Police Commissioner Julius Turman. Photo: Facebook
The president of San Francisco’s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People recently wrote to the city’s Board of Supervisors urging them to keep Julius Turman, a gay black attorney, on the police commission.
Turman, who’s been on the panel since 2011 and serves as its vice president, isn’t aware of anyone challenging him for his seat, but a San Francisco Examiner story has caused concern.
Reverend Amos Brown, the NAACP’s local chapter head, wrote in his letter to supervisors last week that member of his group “were unaware of any challenge or issue respecting” Turman’s reappointment “until we were apprised on this past Sunday” April 19, when the Examiner story ran.
Brown said in his April 22 letter that it’s the “unequivocal will” of the city’s NAACP branch that Turman be re-appointed to the commission “without any break in service.”
Turman’s term on the panel expired Thursday, April 30, according to Brown, who pointed to Turman’s “stellar qualifications.”
“He is an accomplished attorney,” and Turman “is intelligent, hard-working and knowledgeable about the myriad issues” facing the police department, “which disproportionately impact the African American, Latin, and poor communities” of the city, Brown said.
The Examiner noted that Turman is one of two black commissioners and said he’s currently leading efforts “to work with the black community on police relations,” but first, he has to go to the Rules Committee.
Supervisor John Avalos, the committee’s chair, told the Examiner that he expects the matter to come up at the May 14 meeting.
“I haven’t heard anything negative around” Turman, Avalos told the paper, but he said he wants time to vet “any candidate that is appointed.”
In an interview with the Bay Area Reporter today (Friday, May 1), Brown reiterated his support for Turman.
“That commission needs and must have commissioners who are sensitive to what time it is now, as regards relationships between the police and African American community,” Brown said.
Local law enforcement agencies have recently been embroiled in controversy, which has included allegations that several San Francisco police officers had exchanged racist and homophobic text messages.
Brown’s comments came the same day Marilyn Mosby, the Maryland state attorney for Baltimore, announced charges against Baltimore police officers she said are responsible for the death of Freddie Gray, an African American man who died after his arrest in April.
Brown referred to the August 2014 death of black Ferguson, Missouri resident Michael Brown, 18, who was unarmed when he was shot to death by a white police officer.
In a letter to San Francisco officials before that incident, Brown said, the local NAAC included a three-point plan calling for “quality, community-based policing,” “sensitivity training,” and “a diverse police force.”
“Mr. Turman was the one commissioner who came to several meetings, who sat and listened,” Brown said today. “He was not on the defensive, and he made the commitment to support our three-point policing program. … That’s why we support him, and we appeal to the Board of Supervisors to make sure he is reappointed to that commission.”
Turman told the B.A.R. that he hasn’t seen Brown’s letter.
“I have no comment on any of this,” he said. “I don’t know anything about there being an issue.”
Asked if there’s anyone challenging him, he said, “I have no information on this regard.”
However, Turman said, “No commissioner is or should believe himself or herself to be an automatic reappointment.”
He said he’s sure each supervisor will “do their due diligence to make sure that person has performed or will perform the duties required of them.”
Turman said there aren’t any supervisors he’s concerned about getting support from.
As for what his biggest achievement has been on the commission, or what he wants to do next, he said, “I think my record speaks for itself, and I am not presumptuous enough to assume anything at this point. That’s all I’ll say.”
Avalos was out of cellphone range today, according to his outgoing message, and his staff didn’t immediately provide comment to the B.A.R.
Gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener said Turman’s been “a terrific commissioner. He has my full support.”
“He’s been an exceptional police commissioner,” Wiener said. “He’s very diligent. Any time I’ve had any issues that need help from the commission, he’s been helpful.”
Turman was one of the panel’s members “who really played a key role” in updating police district boundaries this year, among other efforts, the supervisor said. That process included making the Duboce Triangle area part of the Park police station, which the LGBT-heavy neighborhood “really wanted,” Wiener said.
Gay District 9 Supervisor David Campos, who’s a former police commissioner, didn’t respond to an interview request.
Turman’s status on the police oversight panel wasn’t the only thing he wasn’t eager to discuss. He wouldn’t share his age.
“Are you seriously expecting me to answer that question?” he said, laughing. “I’m not going to answer that one. You have a good day.” He then hung up the phone.