In selecting a new police chief, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom will have to weigh candidates from within the department who know local choppy political waters against outsiders who might do better implementing reform, political leaders and law enforcement experts told the San Francisco Chronicle. Whoever succeeds Chief Heather Fong, who announced her retirement Saturday, faces a department dogged by low morale, a cumbersome bureaucracy, and out-of-date technology. The new leader will face pressure to reduce the city’s homicide rate, now at its highest level in 13 years.
Despite the challenges, the chief’s post is coveted by many. Potential successors to Fong include San Francisco police commanders, as well as chiefs in other cities. Fong is credited with bringing integrity and stability to the department in the midst of scandal, but critics faulted her leadership abilities. City Hall and police leaders are digesting a voluminous study of San Francisco’s department by the Police Executive Research Forum, a national coalition of progressive law enforcement officials. The report calls for restructuring the command staff, rewriting use-of-force policies and cutting the number of police stations. The new chief will have to shepherd dramatic change. Newsom is conducting a national search, but Supervisor Bevan Dufty is advising Newsom to hire someone who is familiar with the city’s values, problems and political structure.