It’s been a little over a year since George Gascón took the reins at the San Francisco police department, which was riddled with internal strife and struggling to cope with a persistently high murder rate.
Mayor Gavin Newsom’s decision to hire Gascón, the former chief of police in Mesa, Arizona and a veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department, was largely viewed as an attempt to clean up SFPD’s somewhat sullied image after scandals involving officer misbehavior and excessive force.
So how’s the new chief doing one year on? Last week, SFPD released a “retrospective” on the department’s successes and reforms over the past year.
Some of the points discussed include:
- A 7.7 percent reduction in part I crime, including a 23 percent drop in homicides (however, rapes have increased three percent).
- The department’s crackdown on “open illegal drug markets” in the Tenderloin District, which yielded 300-plus arrests within 20 days.
- An expansion of the Homeland Security Unit – there are now 100 “Terrorist Liaison Officers” in SFPD, up from 40 at this time last year.
- “Strategic deployments” to combat crime patterns, including the use of “Robbery Abatement Teams” that conduct plainclothes “decoy” operations.
- “Increased accountability” through reforms to the Internal Affairs Division, including a revised Brady policy to deal with officers testifying in court who may have compromising information in their personnel files disclosed.
Unsurprisingly, the report paints a rosy picture, with SFPD well down the road to rehabilitating its public image. A closer look at some of SFPD’s claims casts a shadow on the report.
- Narcotics incidents and arrests in the Tenderloin are down almost two-thirds percent for the year – a trend district Capt. John Garrity attributed to more arrestees being sent to drug treatment programs or counseling. Meanwhile, robberies are at the same level they were at last year, and Part I crimes are up 7 percent in the Tenderloin for 2010.
- SFPD’s increased willingness to deploy officers to homeland security or counterterrorism assignments has many on edge, including local Muslim and Middle Eastern communities.
- Robbery Abatement Teams engage in questionable tactics that Public Defender Jeff Adachi likens to “entrapment,” such as a plainclothes officer pretending to be passed-out drunk on a Tenderloin sidewalk with money sticking out of his shirt pocket. Adachi also believes RAT teams and the “Bait Car” operations by SFPD’s autotheft taskforce create crime rather than prevent it.
- The Brady Policy has no external oversight. The District Attorney’s office and SFPD work in tandem to determine which officers may have damaging information in their personnel files – and it’s highly doubtful the public will ever learn of their misconduct or if the officers have been disciplined.
Take a look at the report yourself – let us know if we missed anything or if there are issues you’d like us to delve further into.