Letters

On July 20, I participated in a meeting with lawyers from the City Attorney's Office, the OCC, the SFPD, and the POA, where possible compromise language for a police-accountability charter amendment to be proposed by Supervisor Ammiano was discussed. This meeting was necessary because of a city attorney's opinion (which the ACLU opposed) claiming the POA's "meet and confer" rights would keep major portions of Ammiano's proposal off the ballot. It was hardly a secret meeting, since a representative of the major opponent for the proposed compromise, the SFPD, was present and offered suggestions on appropriate wording.

Less than one hour after this meeting broke up -- with agreement in principle but no final language compiled or circulated -- I ran into Larry outside the board's hearing on the mayor's curfew proposal. I told Larry that I did not feel comfortable discussing the details of this meeting since, to the best of my knowledge, even Supervisor Ammiano had not yet been provided this information.

Larry accused me of betraying the principle of open government in a democratic society! To an ACLU lawyer, them's fightin' words. I tried to tell Larry that I was not aware that the tedious process of crafting language for proposed ballot measures could not be worked out in meetings before they were presented publicly to the full board. (Larry may have participated in a few of these meetings himself over the years.) By way of analogy, I pointed out that it is customary for lawyers in settlement discussions in litigation not to discuss the details of those negotiations until a final agreement is reached and/or brought before a public body.

Of course, what's lost in all of this is what the ACLU and POA were arguing about in the first place. I hope that by the time this letter is published there is a measure on the November ballot that: 1) finally guarantees adequate funding for the OCC; 2) gives the board a voice in choosing the OCC director (we've had too many watchdogs who won't bark or bite); 3) takes police misconduct settlements and judgments out of the SFPD budget rather than the general fund; and 4) denies promotion for two years to any cop found guilty of serious misconduct.

John M. Crew
Director, ACLU Police Practices Project
San Francisco

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