Political power play unseats SF Police Commissioner who fought Secure Communities

Angela Chan speaking at a board meeting.
Image via Asian Law Caucus

Police Commissioner Angela Chan fought the federal government as they unjustly tried to deport undocumented San Franciscans who were guilty of no crimes, and won.

She fought to arm the SFPD with de-escalation tactics instead of Tasers, and won again. 

But at today's Board of Supervisors meeting, Chan lost.The board denied her reappointment to the Police Commission, and seven supervisors voted to appoint her opponent, Victor Hwang, instead.

"I can see the writing on the wall and the way the votes are coming down," Supervisor Eric Mar said to the board just before the vote. "It’s a sad day for the immigrant rights movement when a strong leader cannot be reappointed. Its a a sad day when a woman standing up for immigrant justice is not reappointed."

The decision came after heated backdoor politicking by Chinatown political leader Rose Pak, insiders told us. Politicians involved would only speak on background, for fear of reprisal from Pak, but openly told the Guardian that Pak felt Chan spent too much time advocating for other communities of color, instead of just focusing on issues affecting Chinatown.

Chan gained national recognition for her work against Secure Communities, or S-Comm, a program that allows U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold undocumented persons they'd later like to deport, often indefinitely.

Pak came out swinging against Chan in the wake of those battles, we were told, because they diverted from efforts relating to Chinatown. Public records requests also show that Pak's allies operated against Chan, demonstrating Pak's influence.

A series of public records requests from the Guardian confirmed that Malcolm Yeung, a well-known "hatchet man" for Pak, emailed the Board of Supervisors with scores of support letters for Chan's opponent, Hwang. One of those support letters came from noted Reverend Norman Fong, a powerful voice in the Chinatown community and the executive director of the Chinatown Community Development Center. 

For a full recap of the nasty politics that came out to slam Chan, check out our post from earlier today.

Sup. Katy Tang introduced the motion to strike Chan's name from the appointment, and replace it with Hwang's. 

"We are lucky when we have such strong candidates," Tang said. "However it is because of Victor’s sense of criminal justice and civil rights experience that we bring to a full vote to put Victor to the Police Commission."

But other supervisors noted the obvious elephant in the room -- there was not only one vacant seat on the police commission, but two. One appointed by the supervisors, the other appointed by Mayor Ed Lee.

Supervisor John Avalos suggested the Board of Supervisors make a motion to request the mayor appoint Hwang himself, allowing for both Chan and Hwang to be appointed, a compromise move that would benefit everyone.

"[Mayor Ed Lee] could appoint Victor to the committee," Avalos said to the board. "There’s room for both of them to be on the commission."

But Board of Supervisors President David Chiu said he asked Mayor Lee that very question, and that he was denied.

"It's something I asked," he said. "It is not something that will happen." He went on to note that both candidates were very well-qualified, but did not explain why he would support one over the other, saying: "It is not the practice of the mayor to solve difficult decisions of the board. It's up to us." 

Then Chiu said he would vote for Hwang, a surprising move. Chiu is running for state assembly on the notion that he is the compromise candidate, yet was unable to broker a compromise that was clearly in front of him: there were two vacant police commission seats, and two candidates. 

Chiu's support for Hwang was especially surprising considering Rose Pak is oft-described as Chiu's political enemy. One must wonder what political favors he gained for his support of Hwang. 

Kim repeatedly referenced her friendship with Hwang in the discussion leading up to the vote.

In the end, Supervisors Mark Farrell, Scott Wiener, Malia Cohen, London Breed, Jane Kim, Tang and Chiu voted to strike Angela Chan's name from the appointment, and to vote to appoint Hwang instead.

"I had a good four years on the commission," Chan told the Guardian in a phone interview afterwards. "I was able to accomplish a lot, along with the many people who came out today to support me. People from the mental health, African American, Asian American and Latino communities. Hopefully with this experience they will become more organized and powerful as a community."

After Victor Hwang's victory, the Guardian stopped him outside of the board chambers to ask him: If Rose Pak helped you get your seat, are you beholden to Rose Pak?

"The simple answer is no," he told the Guardian. "She’ll have no more sway than anyone else. She’s a leader in the community, and there are many leaders in the community. I’ll make independent decisions for myself."

