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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hello Holiday Inn: Mesa Cops Aiding SFPD Chief Gascon's Transition Scrimping on San Francisco-Paid Expenses

Posted By on Thu, Aug 27, 2009 at 4:59 PM

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The SFPD's new model for tight-fistedness
The Arizona Republic Thursday ran an article reporting that new San Francisco Police Chief George Gascon is enlisting officers from his former post of Mesa, Ariz. to fly out west and help him get the San Francisco Police Department up and running to his standards.

First up was Mesa police spokesman Sergeant Ed Wessing, who landed in San Francisco last Tuesday for two days of advising the SFPD's historically tight-lipped public affairs office. Two more Mesa officers are expected to come to San Francisco in September to help implement a computerized crime-tracking system. 

The Arizona Republic quoted Mesa officials defending the decision to have on-the-clock officers helping out San Francisco as a "training opportunity." According to the article, Mesa isn't paying for any of the trip expenses. San Francisco police department spokeswoman Sergeant Lyn Tomioka responded, "I think we did [pay the expenses], but I can't say absolutely what we paid for."

Still, Tomioka claimed this wasn't any extravagant wining-and-dining tour of the city. Wessing booked the "cheapest" flight and motel package deal he could find online, Tomioka says. (Wessing wasn't immediately available for comment.) Tomioka added that she personally picked him up and dropped him off at the Holiday Inn to save the cost of a rental car. 

Tomioka said the public affairs office requested the trip in order to meet Gascon's goal of creating more media transparency. Among the proposed changes for the new public relations M.O. will be quarterly press conferences with the chief himself, Tomioka says. Additionally, the department will set up meetings with editorial boards and assignment editors of media outlets in town. "[Gascon is] much more comfortable talking to the media," she said. "That's different than before."

The public affairs office will be bringing on two additional officers to the current two-person staff, and designate officers at each station that can handle media calls well into the evening for late-breaking news. "With just two of us, it's hard to get our requests for information met," she said.  

Also, the department would like do more to communicate with the public directly, circumventing the media altogether. "If there's an officer-involved shooting and the community has questions ... we're going to go out and arrange community meetings and answer questions. [The public is] not going to rely on the media for the officer version of what occurred."

Tomioka said the visit was quick, but productive. "We did a lot of talking in that day and a half."

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Lauren Smiley


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