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Monday, October 5, 2009

Did Police Union Block New Chief From Hiring Outside Brass?

Posted By on Mon, Oct 5, 2009 at 9:59 PM

Police Chief George Gascon
  • Police Chief George Gascon
When George Gascon became chief of police two months ago, everybody seemed to agree: This bad-ass cop would rid the SFPD of its dead wood, and reform what experts had taken to calling the Western United States' most hidebound law enforcement agency.

On Tuesday, Gascon is scheduled to suffer his first major setback in that quest, as the Board of Supervisors votes on a measure that effectively cancels the hope that Gascon will install his own leadership team from outside the San Francisco Police Department.

Last month, Supervisor David

Campos introduced a measure that would have changed the city's

administrative code to allow Gascon to stock his leadership cadre with as many outsiders as he wished. The proposed rule change would have let the chief

make unlimited appointments to his command staff from outside the

department -- as long as the officers met standard qualifications to be

high ranking supervisors. But all that has changed. 

I "saw that there was a need to give him the legal authority he

lacked to bring into the command staff the people he wants," said Campos. "The buck stops with him, and we need to give him

the tools."

However, after apparent hardball negotiations between Gascon and the

Police Officers Association, the chief requested that the measure be

amended to limit outside appointments to one position. That's right --

Gascon will be able to appoint just one of his own people to help him

lead the department.

Now, the legislation has been reworded to say that Gascon can appoint

commanders from outside -- "provided that only one such officer may

hold an appointment at any one time."

"Following the initial legislation he approached

me, and he proposed

this amendment. As I understand it, there was some discussions he had

with the Police Officers Association, and that's why the change was

sought," said Campos, who sponsored Tuesday's


By Monday evening, Neither Gascon, nor POA President Gary Delagnes, had returned calls requesting comment.

At SF Weekly, we'd anticipated a dramatic SFPD upheaval. And we're not the only ones who've had our expectations dashed. When Gascon was selected as chief, many people believed he'd that he'd clean up at 850 Bryant, and appoint some of his own trusted lieutenants to do the cleaning..

On July 20, just a couple of weeks before then-Mesa, Arizona police

chief George Gascon was scheduled to step into his current job as San

Francisco's top cop, SF Weekly ran a story chronicling the ways the law

enforcement veteran was poised to reform this city's sclerotic law

enforcement agency.

"In San Francisco, I think you'll see the same model. He's done his

homework on the command staff. And he'll be looking to replace

individuals so he'll have people to work for him," we quoted one of several former Mesa commanders as saying.

"I'm trying to assess the weaknesses of various members of the team,


of the organization as a whole, and figure out what would be

appropriate steps to take," Gascon told us.

I "think he's going to choose his own team. I don't know if it

means the same kind of upheaval they had in Mesa, but I do think that

change can be kind of positive," said then-San Francisco Police Commission President Theresa Sparks.

Change that entails replacing of San Francisco police officers, however, is apparently off the table in San Francisco.

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Matt Smith


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