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SF police commissioner resigns for new role as Superior Court judge

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Victor Hwang is photographed at a Police Commission meeting on Wednesday, January 20, 2016. (Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)
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Newly elected Superior Court judge Victor Hwang has announced his resignation from the Police Commission, promising a possible political battle over his replacement and the makeup of the body that will guide the Police Department through a series of reforms.

Hwang, who won his election bid for an empty San Francisco Superior Court seat Nov. 8, made his resignation effective immediately in a letter he sent to the Board of Supervisors on Monday.

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Police Commission President Suzy Loftus said Hwang’s presence will be missed.

“Commissioner Hwang made a tremendous impact on our work on the commission,” she said. “He will be missed, but our loss is ultimately the judiciary’s gain.”

Hwang’s seat is one of three the Board of Supervisors appoints to the seven-member body; the rest are appointed by the mayor. The commission oversees the Police Department and has been tasked by Mayor Ed Lee with guiding a series of reform efforts meant to limit fatal killings by police and rebuild community trust after racist text scandals and police shootings.

The resignation could play a part in the choice of a new police chief if Lee sends back the names the commission forwarded to him earlier this month. Lee has yet to make an announcement on the names, but if he sends all three names back, the now shrunken commission would have to choose another trio of candidates for the mayor.

Hwang was appointed by the Board of Supervisors in May 2014, replacing vocal police critic Angela Chan in a process many thought was overly political.

Now the possibility of a political fight for his replacement could reoccur.

That’s because the commission may look much different without Hwang, who has been one of the more critical voices on the commission. If the current Board of Supervisors — which has more progressives than moderates — chooses Hwang’s replacement their choice may be more likely to hold the Police Department’s feet to the fire when it comes to ongoing reforms.

But if the choice is delayed until new supervisors take their seats, a moderate majority might choose his replacement.

Supervisor Katy Tang, who chairs the Rules Committee that’s responsible for scheduling the hearing for Hwang’s replacement, could delay that choice until next year. She did not immediately respond to a call for comment.

Hwang said there will be a Rules Committee hearing Dec. 8, but it’s unlikely the current Board of Supervisors will take part in choosing his replacement. The Board of Supervisors’ last meeting of the year is Dec. 13.

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