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Former Alameda County prosecutor to head San Francisco sheriff watchdog agency

A man in a suit looks at the camera with the American flag in the background
Terry Wiley, a career prosecutor in the Alameda County District Attorney's Office, is pictured in a screenshot from a video he made for the National Bar Association titled “Reform of Our Criminal Justice System.”

A former Alameda County career prosecutor is set to be chosen to investigate misconduct cases for San Francisco’s sheriff watchdog, The Standard has learned.

Terry Wiley, who lost his bid for Alameda County District Attorney in 2022 to Pamela Price, is set to be named by the San Francisco Sheriff's Oversight Board as its inspector general Dec. 20, according to two sources with knowledge of the matter.

Wiley, who had declared as a candidate for an Alameda County judgeship, is now abandoning that candidacy. 

Wiley, who emphasized values such as transparency and accountability in his judicial campaign and led a major police misconduct investigation, declined to comment, but others expressed their approval that the body will now have its first leader heading up misconduct investigations. The position pays nearly $236,000. 

“I am happy that we have finally selected someone for this very important role in our city,” Supervisor Shamann Walton, who helped create the body, said. “Sheriff oversight is important, and now we can continue the work of accountability.” 

Board President Julie D. Soo echoed Walton but would not comment on the specific candidate before the official announcement later this month.

"We made the best choice,” she said, adding that Wiley was among six finalists for the position, which had 36 applicants as part of a national search.

The choice of Wiley comes after more than a year of troubles within the new body, which was approved by voters in 2020 after a series of scandals involving sheriff's deputies. Last month one of the board members, William Palmer, was arrested and charged with rape. 

A lawyer speaks to the press in a court.
Deputy District Attorney Terry Wiley addresses the media regarding prosecuting the second "Riders" trial of three former Oakland Police Officers following their arraignment in Alameda County Superior Court on Feb. 10, 2004. | Source: Nick Lammers/East Bay Times/Getty Images

Meanwhile, members of the board have spent much of the last year involved in infighting about whether it should hire a search firm with expertise in hiring police oversight leaders. It finally chose to forgo the search firm and use the city’s human resources department instead. 

In appointing Wiley, the board has chosen to widely interpret its charter barring former law enforcement from the position, taking the position that former prosecutors do not count as law enforcement, said Soo. The initial legal advice given by the city attorney was that it barred anyone who had worked for a law enforcement agency, but upon further discussion, the board decided upon a narrower definition. 

“No [Sheriff’s Department Office of Inspector General] staff, including the Inspector General, shall have been employed previously by a law enforcement agency or a labor organization representing law enforcement employees,” according to the body’s charter

Sheriff Paul Miyamoto speaks during the Sheriff’s Department Oversight Board
San Francisco Sheriff Paul Miyamoto speaks during a Sheriff’s Department Oversight Board meeting on Aug. 22, 2022. | Source: Courtesy SFGovTV

Wiley grew up in San Jose and attended the University of California Berkeley, where he played football, according to his judicial campaign website. In 1990, he began his career as a prosecutor with the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office. In that office, he was part of the police corruption prosecution against four Oakland police officers, known as the “Riders” case. 

The “Riders” case involved a group of rogue Oakland police officers who committed a series of crimes, from kidnapping to assault, in a yearslong affair.

“He knows justice starts by making sure our police and prosecutors serve every single person in this community the same way. That’s why when the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office needed a prosecutor to take on the infamous police misconduct case known as the ‘Riders’ case— he stepped forward to hold law enforcement accountable,” his campaign stated.

Wiley was a lead deputy of former District Attorney Nancy O’Malley,  heading up the felony trial unit and the juvenile division. His campaign also said he worked to clear wrongful convictions, hired prosecutors who understood the communities they served and increased transparency in the DA’s Office. 

In his failed bid for DA, he was endorsed by a variety of individuals and groups including former Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and civil rights attorney John Burris.

Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at jonah@sfstandard.com