The new police chief, who started out with a lot of promise, has been sending some very bad signals the past week.
Chief George Gascón told us earlier this month that he was sympathetic to the efforts of Sup. David Campos to protect immigrant kids from deportation. He also said he agreed that the cops and probation officers shouldn't be deciding when to call in the federal immigration authorities. Yet now that the mayor said he will defy the Campos legislation (see page 11), Gascón told the San Francisco Chronicle he's siding with Newsom. That's a pretty cosmic wimp-out and it only took a few days.
Then there's the shake-up of top staff which looks to me like a total cave-in to the Police Officers Association. The POA types (who have been associated with a lot of bad stuff over the years) got tough-guy cop Greg Corrales assigned back as captain of Mission Station (where he got in trouble during the Fajitagate scandal, but ultimately faced no discipline. They got Greg Suhr, who had been demoted on a pretty bogus technicality, a new career shot as captain of the Bayview station.
Paul Chignell, one of the rare almost-liberals in the department who was doing a good job at Taraval Station, has been exiled to the night shift. Al Casciato, who supported community policing, has been bounced out as captain of Northern Station in the Western Addition. "This completely belies Gascón's promises about community policing," Sup. