Mayor Mark Farrell has sent a letter to the Democratic National Committee saying he would like San Francisco to host the 2020 Democratic National Convention. (Mira Laing/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Reformers urge SF to let elected mayor negotiate police union contract

Police reform advocates are calling on city officials to extend contract negotiations with the San Francisco Police Officers Association until after interim Mayor Mark Farrell is out of office in June.

The No Justice, No Deal Coalition sent a letter to Farrell on Wednesday urging The City to either extend the terms of the current police contract until an elected mayor is in office next year, or propose only a short-term contract with new terms.

The coalition of more than 30 community groups is seeking to hold accountable the mayor, who oversees the negotiation of the next decade-long contract. Farrell, who has close ties with the police union, will be out of office by the time the current contract expires at the end of June.

SEE RELATED: SF police union prefers contract negotiations under interim Mayor Farrell

“We just think that the new mayor should be onboard since that is going to have to be the person who is living with the contract and taking responsibility for it,” said Father Richard Smith of Faith in Action Bay Area, who sent the letter.

The police union wants raises for officers in the San Francisco Police Department. The coalition is calling on the Department of Human Resources to reach a deal with the union that requires its cooperation with police reform in exchange.

Smith said Farrell’s support for the POA is not a “foundational” reason why they are calling for negotiations to continue under a new mayor. But the police union did applaud the decision appoint Farrell as acting mayor last month.

Farrell shared a political consultant with the POA until this week. That advisor, Nathan Ballard, said Monday he would temporarily split from the police union through the end of Farrell’s term to avoid a potential conflict of interest.

Farrell has also voted alongside the police union in the past.

Farrell was the only supervisor to vote against installing a memorial for Alex Nieto, who was shot and killed by police, in December 2016. At the time, Farrell echoed the argument the POA used to oppose creating a day of remembrance for Mario Woods, another man who died at the hands of police.

“Obviously, we are happier with someone who agrees with us more than Mark agrees with us,” Smith said. “But it’s more than simply, we don’t want to work with him because he doesn’t agree with us.”

Anand Subramanian of PolicyLink, another member of the coalition and the former head of a blue ribbon panel on bias in the SFPD, agreed with Smith.

“We just thought, in the best interests of The City, it made sense for an elected mayor to oversee the contract,” Subramanian said.

Subramanian said another reason is that the SFPD will be farther along in implementing hundreds of police reform recommendations from the U.S. Department of Justice. A year from now, Subramanian said advocates would have “a better sense” of how the POA may intervene in the process.

“The City has a legal responsibility to negotiate with the San Francisco Police Officers Association,” said Ellen Canale, a spokesperson for the mayor. “While we are currently in the process of those negotiations, we do not comment on the nature of those discussions. However, during this process we appreciate and review any and all feedback from the public.”

The POA did not respond to a request for comment but has previously said it does support police reform.

However, John Crew, a retired attorney for the ACLU of Northern California and member of the coalition, said that claim is “nonsense.”

“San Francisco needs high-quality, unbiased, modern, 21st century policing in exchange for what we pay under the POA’s contract,” he said. “We need to make sure that the new deal addresses those issues.”

The Board of Supervisors needs to approve a successor memorandum of understanding with the police union before the current contract expires June 30.

John Cote, a spokesperson for the City Attorney’s Office, said Farrell could not extend the contract on his own but could direct the Department of Human Resources to negotiate a one-year term.

Farrell could also direct the department to negotiate another version of the current contract that would still have to be approved by the Board of Supervisors, according to Cote.

The POA has not released any details about the contract negotiations but has said it seeks comparable pay to other police departments in the Bay Area.

The coalition is seeking a meeting with Farrell to discuss its demands. A meeting has yet to be scheduled.

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