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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Texas Governor Promises a "Revolt" if Former SF Police Chief is Hired to Lead Border Patrol

Posted By on Tue, Nov 10, 2015 at 10:22 AM

click to enlarge JAKE POEHLS/SF WEEKLY
  • Jake Poehls/SF Weekly
The U.S. Border Patrol will soon be hiring a new chief, and rumor has it that former San Francisco police chief Heather Fong is on the shortlist of candidates. According to San Antonio Express-News, this doesn’t sit well with Texas governor Greg Abbott.

“If [Fong] is chosen, you will see a revolt in this country, because we are not going to tolerate this perpetuation of violating the law and not enforcing the law,” Abbott said in a Fox News appearance this morning.

The Republican governor was referring to remarks Fong previously made indicating that she supported sanctuary city policies and wouldn’t cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement — a problematic statement from a potential Border Patrol chief.

Earlier this year, San Francisco found itself in the crosshairs of a national debate over sanctuary city policies after Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an undocumented Mexican national, shot and killed Kate Steinle. Sanchez had a rap sheet of drug offenses and a history of being deported. Per city policy, the San Francisco County Sheriff’s Office didn’t notify ICE when Sanchez was released from custody. (Investigators later determined that a bullet from Sanchez's gun ricocheted off the pavement and struck Steinle.)

“If the president brings in someone who is going to abdicate the rule of law in this country, the American people are not going to tolerate it any more,” Gov. Abbott said.

But all the fuss could be for naught. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske said that nobody is currently being considered for the Border Patrol’s top job, and that rumors about Fong are just that — rumors.

Fong, who became the city’s first female police chief in 2004, weathered a tumultuous tenure. The department’s rank-and-file officers were often openly critical of her hands-off leadership style. In 2005, she and Mayor Gavin Newsom suspended 20 officers who made what some deemed “racist and sexist” videos; the officers lashed out at Fong for overreacting and kowtowing to political pressure.

There was also the matter of low morale, and homicide numbers that approached triple digits. Current police chief Greg Suhr allegedly referred to Fong as "the Dragon Lady."

Still, she had her defenders. “[Fong is] a no-nonsense chief, and totally professional, and she’ll be sorely missed,” longtime Chinatown community activist Rose Pak told the Chronicle in 2008, after Fong announced she was retiring. 

This isn't the first time Fong has supposedly been tapped for federal posts. Almost immediately after stepping down from the SFPD in 2009, she was reportedly considered for the top slot at the Office of Community Oriented Police Services. And in 2009, the Examiner reported:

At one point, Fong was rumored to be a candidate for a high-level job at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, although it might have raised some eyebrows in the Beltway after it was reported that the chief didn’t maintain her firearm credentials while leading the Police Department.

Fong may have raised eyebrows in the Beltway, but she raised more eyebrows in San Francisco when details of her lifetime pension emerged. The city pays Fong more than $277,000 per year, a plum parting gift for a police chief that many in the city couldn't wait to kick to the curb. 

Since November 2014, Fong has been assistant secretary for state and local law enforcement in the Department of Homeland Security.

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Jeremy Lybarger

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