Malia Cohen, a former city supervisor and chair of the California State Board of Equalization, was appointed to the Police Commission last August. (Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner file photo)

Malia Cohen, a former city supervisor and chair of the California State Board of Equalization, was appointed to the Police Commission last August. (Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner file photo)

Former supervisor, ex-public defender to lead SF Police Commission

Oversight body elects Malia Cohen and Cindy Elias to leadership positions

San Francisco’s Police Commission chose two new leaders to head the oversight panel Wednesday after the unexpected resignation of its acting chair last month.

The commission voted 5-0 to elect former supervisor Malia Cohen as president and former deputy public defender Cindy Elias as vice president.

The seven-seat body has been operating with fewer members than usual after two commissioners left and the Board of Supervisors rejected a pair of mayoral appointments last year.

Mayor London Breed then nominated Cohen, who cleared the Board of Supervisors without issue last August, but has not filled the other vacant seat.

“I appreciate the vote of confidence, I’m excited to be taking the helm and taking it with Ms. Cindy who is fantastic,” Cohen said.

Cohen currently works as a member of the California State Board of Equalization, while Elias is an attorney with the California Department of Industrial Relations.

Elias has served on the commission since being appointed by the Board of Supervisors in 2018. She has focused on issues such as bias and police use-of-force during her tenure.

With the ability to impose serious discipline against police officers and craft policy, the Police Commission is one of the most powerful panels in local government.

But the board has had to contend with technical issues and lengthy meetings in recent months. Rival commissioners have also openly squabbled during the virtual meetings.

Cohen signaled that the disarray would end under her leadership, directing Chief Bill Scott to keep his weekly report on current events brief in her first act as president.

The election came after former commission Vice President Damali Taylor abruptly resigned last month citing “work committments and other public serving projects.”

Taylor had been leading the commission as acting chair since former President Bob Hirsch stepped down early last year.

“As chair, I strove to be thoughtful and, most importantly, to leave the department better than I found it,” Taylor wrote in her Dec. 21 resignation letter to Breed. “While there are still miles to go, I leave confident in that being the case.”

Breed has not announced who her next nominees will be.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect Malia Cohen’s correct position with the Board of Equalization.

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