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.
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.