Wednesday's hearing by the San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women on Ross Mirkarimi's status as Sheriff in light of the Ethics Commission's August 16 ruling that he committed official misconduct made plain the deep divide in the San Francisco community over this issue.
The Commission carefully considered the recommendation offered by the Justice and Courage Oversight Panel on Domestic Violence Policy Reform, a committee of community advocates and experts on domestic violence, including the director of an emergency shelter with supportive services, a legal advocate, the director of a batterer's program, the founder of an anti-domestic violence advocacy group, the director of a transitional housing facility for domestic violence survivors, and a community monitor of criminal justice agencies.
The Oversight Panel recommended that the Commission urge the Board of Supervisors to remove Ross Mirkarimi as Sheriff based on the basic facts of the case:
- Ross Mirkarimi was convicted of a domestic-violence related offense,
- He is undergoing a year-long batterers program as part of his sentence, and
- He will be on court-supervised probation for most of his term of office.
The Oversight Panel, having worked for a decade with city departments and community groups to push reforms to address domestic violence and better protect victims like Claire Joyce Tempongko, who has murdered by her ex-boyfriend in front of her children and whose case gave rise to the Justice & Courage Project, considers the Sheriff's role absolutely critical to the city's collaborative approach to domestic violence.
Panel Members expressed their concern that allowing Ross Mirkarimi to remain as Sheriff would halt the steady progress of policy reforms that have slashed domestic violence homicides by 80 percent over the past 10 years. To permit a law enforcement official who pled guilty to a domestic violence-related offense to oversee anti-domestic violence programs in the jails is neither defensible nor sustainable.
Per public meeting laws, the Commission heard public comment before deliberating. Individuals with wide variety of backgrounds provided perspectives on the pros and cons of the recommendation. Clearly there were differences of opinion over what constituted domestic violence, what actions deserved what responses, who spoke for whom, etc. Yet, several speakers pointed out that there was a consensus against violence.
The Commission agreed with the Panel and voted to advise the Board of Supervisors to remove Ross Mirkarimi as Sheriff for official misconduct. The Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on this issue in the coming month.
What will it take to heal this rift in the community? We must come together to unite against a common enemy -- violence -- or risk the lives of our loved ones, and ourselves.