SF police commissioner faces reappointment battle

The four year term of Police Commissioner Julius Turman, one of two black police commissioners in San Francisco and the commission’s vice president, may come to an end this month if he is not reappointed by the Board of Supervisors.

Before being re-appointed, Turman, who was appointed in 2011, and currently is heading up efforts to work with the black community on police relations, must go before the Rules Committee, chaired by Supervisor John Avalos.

Avalos said the expects the appointment process will be put on the May 14 meeting agenda and Turman’s name will be put forward as a candidate. No other candidates have put their names forward.

But Avalos said he wants to be given the time to vet any candidate that is appointed, even if Turman ends up keeping the seat.

“I haven’t heard anything negative around him,” Avalos said of Turman. Avalos added he wants to make sure whoever’s appointed is an advocate for the community and a watchdog of the department.

“I haven’t heard enough from the commissioners,” Avalos said, “about what they think needs to happen to clear up a lot of the controversy swirling around the police department.”

The issue comes on the heels of anti-racist protests nationwide in response to cases where black men were fatally shot by law enforcement. In addition, in March a group of San Francisco police officers were revealed to have allegedly sent racist and homophobic text messages to one another in 2011 and 2012.

Turman says he still wants the job, but hasn’t been told he has it for sure. “I have been asked by the president of commission to lead some efforts around some of the issues community have brought to us,” he said, noting that the community issues centered on diversity training.

Turman said that while he’s been talking to supervisors, he hasn’t “gotten any communication about board appointment status. I plan on seeking another term. I want to stay on commission.”

The last battle over a police commission position was in 2014 when former commissioner Angela Chan, who was supported by progressives and seen as a voice for reform, was replaced by current commissioner Victor Hwang, who was also a board appointment.

Board President London Breed says this process does not bear resemblance to that fight.

Still, she wants to be able to vet whomever is appointed to make sure they act as a “watchdog” over the department. But, pointed out Breed, that does not mean an obstructionist.

“I just want to know what he’s done on the commission,” she said of Turman.

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