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District Attorney Terence Hallinan has asked the Board of Supervisors to give voters a chance to change the way police commissioners are appointed in San Francisco. Rather than having all five commissioners appointed by the mayor, as under the current city charter, Hallinan said he thinks that power should be split between the mayor and the Board of Supervisors. In an April 17 letter, the DA asked the board to put the question on the November ballot. Supervisor Tom Ammiano said he’d already been considering such a ballot measure, and is “99 percent sure” he’ll propose one May 13, the deadline for a supervisor to ask the board to put a measure on the November ballot. Under the current city charter, the mayor can appoint or remove police commissioners, who oversee the police department. The mayor also chooses the police chief from among three candidates nominated by the commissioners. “In a sense you’re asking the people appointed by A to oversee someone else appointed by A, and it puts them in a compromised position,” Hallinan said. The recent fajitagate incident makes it particularly clear that “the city would be better served with more diversity in police management authority,” Hallinan wrote in his letter to the supervisors. A grand jury charged three junior officers involved in a Nov. 20 street brawl with felony assault, and seven police brass with conspiring to obstruct justice, based on allegations that they tried to impede the investigation into the fight. The district attorney dropped charges against two of the brass, and San Francisco Superior Court Judge Kay Tsenin dismissed charges against the other five. The judge said she didn’t condone the officers’ actions, but also criticized the DA, saying he should not have accepted the grand jury’s conspiracy indictments. Hallinan said that commissioners had the power to address some of the officers’ behavior but put off decisions “until they saw what everybody else did.” Police commissioners could not immediately be reached at their city office for comment. Though declining to comment directly on Hallinan’s suggestion without a formal proposal on the table, the mayor’s office took an oblique shot at the district attorney, who is up for re-election in November. “Usually in the wake of a high-profile controversy, candidates for public office begin advancing wholesale policy changes that have a lot more to do with their candidacy than good public policy,” said mayoral spokesman P.J. Johnston. Hallinan denies election-related motivations and called the suggested change “a good government reform.” To change the appointment process requires an amendment to the city’s charter, which requires a majority vote in the election to pass. But before the voters can weigh in, a majority of the 11-member Board of Supervisors would have to vote to put the question on the ballot, said Deputy City Attorney Chad Jacobs. Ammiano said he thinks a majority of supervisors will support the concept, though it may be subject to some tweaking. Hallinan also alluded in his letter to the way the city’s five ethics commissioners are appointed. The mayor, Board of Supervisors, city attorney, district attorney and assessor each appoint one member. Hallinan said he thinks the Planning Commission model, though, would offer enough diversity and command authority. It has four members nominated by the mayor and three by the president of the Board of Supervisors, and all seven must be approved by the board as a whole.

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