George Gascon, the outgoing Mesa, Az., police chief, whom Mayor Gavin Newsom introduced yesterday as the successor to retiring Chief Heather Fong, was unfazed as the mayor ticked off a list of pitfalls facing an outsider trying to lead the San Francisco Police Department, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. An external pick hasn’t headed the department since the 1970s.
There’s the unfamiliarity with departmental politics and a tussle with the Board of Supervisors over slashing $82 million from public safety funding in the interim city budget. Not to mention what the mayor called “the intrigue that has defined this department for it seems like my entire lifetime” – from the short-lived indictment of much of the command staff in 2003 to repeated leaks from anonymous sources to the press. Gascón’s response when Newsom interviewed him? “He smiled calmly, casually, and said, ‘Well, what makes you feel that you’re so different?’ ” Newsom said. Gascón, 55, will take over by August. He faces a department beset with challenges: complaints of low officer morale, poor case resolution rates, allegations of racial profiling and a faulty discipline system that can keep good officers off the streets and bad officers on the payroll for years.