Condi Rice for Next SFPD Chief! And Other Ideas From Last Night's Tenderloin Policing Forum

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Peter Jamison
Police Commission President Theresa Sparks (right) talks it out
Ahhhh, democracy. Try as we might, it never quite runs according to script, save in those enlightened, post-democratic nations -- such as Russia, Haiti or Uzbekistan -- that have figured out how to tame the snarling beast of representative government. San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood, while it bears more than passing similarity to these locales in some respects, is no such place. This much could be seen at a community forum last night on the selection of the next San Francisco police chief.

The forum, organized by the Community Leadership Alliance, a neighborhood activist group, featured Police Commission President Theresa Sparks and Police Commissioner David Onek, and was moderated by your correspondent. The ostensible point was for commissioners to hear from Tenderloin residents on what qualities they'd like to see in the next SFPD chief, who will replace outgoing chief Heather Fong. But it quickly became clear that many of the audience members in attendance had showed up for an entirely different reason: To court support for the Pink Diamonds, an embattled Tenderloin strip club that has come under scrutiny for a series of violent crimes outside its entrance.

Oh well. A few in the crowd offered some topical suggestions: One man urged more vigorous responses to citizen complaints about individual cops, while another asked for a chief who would lobby actively for a no-loitering policy in the Tenderloin from the Board of Supervisors. One gentleman asked that San Francisco's next top cop be a black woman, and requested that the commission get in touch with Condoleezza Rice, if only for advice. Let us state for the record that we support any political development that puts Bush's former secretary of state in the same room as Chris Daly.
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Courtesy U.S. Department of State
A new sheriff?
The commissioners themselves also made some suggestive but vague remarks about the direction their search is taking. (Applications for the job are being accepted through mid-April; the commission will present a short list of nominees to the mayor, who makes the final choice.) The troubled police department has undergone multiple reviews and studies in recent years, and commissioners say they're looking for someone to make good on recommended changes.

"There's a few things right off the bat that we're looking for," Onek said. "One is someone who is a reformer." The eight studies the department has undergone, he said, "list over 300 total recommendations for changes to the department... Chief Fong has done a wonderful job of getting these studies done, working with the commission and the entities that did the studies. We have a blueprint for real reform now, and we need somebody who can come in and implement that blueprint... whether that person is somebody who is currently in the department, or somebody outside the department, we're completely open to either one."

Outside the department. That means Condi is still in the running, right?
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