San Francisco's Top Cop Letting Problem Officers Walk

Officers facing delayed disciplinary action given plea offer

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    George Gascon has brought a new style of leadership to the SFPD, but the department's style is anything but fashionable.

    San Francisco Police Chief George Gascon is known for cleaning up messy departments in his previous posts in Los Angeles and Mesa, Arizona.

    But he may have met his match in the mess that is the San Francisco Police Department and its overseers at City Hall.

    The San Francisco Police Officers Association is incredibly resistant to change. Political junkies noted that San Francisco Poice Officers Association President Gary Delagnes seemed to wield more influence over the department than former Chief Heather Fong.

    On the other hand, the city's Police Commission is understaffed and overworked, letting dozens of complaints about officer conduct and disciplinary action collect dust.

    So Gascon is offering officers who are facing disciplinary action for the first time plead guilty in exchange for slaps on the wrist.

    One officer accused of being involved in a domestic abuse case plead guilty and got a couple of days of suspension and was required to attend anger management training.

    Gascon, who's family immigrated from Cuba after the revolution, is no friend to bad cops, but argued in the San Francisco Chronicle that while not happy with having to offer deals, nonetheless thinks the lingering cases are bad for morale.

    But with budget deficits meaning further cuts loom, it's unlikely the commission will get the resources necessary to review cases in a timely way, but no one in City Hall would support moving oversight power from the commission or the Office of Citizen Complaints back to Gascon and the department.

    While anecdotal evidence suggests that Gascon managed to get officers actually walking beats and interacting with the public his first months in office, only time will tell if those moves, long unpopular with officers and the SFPOA, will stick.

    After all, Gascon had to back off on his request to bring a team of trusted colleagues in from outside the department, with insiders getting the jobs instead.

    And the program to get officers to patrol Muni as required in the SFPD's agreement with the Municipal Transportation Agency to track Muni patrols resulted in the absurd spectacle of cops tagging multiple TransLink cards to game the system so they could stay in the comfort of their cruisers instead of riding the bus.

    In other words, he's got his work cut out for him if he wants to change the business as usual culture on the force.

    Jackson West is cautiously optimistic, though while rooting for Gascon, would recommend hedging any bets in a throwdown between the chief and Delagnes.