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Unfit for Service

October 1, 2021
Tony Montoya - SFPOA President

He’s a bully. He’s biased. And he’s out of control. It’s time for him to go. San Francisco Police Commissioner John Hamasaki should be removed from his seat.

Mr. Hamasaki has made it clear that he not only has a low opinion of those who work in law enforcement, but he’s openly aggressive to our very existence. The irony of the entire situation is that he holds one of the top positions of the San Francisco Police Department as a Commissioner, where he helps set policy as well as votes on ultimately whether a police officer should be fired. The whole thing is absurd.

Many see Hamasaki’s social media antics as juvenile, a combination of playground bully tactics mixed in with poor attempts at cleverness. When he’s called out on his content, much like a teenager, he shrugs his shoulders and tries to laugh it all off as a joke. The problem is, however, when you hold a position such as police commissioner, the public expects you to act in a thoughtful, professional manner when discussing things within the purview of your job.

In August, I sent an official request to the President of the Police Commission and the President of the Board of Supervisors (Hamasaki is a BOS appointee) asking them to remove Hamasaki. At that time, he gleefully tweeted “Ok I sometimes complain about community policing/coffee with a cop type deals, but I fully support any cops who want to try this.” The video he retweeted showed a cop falling from high atop a stack of milk crates as part of the “milk crate challenge.”

So, what does this show? Regardless of your feelings on “Coffee with a Cop” type events, I think everyone can agree that the intent behind the event is to connect more directly with the community members we serve. That goal is part of every police reform plan in every department in the nation, including ours. Hamasaki mocks this concept but at the same time “supports” seeing cops get injured, potentially seriously injured, in-order to engage with the community.

This is a sick perspective and one that is unbecoming an individual sitting in the perch of power for the SFPD. The response from his colleagues and our political leaders has been absolute silence. During a time when officers are leaving the department in droves, it’s a mystery as to why those leading our city would allow an appointed officer to further destroy morale.

As I stated above, Hamasaki is a bully. What happened after I expressed our concern to the Police Commission? In classic playground bully style, Hamasaki went on a Twitter tirade personally attacking me and the SFPOA by proxy. He called me a racist. Which is comical. He blamed me/SFPOA for the rise in crime, which is ironic because he’s previously stated we were fear mongers for informing the public on the rise in crime because in his view crime is down. He blamed us for stymying reform when the reality is the SFPOA has signed off on the most progressive use of force policy for a big city department in the country, a fact he will never admit to.

I can take the pathetic insults from someone like Hamasaki. But this is not about me. It’s about our officers who expect and deserve a fair shake from the Police Commission if they ever have the misfortune of appearing before them.

Hamasaki is a criminal defense attorney. You can bet his last retainer check that he would immediately object to any judge who prolifically posted on social media bashing the individuals who make up the profession of his client or the union his client belongs to. In fact, if he did not object, he’d likely be sued for malpractice. How can one reasonably expect that Hamasaki would weigh only the evidence before him and the applicable policies and laws on a discipline case and pay zero attention to his admitted desire to see officers hurt themselves while trying to connect with the community?

At the beginning of this year, Hamasaki created a firestorm, which included calls for his resignation by some Supervisors, after he tweeted a comment about the need for teenagers in some neighborhoods to arm themselves for self-defense. It’s a completely ridiculous comment from not just a police commissioner, but one who serves a city that is seeing gunshot victims sky rocket. But what brought on the comment? Well, Hamasaki did not like the fact that a New York police leader posted a picture of an illegal gun they took off the street. You see, when the police department tried to convey to the public the good things it was doing, Hamasaki was offended. Never mind that it occurred on the other side of the country. His bias blasted through in brilliant colors with his absurd comment.

That is a perfect example of how strongly Hamasaki’s hatred toward law enforcement burns inside him. When it comes to those of us who chose to put on a uniform and a star to serve our community, he has zero self-control.

To be clear, I do not expect any police commissioner to just “take our word for it” when it comes to police or discipline issues. I think constructive descent can build a stronger department and stronger relationships. However, I do expect our police commissioners to conduct themselves professionally and with integrity. I also expect them to approach their job with the mindset as to how they can make the SFPD better. The bully. The bigot. The attack and lash out tactics of Mr. Hamasaki show that he cannot meet those basic goals.

It’s time for Hamasaki to go.