Will Police Chief's New U.S. Homeland Security Gig Undermine S.F. Crime-Fighting?
|Will tough-talking George Gascon kill the federal goose that lays golden eggs that buy police departments neat toys like this?|
Since the system was created it has been a subject of parody for being vague and confusing, and for being used as a tool of political manipulation by former President George W. Bush.
On June 20, Homeland Security Chief Napolitano announced that Gascon -- then chief of Mesa, Ariz., the state Napolitano formerly served as governor -- would be on a 17-member task force to evaluate the current system. Presumably he'd be a source of the same kind of tough-minded pragmatism on the terrorism-warning task force as he's promised to dish out as the city's police chief.
But if he did, it might be bad for San Francisco.
While wasteful Homeland Security programs such as the multicolor terrorism warning system have done nothing to keep the country safe from terrorists, that dysfunctional federal bureaucracy has been an ATM machine for San Francisco law enforcement.
During 2003, San Francisco police drew down $3.3 million in Homeland Security money to pay overtime to officers monitoring Iraq war protests -- the most for any California agency aside from the state highway patrol. Then-Mayor Willie Brown said the protection was designed to prevent terrorists from using the distraction of protesters as cover to, say, blow up the Golden Gate Bridge. Nationwide, the color-alert system has been a boon for regional agencies hoping to use fear to justify spending on things such as new weight rooms in the local police station or armored assault vehicles for small towns no terrorist would dream of even flying over.
If Gascon uses his hard-assed attitude on the task force assembled to evaluate the color-code system, might this cornucopia of funds disappear?