Did Police Union Block New Chief From Hiring Outside Brass?

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 proposal.

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, and 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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