Commissioner Petra DeJesus speaks during a meeting of the San Francisco Police Commission at City Hall on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Petra DeJesus departs Police Commission after 15 years

Veteran member helped push reforms

Petra DeJesus, a longtime police commissioner who has driven reform efforts in San Francisco, is bowing out from her role after more than 15 years on the oversight body.

DeJesus has been a frequent critic of the San Francisco Police Department since her initial appointment by the Board of Supervisors in late 2005. She is known for taking on the adversarial police union in 2016, when the commission banned officers from shooting at moving cars and using the carotid restraint, and has been a vocal opponent of equipping officers with Tasers.

DeJesus, an attorney by day, attended her last Police Commission meeting Wednesday evening. Her four-year term is set to expire April 30.

Some members of the commission saw it as fitting that her departure came a day after jurors convicted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin of murder in the killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died after the officer knelt on his neck for a prolonged period. DeJesus urged her colleagues to seize the moment and push forward with reforming the department.

“You all have great policy on paper, you have a great chief of police, and now you really have the political willpower across this nation to really implement the reform that needs to be implemented, and that’s that cultural shift,” DeJesus said at the meeting. “I think the officers, the command staff, the rank-and-file and I think the union have all recognized a shift in the wind where these reforms really can be possible, and this cultural change.”

Police Commission Vice President Thomas Mazzucco and member Petra DeJesus listen as Chief William Scott gives his report during a police commission held at the Korean American Community Center in SFPD's Northern District of San Francisco, Calif. Wednesday, July 19, 2017. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

Police Chief Bill Scott said DeJesus was the last remaining member of the Police Commission that recommended him for the job in late 2016, and thanked her for the opportunity.

“San Francisco, I know we have our work cut out for us, but people are looking at us as a model on use of force and so many other issues, and that’s due to your leadership,” Scott said.

Commission Vice President Cindy Elias and Commissioner John Hamasaki, who have both pushed for reforms in their own tenures, each described DeJesus as a mentor.

“You were a champion on this commission for a very long time and were always pushing the envelope, moving things forward,” Elias said.

“Petra was and has been the radical, she’s been tagged the radical on the left throwing out policies and procedures and changes that were fought — kicking, thrashing — along the way but are now celebrated as best practices,” Hamasaki said. “When we talk about some of the models San Francisco sets for the country, these are policies that Petra was once the lone voice in the wilderness calling out for.”

Commission President Malia Cohen remembered not just the policies DeJesus helped craft, but the people she served with, including former presidents Suzy Loftus and the late Julius Turman. She also recalled moments like the hunger strike against police shootings by the so-called “Frisco Five.”

“It is no mistake Petra that you are leaving on the day after the Derek Chauvin verdict has come out that has really framed an important discussion around accountability and use of force,” Cohen said.

DeJesus departed the same meeting where the Police Commission welcomed a new member, immigration attorney and mayoral appointee Jim Byrne, and had a full seven commissioners for the first time in a while.

It is unclear at this point who will replace her.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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