SFPOA office, SFPD union
Photo by Charlotte Silver

Covering the Police is a collaboration with UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

Next July, the San Francisco police union will lose sixteen of its most powerful members: commanders.

Commanders are appointed by the police chief and considered executive-level managers, according to the SFPD. Beginning July 1, when the union’s contract expires, the commanders will join the Management Executive Association, which also represents the chief and the department and assistant chiefs.

The shake-up was initiated over the summer, when Police Chief Bill Scott sent a letter to the Department of Human Resources’ Employee Relations Division requesting the restructuring, saying that there was a potential conflict between the union — called the Police Officers Association — and their duties.

“It’s not my desire to create an us-versus-them,” Scott told Mission Local. “I do think there has to be a separation between the unions and the police executives.”

“The commanders’ affiliation with the SFPOA raised a number of conflicts in their ability to properly represent the Police Department in labor issues, disciplinary hearings, policy and training development, and the implementation of DOJ [Department of Justice] recommendations when negotiating against their own association,” Scott elaborated in an email to Mission Local.

According to Carol Isen, the director of employee relations at the Department of Human Resources, the Police Officers Association agreed not to appeal the decision. The commanders have also agreed to the restructuring.

“As the director of the Employee Relations Division, I am authorized to make the decision, but it is much better to get an agreement,” Isen told Mission Local.

According to the police union’s July newsletter, union president Martin Halloran had met with commanders and “laid out the benefits of staying with the POA.” But Isen said that the police union was content with the restructuring, as long as it happened after their contract ended at the end of June.

Halloran did not return a request for comment.

Angry that the mayor appointed someone from outside the SFPD, the Police Officers Association didn’t offer a warm welcome to Scott when he arrived last fall from the Los Angeles Police Department. The Los Angeles Police Protective League represents police officers, sergeants and lieutenants, but not captains or any rank above that.

When Scott was asked if he had considered including captains in the move to a new union, he replied, “Captains are middle-manager level with different roles, responsibilities and management functions than commanders.”

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