Julius Turman’s departure leaves the Police Commission dark — indefinitely

Longtime Police Commissioner Julius Turman died shortly after stepping down from the Police Commission. Photo by Lola M. Chavez

Update: As of Friday, approvals for mayoral nominees Sonia Melara and Joe Marshall have been scheduled for Tuesday’s Rules Committee hearing. 

Petra DeJesus described Julius Turman as refreshingly “blunt.” Thomas Mazzucco described him as “honest,” and compared his integrity to that of Robert Mueller, III. Bob Hirsch said his “bedside manner can be very rough,” but his “heart and mind are admirable.”

Even Paulette Brown, a woman shows up to every Police Commission meeting to ask for the police’s help in apprehending her son’s killers, said: “I know we had a few brushes together. But thank you for being here.”

It was Turman’s last meeting as President of the Police Commission. After seven years on the commission, he decided to cut his most recent term short, saying he was “tired” and wanted to allow for new ideas. No one has been chosen to replace him.

Nonetheless, Turman oversaw several consequential votes on the commission, including the revision of the department’s use-of-force policy, as well as the implementation body-cameras and the tense approval of Tasers. Until now, he’s led the Commission on implementing the Department of Justice’s reform recommendations for the SFPD.

Yet, in spite of his measured insights and fierce advocacy of the commission’s power — even his odd affinity for a public commenter named Ace — Turman wasn’t always known for his charm. He would not hesitate to roll his eyes at public commenters or tell very high-ranking officers to “Sit down!” (He hung up on this reporter at least once.)

But on Wednesday evening, he took his colleagues’ valedictions with intermittent smiles and, in response, made a raspy and quiet final statement.

“I can never say my work is done, because there is plenty to look forward to,” he said, looking a little sad.

There isn’t, however, much to look forward to for the Police Commission — at least not in the near future. The Commission will not convene next week, and possibly for the following weeks — because there aren’t enough members on the board to decide anything.

“We do not have a quorum (next week),” Turman said. “There are some commission appointments that need to be filled to bring the quorum levels back up to speed.”

Bill Ong Hing quietly stepped down on April 1. Turman will leave his seat empty on May 4 (which is now Julius Turman Day, by decree of Mayor Mark Farrell). And Joe Marshall and Sonia Melara were nominated by Farrell, but have not yet been confirmed. In short, four of the seven seats are empty.

The Police Commission is tasked with setting the San Francisco Police Department’s policy, and conducts disciplinary hearings for officers. Four of the seven seats are nominated by the Mayor, and the other three by the Board of Supervisors.

The appointments — and approvals for mayor’s appointments — are vetted at the Board of Supervisors’ Rules Committee. That is headed by District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safai, who is responsible for putting the appointments on the calendar.

But it’s unclear if he will do that. Safai’s office did not return Mission Local’s request for comment.

Commissioner DeJesus said that if Safai does not put the approvals on Tuesday’s calendar, the appointments would have to wait another two weeks, as the committee meets only twice a month.

“We could be dark for the entire month,” she said.  

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