The traditionally Chinese American held seat on the San Francisco Police Commission will stay that way after the Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday night to appoint University of San Francisco law professor Bill Ong Hing.
Hing is the director of the Immigration and Deportation Defense Clinic at USF and has decades of experience in immigration and civil rights issues.
“It’s very clear who the most qualified, at this time in history for the police commissioner, is,” said Supervisor Eric Mar who was among the majority that supported Hing. Mar said his choice was based on qualifications, not personal identity.
Supervisor Malia Cohen, who introduced a counter-motion to appoint civil rights attorney John Hamasaki to the vacant seat, said she took issue with the fact that Hing was late in applying for the seat and that he’s never attended a Police Commission meeting.
“I was really uncomfortable with the level of identity politics displayed in the committee,” Cohen said, adding that the choice should be based on qualifications.
Board of Supervisors President London Breed and Cohen were the only candidates who voted against Hing.
In general, the Board of Supervisors thought all of the candidates were highly qualified, despite their debate. Many pointed out Hamaski’s efforts to reach out to the board long before the vote.
“We have three incredibly qualified candidates,” said Supervisor Katy Tang, noting that she would back any of them.
A split Rules Committee voted 2-1 on Monday to recommend Hing fill the empty seat on the Police Commission.
Hing and Hamasaki were among five people who applied for the position, which was vacated by commissioner Victor Hwang last month after Hwang was elected to a Superior Court judgeship.
Hwang’s absence leaves the commission with an empty seat during an important period of reforms. In some cases, the reforms have been opposed by the San Francisco Police Officers Association.
Hing, who is now one of three board-appointed commissioners — the mayor appoints four of the seven commissioners — will play a key role in steering the San Francisco Police Department through its accountability and use-of-force reforms.