“The face of police reform” isn’t long for the San Francisco Police Commission as its president Suzy Loftus resigned this week to join the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department as assistant legal counsel. It’s a curious move for a couple of reasons. First, Loftus is apparently trading two high-profile positions, San Francisco Police Commission president and legal counsel to California AG Kamala Harris, to be the Sheriff Department’s assistant legal counsel. Loftus is resigning because San Francisco Sheriff Vicki Hennessy believes remaining on the Police Commission would be a conflict of interest, a concern not shared by Loftus’ former boss Kamala Harris. Surely Loftus could’ve found another job that didn’t conflict with her role as police commissioner, but perhaps she was no longer necessary in that role. Kamala Harris was a loyal soldier in the City Hall machine and never failed to support SFPD during her time as a prosecutor, District Attorney or Attorney General. Installing her general counsel as president of the Police Commission ensured a body designed to oversee SFPD would buffer it from any real consequences or accountability. Harris now has bigger concerns as US Senator, however, and may want to distance herself altogether from any direct influence on the Police Commission, making Loftus surplus to requirement.
Another curious aspect of Loftus resignation has been the outpouring of respect and admiration from alleged friends and foes alike. Although Loftus left SFPD every bit as corrupt as she found it, and supported Greg Suhr to the bitter end, she was hailed as a “force for change,” “motivated to try and move the SFPD in a more positive direction,” and and even “a leader on the commission for transformational reform” by the “vociferous” nonprofit San Franciscans for Police Accountability, who have lately been quite supportive of SFPD. Loftus being seen off on a sedan chair of praise is cognitively dissonant, but not without purpose. Loftus would’ve been a perfect candidate for interim mayor or DA, had Hillary won and Ed Lee graduated to her administration, and Gascón replaced Harris as California AG. Lee and Gascón stayed put, though, leaving Loftus with no path forward. Taking a well-paid, under-the-radar position with the Sheriff’s Department allows Loftus to remain a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency candidate able to step in should any high-profile politicians need to leave office for whatever reason.
City Hall always saves for a rainy day.