Wednesday, December 21, 2016

For the record: outsider SFPD chiefs haven't fared well

So San Francisco has a new police chief: William Scott has been head of the LAPD's South Bureau whose personnel are as numerous as the entire SFPD. Scott has two things going for him: first, he's Black which means he's acquired the skills to survive and thrive in an institution whose ethos is historically hostile to Black men. And he's not part of the SFPD command "family," a word used in this context with all the connotations of the Mafia. This may mean that he'll take on the Police Officers Association (POA) which has made it its mission to protect and extend thuggish, violent, and racist policing among officers who have absorbed the department's toxic culture. In his introductory presser, Scott was reassuring, to some.

“As the chief of police of San Francisco, it’s real simple for me: I get the kind of union that I deserve,” Scott said. “My plans are to be the type of chief that deserves a POA that is willing to work with me by the way I work with them.”

Previous chiefs who rocked that boat at all have not had a smooth ride.

In the over forty-three years I've lived in San Francisco, the city has brought in only two chiefs from outside; our cops are not friendly to outsiders. Their stories are not encouraging.
  • Charles Gain (1975–1980; left above) was brought in from Oakland, installed by George Moscone, the reforming mayor later assassinated by an angry ex-cop who became unhinged about the declining power of entitled white men. The POA voted no-confidence in Gain for the offense of changing the colors of police cars from black and white to white and light blue. No kidding. That was a firing offense.
  • George Gascón (right) was appointed by Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2009, brought in from Mesa, AZ where he greatly improved the homicide clearance rate. San Francisco needed all the help it could get in that area, since on his arrival only 25 percent of murders were being solved. He also brought a record of outreach to community groups. Running the SFPD proved a bumpy ride. He only lasted as chief for a little over a year, jumping to a political appointment from Newsom to the vacant office of District Attorney and then winning an election to the post. From that perch, he instigated a "Blue Ribbon Panel" of retired judges whose report condemned numerous conventions of San Francisco police practice and structure, including POA influence on hiring and firing. A Justice Department investigation proceeding concurrently made 272 recommendations to bring the department into conformity with the law and good police practices.
All the other chiefs since the middle of last century have come out of the force itself, apparently with the approval of the POA. Let's hope the new guy can end the pattern of futility and short tenure.

San Franciscans are struggling these days to rein in a police department which has killed five civilians in the last three years in circumstances in which officers' justifications for their use of force strain credulity. Alex Nieto, Amilcar Perez Lopez, Mario Woods, Luis Gongora Pat, and Jessica Williams are dead. No officer has been charged or (as far as we know) disciplined. In fact, since 2000, the SFPD has killed 40 civilians; no officers have been charged. These "For the record" posts aim to put the current round of police misconduct and reform in historical context.

1 comment:

Hattie said...

Good luck in the current political climate.

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