James Byrne Sworn in as San Francisco Police Commissioner
Byrne, nominated by Mayor London Breed, has decades of experience as an immigration attorney
San Francisco, CA — Mayor London N. Breed today conducted the swearing-in ceremony to confirm James Byrne to the San Francisco Police Commission. In March 2021, Mayor Breed nominated Byrne to the Commission, the seven-member body charged with setting policy for the Police Department and conducting disciplinary hearings when police conduct charges are filed. Yesterday, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to confirm Byrne to the Commission.
Byrne was born and raised in San Francisco by Irish immigrant parents and is an attorney who specializes in immigration law. He regularly offers pro bono immigration assistance, advising people from all over the world on their immigration cases.
“I am proud to have nominated Jim Byrne to serve on the San Francisco Police Commission. The Police Commission serves an important role in our city government, especially as we’re working to implement critical public safety reforms and ensure that our diverse communities are supported and protected, and I am glad that with Jim’s confirmation today we now have a complete commission,” said Mayor Breed. “Jim is an experienced attorney with a proven track record of looking out for the most vulnerable members of our community and working to improve the lives of others. I’m confident that he will bring that integrity and a commitment to supporting underserved communities to the Police Commission.”
“I am deeply grateful and humbled to be nominated by Mayor Breed and confirmed by the Board of Supervisors to serve on the Police Commission,” said Jim Byrne. “I have always been committed to ensuring that people are given every opportunity to make a life here using the best of our justice system, and I am looking forward to utilizing my expertise as an immigration attorney to bring a different perspective to the Commission.”
Byrne has decades of experience practicing immigration law. After graduating from law school, he established his own law practice in San Francisco in 1983. His practice of immigration law includes deportation defense, family-based immigration, and employment-based immigration. Throughout the course of his career, Byrne has protected immigrant families from deportation, represented clients in asylum proceedings, and represented thousands of clients from all over the world. Byrne has volunteered once a month for the last 22 years at the Irish Immigration Pastoral Center Immigration Clinic in San Francisco’s Richmond District. He also regularly does pro bono work, including representing Mexican and Guatemalan nationals in immigration court.
“I was so enthused to hear about Jim Byrne’s nomination to the Police Commission,” said Bilal Mahmood, a San Francisco resident, entrepreneur and philanthropist. “As the son of immigrants myself, I know firsthand the difficulty immigrant families have in engaging with our law enforcement. Mr. Byrne’s decades of experience as an immigration attorney will provide a much needed perspective on the commission, one that can hopefully elevate the voice of our immigrant communities and engender more trust with our police force.”
Byrne was raised in San Francisco’s Excelsior District near McLaren Park and attended Cleveland Elementary School, Epiphany Grammar School, and Saint Ignatius High School in San Francisco. He graduated from UC Davis in 1977, receiving two bachelor’s degrees, one in history and the other in agricultural economics and business management. In 1980, Jim received his Juris Doctor from the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, California.
“Jim has been a humble, intelligent and hardworking advocate for hundreds of migrants that found themselves caught up in the harshness of our often times unfair immigration justice system,” said Celine Kennelly, Chair of the San Francisco Immigrant Rights Commission. “His wisdom and experience will be an asset to the Police Commission and all San Franciscans.”
He is married to Maureen O’Neill, who, as a nurse at the Tom Waddell Clinic in San Francisco, provides healthcare for underserved people in the Tenderloin. They have lived in San Francisco’s Sunset District for the last 36 years.
Byrne’s confirmation to the Police Commission comes at an important time for public safely in San Francisco. In June 2020, Mayor Breed announced a roadmap to fundamentally change the nature of policing in San Francisco and issued a set of policies to address structural inequities. She proposed four priorities to achieve this vision: ending the use of police in response to non-criminal activity; addressing police bias and strengthening accountability; demilitarizing the police; and promoting economic justice. These policies build on the City’s ongoing work to meet the standards contained in President Obama’s 2015 Task Force on 21st Century Policing.