After taking a week to deliberate, the Supervisory Board Rules Committee today recommended Jesús Gabriel Yáñez as a new member of the Police Commission. He will fill the vacant seat of Petra DeJesus, which remained empty for most of 2021.
A long-time advocate for juvenile justice reform, Yáñez is currently working as a consultant to Mission community organizations on “Vision Zero: LatinX Safety Plan”, with the aim of reducing youth violence in the community. piece.
“I’m ambitious just because that’s how I get down,” Yáñez told Mission Local today, referring to the security plan. He seems to have an equally ambitious approach to the Police Commission.
Yáñez hopes to bring “a little change of pace” to the Police Commission “because the status quo of having lawyers there to perhaps discipline some police officers, years after an incident, is working on the wrong side of the spectrum . ”
Yáñez wants to ‘change the climate’ for police from the start – helping police better integrate into the communities they serve, using holistic, trauma-informed approaches that he is familiar with.
The Police Commission, which is meant to oversee the police department by helping set policy and hearing cases of misconduct, has an opportunity to reform the SFPD, Yáñez said last week during his hearing alongside other candidates before the Rules Committee.
He noted that progress was being made on the Justice Department’s 272 recommendations for reform on “embarrassing” racial disparities in San Francisco police departments.
“But I also know that we have to be very, very stable and proactive,” Yáñez told the rules committee. “And we need to make sure that there is real communication and real accountability – quantifiable and qualitative information that will inform the direction we are going for this department.”
As he sets the bar high, Yáñez has called some of his work Sisyphus, understanding that commissioners have only limited influence over the day-to-day operations of the police service and that compromises are required.
“I’m not tied to any solution,” Yáñez said, calling himself in an interview today apolitical, “consensus builder by nature.”
His early work focused on systems transformation, most recently on the reassessment of juvenile justice in San Francisco. When it started, Yáñez said, there were nearly 200 young people in detention at one point, and now only a small handful remain as the city nears its goal of abolishing juvenile prisons. . And today, the adult criminal justice system is beginning to implement the same strategies that Yáñez and her colleagues used to reform youth justice and reduce levels of incarceration.
Yáñez previously headed the Youth Services Department of the Instituto Familiar de la Raza, which provides social services to the Latin American community, and he has years of experience defending minors and working on violence prevention programs in the mission and throughout the city.
Yáñez was the preferred choice of the Mission District’s Latino community, with commentators from various local organizations expressing support for the “trusted” and “grassroots” candidate during last week’s hearing. District 9 supervisor Hillary Ronen had also written a letter to the committee outlining Yáñez’s experiences and community connections that qualified her for the position.
Supervisor Connie Chan, who backed Yáñez as his first choice last week, said she had seen more support for him since last week’s meeting and offered to recommend Yáñez to the entire supervisory board. tomorrow.
Yáñez was against Federal Public Defender David Rizk, who was also congratulated by the committee as a qualified candidate and was favored by police reform advocates and former Commissioner Petra DeJesus.
After a long “shortage of candidates,” Supervisor Aaron Peskin noted that the committee now had “the embarrassment of wealth” to choose from, mostly referring to Rizk and Yáñez. Two of the other three candidates for the seat have withdrawn their interest ahead of today’s vote.
Peskin was hopeful that Rizk would eventually take another seat on the Police Commission in April 2022, when the terms of Commissioners John Hamasaki, Larry Yee and Max Carter-Oberstone expire.
Yáñez will now be presented to the entire Supervisory Board for approval on December 14 and, if approved, will begin serving the remainder of a four-year term, ending in April 2025.