His first priorities as a Police Commissioner, he said, would be what he called "the little things" -- pedestrian safety by the Broadway tunnel, graffiti enforcement, and making sure calls for matters like break-ins are enforced in a timely manner. 

Hwang doesn't want to start new projects right away, he said, because there are already big issues with the SFPD on the table. He said the Alejandro Nieto shooting would be a focus moving forward.

In our last story covering the shady politics behind Hwang's appointment, we likened the political machines supporting him to the Game of Thrones House Lannister (the purported villains of the show). Hwang wanted to set the record straight. 

"I think Ivy [his partner and Sup. Kim's legislative aide] took one of those personality tests for me," he said, "it came back as Jon Snow."

Jon Snow is the closest thing Game of Thrones has to a hero.

Image below: A Guardian file photo of Victor Hwang, newly appointed by the Board of Supervisors to the Police Commission.



Elections have consequences. What is it with these attempts to negotiate with these terrorists who hate our guts and are driving us to political extinction? Failing to field a slate of candidates for November's supervisor races inform these thugs that they have nothing to fear.

Should lightning strike and a progressive takes room 200 in 2015, they'll probably face a reactionary board with a veto proof majority that will continue to play for keeps.

Does anyone thing that a vote on a police commissioner with a record on immigration is going to decide the Assembly race?

This is a symptom of a greater root problem, progressive electoral collapse syndrome. Instead of fighting the symptoms, how about these "radicals" getting to the root of the problem.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 6:35 pm

being opposed to letting extremists take over the city is reactionary?

It's not like Bull Connor is in town and busting dirty hippie heads. The majority is just opposed to the terrible government that progressives represent.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 7:11 pm

How would we recognize terrible progressive government when the past 4 mayors have all been conservatives?

Posted by marcos on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 7:34 pm

Hear, hear, comrade!

Posted by Guest on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 7:47 pm
Posted by Guest on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 9:14 pm
Posted by Guest on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 10:03 pm

Laughable -- only in the insanely leftist world of SF would Willie Brown and Gavin Newsom be considered "conservative". It's liberal socialist like that who are the reason SF has become a garbage dump taken over by the homeless, with the rest of us paying sky-high rents to live in mediocre apartments just so we can support the socialist lifestyle.

Posted by SFreason on May. 01, 2014 @ 8:23 am

who is left or right wing.

Because to them, everyone is right wing.

Posted by Guest on May. 01, 2014 @ 8:49 am

Willie Brown and Gavin Newsom have had profitable political careers because they always carry the water for large landlords, big property developers and the banks who finance the transfer of wealth from working families (high rents, high housing prices, regressive taxes, high government debt and bond payments) to those who own most of the country's financial assets. If you're grading Gav and Willie as "liberal" based on their views towards LGBT rights, same-sex marriage and giving minority contractors a small piece of lucrative government contracts, then you're thinking exactly as they wish: focus only on social issues but never consider who is profiting from high rents, high housing prices and regressive taxes on lower and middle-income workers.

The Willie, Gav and DiFi show is on display in cities across the US and world, where the biggest landlords, biggest developers, and largest banks team up with "liberal" politicians and watch their collective wealth and power increase while the bottom 2/3 of society languishes further behind. Call these politicians "liberal" all you want, but know that you're helping them hide behind the scenes while they facilitate the real destruction of the wealth and economic security for millions of families in the US.

Posted by Guest on May. 01, 2014 @ 9:33 am

But SF is still less like that than other places. You just forgot which country SF is in.

Posted by Guest on May. 01, 2014 @ 10:08 am

progressives. Any challenge to them would have come from moderates.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 10:05 pm

Lets not forget a progressive was unseated by development money last election too. What we have isn't a progressive government by a stretch! Big money is what is running the show now. Progressive government? Ha.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 11:14 pm

You mean the hopeless Olague, who was never elected in the first place?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 12:21 am

And the supes do not run the government, the mayor does. The conservatives did not mount the uphill challenge to Avalos and Campos because it was not in their interests to do so and they were shrewd to recognize this.

They conservatives can count, and they can get to 7 or 8 pretty easily. The conservatives did not want to give incumbents any opportunity to gain name recognition which would ease the transition of progressives to higher office.

