A woman talking
Maxine Anderson was the sole San Franciscan who deigned to show up to Tuesday's Japantown meeting of the Sheriff's Oversight Board. Photo by Yujie Zhou. Taken March 28, 2023.

The second community meeting to discuss qualifications for a new leader of the Sheriff’s Department Oversight Board drew the same number of participants as the first: One. Tuesday night’s meeting was held in District 5, which includes Cole Valley, the Haight and the Western Addition. 

The meeting, originally scheduled for two hours, was adjourned after barely half that time. In the first hour, the six board members in attendance — Xóchitl Carrión was missing — had an in-depth, 35-minute discussion with one audience member.

The nascent Sheriff’s Department Oversight Board, approved by San Francisco voters, is in the process of hiring its first Inspector General to lead the office overseeing the conduct of sheriff’s deputies. 

Speaking over sounds from the nearby basketball court, the six board members introduced themselves to an empty room. Every few minutes, the lights, which were triggered by motion sensors, would dim, forcing the board members to wave their arms to relight them, even as they offered reminders about future venues and times for the next three meetings. 

Almost 15 minutes into the meeting, Jayson Wechter, the board’s president, announced a 10-minute recess to await the arrival of participants. Just then, Maxine Anderson, the evening’s savior, arrived.

As the meeting resumed, the board members introduced themselves again, this time with more color and detail.

Anderson, who identified herself as a resident of District 5 and a director for the League of Women Voters of California, asked about the board’s vision for the Inspector General. The board members responded one by one, offering answers which mentioned fairness, morality, commitment, respectfulness, experience in working with various communities, and “understanding this role is gonna be difficult,” but not giving up. 

“You are here for the long haul,” Anderson said. 

Not for the first time, silence fell over the room just as the lights went out. In response, the board members waved their arms as if grasping for a lifeline.

Tuesday’s meeting in Japantown was the second of five community meetings seeking input from the public to “make sure people of San Francisco get the inspector they deserve,” said Wechter.

The lack of attendance was clearly anticipated. Unlike the previous meeting, which left virtually the whole Bayview Opera House empty, this one was held in a classroom inside Hamilton Recreation Center, where only eight chairs were prepared for participants. 

A group of people having a meeting
From left to right: Deputy City Attorney Jana Clark, acting commission secretary, six board members, Maxine Anderson. Photo by Yujie Zhou. Taken March 28, 2023.

Though Anderson offered comments every few minutes, as the meeting hit the hour mark, everyone seemed to be running out of words. Still, Anderson was glad to have attended.

“I wish there were more people from the community. I think it’s a matter of getting the word out,” she said in an interview after the meeting. But, “it doesn’t bother me at all. I had to say what I had to say. I got a chance to do it.”

Still, according to Wechter, the poor attendance wasn’t simply the result of negligence. “I’ve been sending notices out to the press, and to aides of all the supervisors, asking them to disseminate it to their constituents,” he said. Still, he said, with a tight budget, future meetings will not be providing snacks.

Six board members were present at the meeting: Jayson Wechter, Julie Soo, Ovava Eterei Afuhaamango, Dion-Jay Brookter, Michael Nguyen, William Monroe Palmer. Xóchitl Carrión was present by phone due to a family emergency.

An official job posting regarding the Inspector General of the Sheriff’s Office of Inspector General has been published. Interested parties can apply online by April 24. The candidate selected will be expected to investigate complaints against the Sheriff’s Office employees or contractors, and will receive an annual salary between $151,918 and $224,484. 

The next meeting is scheduled for April 11 at 6 p.m. at the Crocker Amazon Clubhouse, 799 Moscow Street. Similar community meetings will also be held on April 21 and May 19.

The First community meeting

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REPORTER. Yujie Zhou is our newest reporter and came on as an intern after graduating from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. She is a full-time staff reporter as part of the Report for America program that helps put young journalists in newsrooms. Before falling in love with the Mission, Yujie covered New York City, studied politics through the “street clashes” in Hong Kong, and earned a wine-tasting certificate in two days. She’s proud to be a bilingual journalist. Follow her on Twitter @Yujie_ZZ.

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  1. Its a shame there were not much person to person community outreach for the Sheriff’s Oversight Commission. The role of an Inspector General is is very important to a genuine orderly run operation and administration of the SF Sheriff’s office, staff, and its out lying branches and inmates.

  2. I think maybe they should have remote access to the meeting? There are people for whom COVID can still be a big health issue if infected. Could the board maybe set up some sort of video (like Zoom) so those who have pre-existing conditions (like me) can access the meeting? And what Ramon David Zaniba said.

  3. The timing of these meetings is also incredibly inconvenient for people who work and have families. We have access to online meeting spaces now, which would definitely increase turnout.

    Maybe there is an underlying, unexplored reason they do not really want good turnout?

  4. Wechter has been sending out notices to the press and supervisors aides to disseminate but still no one shows. The main thing though is no more snacks due to a tight budget. Sad that he and his fellow board members are even thinking about snacks over community input

  5. I am a resident of District 9 (The Mission), which often seems to be over-saturated with police. Whether they benefit our community or not, they still need to be accountable to the public. Why is it that I knew nothing about the forthcoming meeting until I read this article? Perhaps the problem isn’t that the public doesn’t want to know and attend, but that we see and read little to no notice about these meetings in advance?

    1. Sheriffs are not police. They do not do patrols. They provide security for city hall, the courts, oversee the jail and a few other things like performing evictions and collecting e ballot boxes for elections.

      Cities have cops and counties have sheriffs.

      1. Hello Ron! I think we’re splitting hairs. I respect what you say, and do not want anyone to construe this response with malice. San Francisco is an exception to the rule in that we are the only consolidated city and county in California. It’s true that the police patrol the streets, but they work in close conjunction with the sheriff’s department. This said, we need simultaneous accountability from both branches of law enforcement.