At a critical time for police reform, Damali Taylor, the vice president of the San Francisco Police Commission, is resigning.
In a Dec. 21 letter to Mayor London Breed, Taylor said she will be stepping down on Dec. 31, “due to work commitments and other public service projects.”
“While leaving is bittersweet, I am extremely proud of the accomplishments we have made during my time acting as Chair of the Commission,” Taylor wrote.
Taylor was appointed to the Police Commission in September, 2018, and was elected vice president in February, 2019, during a politically fraught meeting in which several commissioners prematurely walked out of the meeting to protest the outcome. They were unhappy that the mayor’s appointees, Taylor and then-President Bob Hirsch, dominated the leadership positions.
Nevertheless, Taylor remained in the leadership role and became the de facto commission chair after Hirsch resigned this spring. Hirsch’s seat remains vacant.
In her letter to the mayor, Taylor noted that, under her leadership as vice president, the commission passed a number of critical policies, including policies to mitigate racial bias, strengthen community policing, and restrict police from using their knees to restrain civilians.
However, a source familiar with the politics of the Police Commission, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said “work commitments” and “other public service projects” were not the only reason Taylor decided to leave.
Taylor notified the mayor of her resignation only days after a meeting on Dec. 16 in which the commission’s newest member, Malia Cohen, scolded Taylor for canceling a meeting the week before, even though enough commissioners were purportedly available to hold a meeting.
“It makes us look bad, as a body,” Cohen said. “There were four members able to meet, and we didn’t meet.”
“When community members asked me why we didn’t meet, I was caught flat-footed,” Cohen continued.
Taylor justified the cancellation by citing personal entanglements. But commissioners Petra DeJesus and Cohen pointed out that the meeting could have been held without Taylor, as enough commissioners were available.
When pressed by the commissioners, Taylor offered no explanation. “I’m not going to go into this,” she said.
DeJesus said the situation raised the need “to fill our leadership roles.”
And, indeed, since Hirsch stepped down, there has been no official president of the commission; Taylor led the board as vice president.
A leadership election will be held as early as Jan. 6, 2021.
Taylor did not directly respond when asked whether her resignation had anything to do with the Dec. 16 meeting and the forthcoming elections. Instead, she said, via text message “ … it’s just time.”
She reiterated her statements to the mayor that she had other professional and public service obligations, and emphasized that she furthered her goal of speeding up the progress of the 272 Department of Justice reforms that the police department had been crawling on when she took up her post.
“We have made that progress (going from a dozen to 113 reform measures completed since I joined the commission),” she wrote in her message on Monday.
Taylor’s departure means that two seats are now vacant on the Police Commission. Since the Board of Supervisors rejected two of Breed’s picks in June, the mayor responded only by appointing Cohen.
Andy Lynch, a spokesman for the mayor, said in an email that the mayor viewed Taylor as an “effective commissioner” during a “challenging and important” time for the commission.
“Whether it was the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement, or the continued efforts to reform the Police Department, this year has required a lot of difficult conversations that Commissioner Taylor has helped to shape,” Lynch wrote.
He added: “We are currently in the process of interviewing potential new nominees for the Commission.”
This article has been updated with comments from the mayor’s office.