Sparks elected Police Commission head

Former San Francisco City Attorney Louise Renne abruptly resigned from the Police Commission on Thursday, saying the civilian oversight body had become a “political football” that would only become more politicized under its new president.

Renne said she had planned to leave the commission after her term expired in 2008, but decided to leave immediately after Thursday’s vote at the Police Commission in which Commissioner Theresa Sparks, in a 4-3 vote over Commissioner Joe Marshall, was elected to succeed Renne as president.

Renne said she “would not serve on a commission under Theresa Sparks.”

Renne, who served as San Francisco Unified School District general counsel after leaving the City Attorney’s Office in 2002, became president of the Police Commission in May 2004, shortly after Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed her. She said the increasingly political nature of the commission sealed her decision. The commission has been marked by ideological splits, with Sparks and other members demanding more aggressive oversight of the Police Department.

“You have two [commissioners] who are actively running for other offices and the whole tone of the commission has become completely political in nature,” Renne said.

Commissioner David Campos has announced that he will run for supervisor in District 9, and Renne said she believed Joe Alioto Veronese was planning to run for state senator, a charge Veronese denies.

On Thursday, Yvonne Lee, Marshall and Renne all supported Marshall, but Veronese, along with Petra DeJesus, Campos and Sparks, supported Sparks.

“Louise Renne is a terrific public servant. The mayor has the utmost respect for her,” said Mayor Gavin Newsom’s spokesman, Nathan Ballard. “As a police commissioner, she always put in long hours to try to forge compromise between disparate elements.”

Newsom “wishes to congratulate Theresa Sparks” for becoming commission president, Ballard said.

Ballard said Newsom is reviewing a short list of replacement candidates, but that one had not been identified as of Thursday evening. He said a replacement would be nominated “in short order.”

Sparks is the first transgender person to serve as president of a police commission in the United States. “I’m thrilled to death,” she said. Sparks said she hoped to focus on combating gun crime and enhancing staffing and resources in the department.

amartin@examiner.com


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