Malia Cohen, a former San Francisco supervisor, was elected president of the San Francisco Police Commission on Wednesday.
The vote of the five sitting commissioners was unanimous. In the same vote, the commission elected Commissioner Cindy Elias to serve as vice president of the commission.
The election of Cohen comes after Damali Taylor, who led the commission as vice president since spring 2020, following the resignation of Bob Hirsch, announced her resignation days before Christmas. Her resignation came shortly after she canceled a meeting despite a quorum of commissioners being available.
Cohen scolded Taylor for that misstep. “It makes us look bad as a body,” Cohen said during a meeting on Dec. 16. “There were four members able to meet, and we didn’t meet.”
Now, weeks later, Cohen has assumed the leadership position. She is the newest member of the commission, having joined in August — nominated by Mayor London Breed and unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors. In addition to her new duties, she sits on the state Board of Equalization, a body that oversees tax administration in California.
Following the vote on Wednesday, Cohen said she was “excited to be taking the helm and taking it with Cindy.” She said the scene Wednesday of Trump supporters storming the Capitol in Washington D.C. only underscored the “need for good strong leadership — transparent leadership.”
Cohen served as a member of the Board of Supervisors from 2011 to 2019, and was the president of the board for six months beginning in June, 2018. During her tenure as supervisor, she authored a successful 2016 ballot measure that strengthened the powers of the Department of Police Accountability. She also authored a law that requires the police department to release quarterly statistics on stops, searches and use of force.
Shortly after her second term as supervisor expired in January 2019, Cohen was elected to the State Board of Equalization.
The Police Commission’s leadership roles are largely ceremonial — although the commission president is in charge of scheduling agenda items and generally sets the tone and pace of meetings.
And Cohen wasted no time in suggesting changes on Wednesday. She made a recommendation, which will be discussed at a later date, that a 30-minute public comment session be held at the beginning of each meeting. General public comment is usually held at the end.
“I do believe it’s unfair for people to wait hours to give public comment,” she said.
Other commissioners seemed happy — even relieved — that Cohen will be leading the commission.
Congratulating Cohen, Commissioner John Hamasaki said: “It’s a good sign that we’re returning the commission to acting on behalf of the city and its people.”