Police-community relations take floor at SF Police Commission

The first San Francisco Police Commission meeting of 2015 featured more than the usual gadflies and glad-handing.

Much of Wednesday night's hearing was taken up by people making the uncomfortable comparison between police violence in Ferguson, Mo., and San Francisco.

The six commissioners and Chief Greg Suhr sat and listened as a line of people spoke about the ill treatment of black and Latino people at the hands of San Francisco's finest and the lack of an official response in light of recent protests.

“We would like to think that things are improving,” said Amos Brown, a pastor and the president of San Francisco's NAACP chapter, adding that “the quality of life for African-Americans sucks.”

Protesters have targeted police nationwide since a Missouri grand jury in late November declined to charge Officer Darren Wilson, who is white, in the shooting death of an unarmed Michael Brown, who was black, on Aug. 9.

Until now the discontent of nearly daily protests across the Bay Area had not made its way to the floor of The City's police oversight body.

Among the crowd packed into the meeting room was a representative of Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and youths who said they represent protesters against police violence.

The common thread among the speakers was a sense that San Francisco's police have not come far enough in terms of improving relations with communities of color.

“San Francisco is Ferguson,” said SEIU Local 1021 representative Alicia James, pointing out that Public Defender Jeff Adachi is the only elected official in San Francisco to clearly stand alongside protesters pushing for police reforms.

Her statement, while not entirely true, did speak to the heated nature of such public sentiment up until now in San Francisco and elsewhere.

Supervisor John Avalos, who represents minority communities in San Francisco's southern neighborhoods, recently penned a nonbinding resolution at the Board of Supervisors doing much the same as Adachi, but that version was voted down in part because the San Francisco Police Officers Association opposed language that compared The City's police and the killing of Brown in Ferguson.

De' Anthony Jones, 23, and his two young companions spoke about the inordinate percentage of people of color who are arrested and jailed in San Francisco despite their small populations here.

Jones' request to the commission, similar in ways to other calls for public discussion and debate about police violence, was more pointed. He requested that the commission make one of its members a San Francisco youth.

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