One characteristic that cannot be ascribed to professional progressives is shrewdness while the conservatives are shrewd to a fault.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 7:02 am

Even Farrell is far from being a conservative. I'd say the Supes are balanced fairly evenly between centrists and lefties.

But yes, of course, the mayor is the CEO and he drives policy. But again, Ed Lee is no more right wing than anyone since Agnos.

Only someone on the extreme left would think that Farrell and Lee are conservatives.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 7:26 am

Neoliberals are neither progressive nor liberal economically, they are free market conservatives, and that is all that really counts. All neoliberals like Ed Lee do to present the image of being liberal is throw a few bucks at nonprofits for their political slush funds. Ed Lee and Scott Wiener's economics are all but indistinguishable from the economics of Eric Cantor.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 7:43 am
Posted by Guest on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 8:29 am

That's the definition of neoliberal.

Random nonsense about what's "left" and who's "99%" doesn't change definitions.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 11:04 am

what would be done differently from Ed Lee, in terms of economic policy, if a Republican was mayor of this city? I'm hard-pressed to think of anything.

Posted by Greg on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 9:42 pm

Unfettered construction, as in Houston

No payroll tax on stock options

No rent control

Want me to go on?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 9:50 pm

Ed Lee has done all of those to the extent that he can. I'm sure he'd love to repeal rent control, because he's been on the wrong side of every tenant issue that's come up. He's doled out tax breaks to wealthy corporations like candy. And he's never met a developer project he didn't like. He can't run San Francisco like Houston, because San Francisco isn't Texas (thank goodness!). But if you transplanted a Texas Republican into San Francisco, I can't think of anything more that a Texas Republican could do to destroy San Francisco than Ed Lee is already doing.

Posted by Greg on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 10:43 pm

I love it when commenters like Greg say things like Ed Lee has "doled out tax breaks to wealthy corporations like candy".

Here is an op ed piece by Ross Mirkarimi explaining his legislation to grant Twitter and other companies an exclusion on stock option taxes:


There was consensus from both sides of the aisle that the tax on stock options needed to go away, and that accounts for about 95% of the "Twitter tax break".

But anyway, it is easy to say that Ed Lee just doled out the cash on his own, so I have no expectation that Greg and the others would acknowledge the truth. I know that it is often a challenge for Progressives to do so.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 11:06 pm

He reached into the pockets of San Francisco citizens and handed it to Twitter... whose stock is now justifiably circling the drain, incidentally.

And no, there was no broad consensus on that piece of corporate welfare. Let's not engage in revisionist history.

Posted by Greg on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 11:21 pm

Re: "And no, there was no broad consensus on that piece of corporate welfare. Let's not engage in revisionist history."

No..Greg...please. Don't put words in my mouth.

Ross Mirkarimi is NOT a Progressive leader and this Op-Ed obviously does NOT exist:


Please...nobody is trying to stop you from believing your own version of reality.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 11:36 pm

The progressive block, including Ross, voted against the Twitter tax break. There was never a "broad consensus."

Posted by Greg on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 11:58 pm
Posted by Guest on May. 01, 2014 @ 8:12 am

What planet are you living on?

Posted by Greg on May. 01, 2014 @ 8:28 am

should go back to the way it was, and that Twitter should move to Brisbane thereby costing the city millions

Posted by Guest on May. 01, 2014 @ 8:53 am

Greg's right on this one. Not everyone thinks they were good. The success of the twitter tax break is a huge disaster for the interests of progressives, who rely on blight, poverty, misery, and dependence for their voter base. What an existential threat this must be. A few thriving businesses have turned around an area government and social services couldn't. Their only recourse is to scream about missing out on some tax dollars and 'why isn't Twitter hiring our local crackheads' ?!

Posted by Guest on May. 01, 2014 @ 9:05 am

And about:

"Twitter... whose stock is now justifiably circling the drain, incidentally."

You should absolutely keep hitting on this point. I remember Steven and Tim doing the same thing about Facebook stock before it took off and made them look like idiots. They don't mention Facebook stock much anymore for some reason.

