed in the coming election.

Martin Halloran, first elected to lead the San Francisco Police Officers Association three years ago, was set to step down following his first term, but instead decided to stay in order to deal with what he called unfinished business. The deadline for nominating candidates for the Jan. 9-20 POA election was Dec. 27, and no one was nominated to oppose Halloran.

“I intend to continue fighting for the membership in 2017, and beyond, just as my executive board and I fought for the membership the past three years,” he said in a statement in the newest version of the union journal.

The coming year promises to be momentous for the department as a new outsider chief, William Scott, is set to be sworn in this month and a series of federally recommended reforms start to go into effect.

It remains to be seen how the union will get along with the new chief (Halloran said in the POA journal that he’s met with Scott), and how the union will work with the Police Commission as it moves ahead with reforms.

But if the past is any indication, the roughly 2,300-member police union will remain a roadblock to many of the reforms being put into place by The City.

Under Halloran’s leadership the union has been at odds with reform efforts and continued its staunch opposition to all things it has seen as anti-cop, say several observers.

Judge LaDoris H. Cordell, one of the three jurists to head the District Attorney’s Blue Ribbon Panel Transparency, Accountability, and Fairness in Law Enforcement, said she was troubled by the news of Halloran’s impending re-election, especially in light of his reaction to the panel’s report.

“His response was to denigrate the report before he even read it,” she said of the review, which found that the union’s influence on the department’s culture has been detrimental to reforms.

“I don’t think it bodes well for SFPD in terms of its leadership. Its seems like it’s going in the same direction.”

Under Halloran others inside of the department have shared a similar sentiment.

A group of black officers recently resigned from the union over what they called failed leadership. Sgt. Yulanda Williams, president of the the Officers for Justice, declined to comment on Halloran’s reflections.

Halloran meanwhile, remains steadfast in his positions, including a message last week blaming the latest police shooting on the police commission for its newly passed use of force policy barring carotid neck holds and stun guns.

Before the policy was passed, the union paid for a television ad claiming new rules preventing police from shooting at moving cars would result in mass casualties if, say, a crazed trucker plunged his vehicle into a crowd. The ad also directed viewers to call Police Commission President Suzy Loftus, who did not respond for comment.

After the policy’s passage, the POA promptly filed suit over the issue, but was denied a temporary restraining order.

“The POA has chosen to be extraordinarily aggressive, and extraordinarily personal in attacking officials who are trying to move the San Francisco Police Department in the general direction of 21st century policing,” said former ACLU lawyer and police watchdog John Crew.

In the POA journal, Halloran noted “challenges” ahead faced by the police union.

“In the near term, we see battles on the front of an inadequate proposed Use of Force policy, working with a new chief but standing our ground if necessary, preparing for full contract negotiations, attacks on our pensions and health care plans, redoubled efforts by the OCC [Office of Citizen Complaints] to enhance discipline, and aggressive demonization of public safety employees at the state and federal level,” noted Halloran in the journal.

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