SNAFU Will Result in Three Fewer Police Commissioners Next Month

Ladies and gentlemen, your new police commissioners!
"Put it off, put it off, blow it off" makes for one hell of a senior quote. But it's no way to run a municipal government.

Well, welcome to San Francisco. A delay in appointing and/or reappointing members of the Police Commission until it was just too damn late will result in the body having three fewer members next month, and this situation may continue for the near term. Come May 1, there will be only four commissioners -- the bare minimum allowable under law.

"We will need all four commissioners to be present to have a quorum," said David Onek, one of the quartet of police commissioners still remaining. "That means, if one commissioner can't make it, we can't even meet. And in order for anything to pass, we'll need for all four commissioners to agree."

That means that if you thought the seven-member version of the Police Commission was inefficient, the stripped-down body will be operating as if it was ankle-deep in pudding.

How did this happen? It's a combination of three P's: Procrastination, Procedure, and Politics.
'You mean they didn't appoint anyone?
Unlike many other volunteers who serve on city advisory bodies, police commissioners don't have a "holdover provision." This means that you can't keep on serving between when your term ends and you or someone else is appointed to the position. On the Police Commission, once your term is up, it's up. And, come April 30, the terms of commission president Joe Marshall, commissioner Yvonne Lee, and commissioner Vincent Pan expire. While all three are eligible for more terms, Lee has stated she doesn't wish to return.

If any moves have been made by the mayor and board to reappoint or replace them, that comes as news to Lieutenant Joe Riley, the commission's secretary. Either way, considering the procedure necessary to install new commissioners, it's simply not possible to approve any before the end of the month.

Whichever candidates are appointed by the mayor and board -- two of the vacancies must be filled by Gavin Newsom; the board fills the other -- first must clear the supes' Rules Committee. And the Rules Committee meets on the first and third Thursdays of every month -- which already happened. So, no more Rules Committee meetings in April.

Even when the Rules Committee convenes once again, appointing new police commissioners is not a trifling matter. The body is one of the most politically sensitive in the city; it serves as something of an incubator for future supervisorial candidates and other movers-and-shakers. Especially with Lee bowing out, the idea that three candidates could be appointed or reappointed, clear the Rules Committee, and then clear the full Board of Supervisors in less than several weeks -- or more -- is pushing it.

In the meantime, the Police Commission will be stretched as thin as Lara Flynn Boyle. If Onek, Thomas Mazzucco, Petra DeJesus, or Jim Hammer gets sick or even slips on a banana peel, the commission will be short and unable to convene.

Riley notes that, as long as he can remember, the commission has never had three simultaneous vacancies. "Just thinking about the time needed for matters to be agendized and noticed, meetings held, and matters transmitted from Rules Committee to the Board of Supervisors, [filling the positions] could take weeks," he says.
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