So have a good time with Twitter's stock price now.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 11:41 pm

I'm not them, and I don't recall them talking about Facebook. I actually made a lot of money on Facebook stock. I can't stand the company and I don't use it, but I understand the way Wall Street works, so I speculated on their stock and I was proven correct. Twitter is a different story.

Neither company produces anything of real value, but FB has done a good job of, as they say, "monetizing their customers." Translation: turning their customers into dollars for Zuckershmuck and his buddies. Personally, I don't want to relinquish my privacy to Zuck and then have him make money off me laughing all the way to the bank. So I don't use it. But I'll happily make money *from* Zuck. This world has no shortage of fools, so Zuck should be making money off of them for quite some time. Might as well go along for the ride. I recognized early on that Wall Street should value what FB does, so I bought their stock, and then confidently bought some more when it tanked.

But even by Wall Street's accounting methods, it never made any sense to me why TWTR was flying high even as FB was languishing. Only the "bigger fool" theory kept TWTR afloat, and now that bubble has burst, like I knew it should have all along.

Posted by Greg on May. 01, 2014 @ 12:15 am

is nothing on record indicating that he opposes rent control.

Why do you lie?

Posted by Guest on May. 01, 2014 @ 8:11 am

US cities are filled with affirmative-action lawyers who get jobs from big city budgets to sanctify the existing status-quo. Poor, old and disabled tenants are a few of the groups that get some funding to live in cheaper or subsidized housing (sometimes fairly shoddy housing at that), but theses groups hardly represent the "tenant" community. The latest poll I saw said that 90% of all tenants under 30 want to be homeowners in the next 5-10 years, but Ed Lee (and his predecessors) have done nothing for them. Instead the Ed Lees of the world have facilitated new ownership housing for wealthy elites, many of whom don't even live in SF full-time.

The Democratic Party is heavily funded by wealthy developers and the biggest landlords (Donald Sterling, anyone?). A few crumbs the Democratic Party elites throw at poor, old and disabled tenants is chickenfeed compared to the wealth transferred from lower to middle-income working families to the largest landlords, developers, bankers and the wealthiest bondholders by Democratic Party operatives.

Posted by Guest on May. 01, 2014 @ 9:47 am

They just can't buy one in SF any more than they can in La Jolla, Aspen or Telluride.

It's not Ed Lee's job to make SF homes as cheap as in Detroit

Posted by Guest on May. 01, 2014 @ 10:10 am

You think anyone to the right of Lenin is a NeoLiberal. Or is it NeoCon? I think maybe Knee-O-jerk. You are either a progressive (communist) , or a right-wing Fox News troglodite, in the eyes of marcos.

Posted by Richmondman on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 9:57 am

I'm sure Hitler or Mussolini or Franco would have considered the Tea Party to be a bunch of effeminate liberals.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 10:12 am

Pro-cyclical tax breaks are pretty conservative, neoliberal...

Posted by marcos on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 10:17 am

Especially in a high-tax state like CA.

moreover the US has very high rates of corporate taxes, requiring endless finessing by business.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 10:40 am

Compare them with the rest of the world (where the middle class is thriving much more than in the U.S.). Time to face reality.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 11:06 am
Posted by Jym on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 10:06 pm

excluded from the federal figures, making it look like US taxes are low.(Except corporate tax in the US, which is at an outrageous rate).

Add in CA's super high incomes and sales and CGT taxes, and a CA resident can pay 50% in tax.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 10:26 pm

Tax whine, tax whine, tax whine...

Posted by marcos on May. 01, 2014 @ 5:41 am

I was explaining

It's usually lefties who whine about taxes ie that they want more of them

Posted by Guest on May. 01, 2014 @ 8:13 am

Informative article, exactly what I wanted to find.

Posted by Verlene on May. 06, 2014 @ 3:22 am

... and all we have is one police commissioner? Out of 7? This is the reform we fought for? Disgusting.

Posted by Greg on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 9:44 pm

What is your problem?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 9:51 pm

illegally have committed no crime?

It's a crime to be here illegally.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 10:04 pm

Miss you long time. But don't worry, your successor will soon be butt pals with Shrimp Boy at Pelican Bay.

Posted by Reginald Ponce-Hargreaves III on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 6:25 am

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