Divided board votes down Avalos on policing

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted down a resolution drafted by San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos affirming the board’s support of the right of individuals to protest and calling for reforms in national policing and judicial practices on Tuesday.

Avalos’ resolution sparked criticism from the San Francisco Police Officers Association and his colleagues on the board on the grounds that it contained false assertions against local law enforcement professionals in its effort to affirm the Board of Supervisors’ commitment to equal justice.

On Tuesday, following much debate, the resolution was ultimately rejected in a five-four vote, according to Avalos’ legislative aide Jeremy Pollock. The resolution was drafted following grand jury decisions in Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, New York in which white police officers who killed unarmed black men failed to be indicted.

Avalos’ proposed resolution referred to officer-involved shootings that occurred in the Bay Area, including the killing of Alex Nieto in San Francisco and Oscar Grant in Oakland.

The resolution stated that in San Francisco, the names of the officers involved in the March 21 killing of Alex Nieto have not been released after nine months, which Avalos said seriously undermines trust between members of the community and police.

In addition, the resolution stated that the police killings across the country have spurred protests to which local and state law enforcement responded “with an overwhelming show of force, including military-grade weapons and equipment.”

The resolution noted that the San Francisco Police Department has not responded to protests in that manner and applauded their restraint.

Martin Halloran, president of the SFPOA, wrote a letter addressed to Avalos expressing his disappointment in the resolution, saying:

“You are usurping the legitimate debate developing in this country about law enforcement and race relations in order to inflame a local issue that you have deliberately obscured with innuendos and false assertions.”

Halloran charged Avalos with using “a very broad brush to paint all of America’s law enforcement professionals as racist, militaristic occupiers.”

He said the rhetoric used in the resolution is “inflammatory” and “exaggerated.” Halloran said San Francisco residents deserve balance from their elected officials and public servants and suggested the language used in the resolution might even instigate further violence in the city’s streets.

At the Tuesday Board of Supervisors meeting, Halloran spoke during public comment about the language in the resolution that compared the incidents in New York and Missouri to the Alex Nieto incident in San Francisco. Halloran said the resolution portrayed members of the San Francisco Police Department as “trigger happy.”

Avalos said in response on Tuesday that many people, including those in San Francisco, see the judicial system as broken and that “the fear that young people have of our police officers is something that is palpable.”

He said black youth remain afraid of police officers and that the resolution was not meant to be offensive to police or the SFPOA, but to recognize that relationships between the community and law enforcement need to be improved.

Supervisor Malia Cohen, who represents residents in the Bayview District and surroundings, and Supervisor London Breed, who represents the Fillmore neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods, said they recognize the resolution is about police brutality, but said it is important that the board not compare the San Francisco Police Department to the police departments operating in New York and Missouri.

Breed said she was “not willing to hate on the police” or the community or support something so divisive.