When I began researching the police commission's performance, I imagined I'd be able to obtain a list of case numbers that had been assigned to individual commissioners, match that against a list of resolved cases, and get a sense of which commissioners were actually performing their assigned duties. However, the commission's secretary told me there is no centralized record. And why should there be?

"You're talking about a pretty much volunteer position," said Sparks, in reference to commissioners' $100-per-month stipend. "You don't get paid enough to pay for your parking."

But police commission jobs weren't always considered part-time. At the start of the 20th century, commissioners earned the same $100 per month, while the chief of police earned $300 per month. Today, Gascón earns $292,000 per year; if commissioners had received similar raises, they'd be making nearly $100,000 per year, sufficient to entice candidates willing to devote workdays to the job.

But somewhere along the line, the position went from being considered a real job to a volunteer public service position.

More recently, the police commission has become politically sexy — to its further detriment.

In 2003, it was caught in the middle of a battle between the leftist majority on the Board of Supervisors and then-Mayor Willie Brown. Proposition H declared that the supervisors would now select three of the commission's seven members — and the mayor's remaining picks had to be confirmed by the board.

That achieved the desired result of making the commission more sensitive to public opinion. But the fact that its televised meetings were now more contentious and interesting meant some members became more politically prominent. Some, such as Campos, Sparks, and Marshall, had star power before they were appointed. And they have held demanding day jobs.

That's too bad. For all the talk of possible police commission reforms, nobody seems to be mentioning an obvious one: Hold commissioners to the same standards they hold officers. Pay them a decent salary, adjusted for inflation. Track their performance. If they don't complete the job they signed up for, they should be replaced by people who will.

And if those replacements happen to be retired judges or other dull San Franciscans with no potential for the political major leagues, so much the better.

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