By Andrea Shorter
Many of us know the meaning of being battered and bullied. We need a new Sheriff to continue our long struggle against violence at home and in the community.
Remember the whistles youâ€™d see people wearing around the Castro? Fifteen years ago, San Franciscoâ€™s Communities United Against Violence gave whistles to thousands of people to condemn abuse against and within the LGBT community. The Blow the Whistle campaign caught on and started a conversation about what we all can do to stop abuse. Itâ€™s a conversation weâ€™re still having today, as Ross Mirkarimi faces possible removal for pleading guilty to a domestic violence offense. As our community continues to advance marriage rights and other healthy family relationships, we do ourselves a disservice if we allow an elected law enforcement official to remain in office who cannot fully support that cause.
We have a choice. We can turn away from our tradition of calling attention to the devastating impact of violence and abuse affecting our community. Or we can blow the whistle.
The LGBT community is a uniquely important voice in the matter. Our three LGBT Supervisors will be pivotal when faced with a likely vote on whether to remove Ross Mirkarimi from office for official misconduct. We need our Supervisors to be fair and objective. And they must answer the most important question â€“ can Ross Mirkarimi govern now?
The answer is no. San Francisco doesnâ€™t want a Sheriff guilty of domestic violence -- especially when his office is critical in enforcing laws to protect the victims of those same crimes.
Can those convicted of domestic violence change? Itâ€™s possible, but it takes time. As an expert in diversion models like the year-long Battererâ€™s Intervention Program Mirkarimi is required to attend as part of his sentence, I know that people can change their behavior. But while he is attending this program, is Mirkarimi capable of effectively governing and conducting business as Sheriff to the fullest extent demanded by the publicâ€™s trust?
In the past month, members of the Justice & Courage Oversight Panel of the Commission on the Status of Women have met with Public Defender Jeff Adachi and District Attorney George Gascon to advance reform efforts to make the criminal justice system respond more effectively to domestic violence. As a community, we must demand that our elected officials address a crime that is reported over 4,000 times a year in San Francisco. A Sheriff that has pled guilty to domestic violence is not in a position to advance this work.
For the past 10 years, we have worked to reform the domestic violence response in our criminal justice system. We have come a long way, working closely with the Police, Sheriff, Adult Probation, District Attorney, 911 and others to expand language access, increase victim services, improve training, and demand better data collection for one of the cityâ€™s most pervasive crimes. And there is more work to be done among fully dedicated leaders and citizens to make San Francisco a zero tolerance community against domestic violence.
So will it be silence or excuses? Itâ€™s time to make noise for safety, health and healing on behalf of our community and our city as a whole. Itâ€™s time to blow the whistle.
Andrea Shorter is Commissioner on the San Francisco Commission the Status of Women. She chairs the Justice & Courage Oversight Panel that leads the effort to address domestic violence across city departments.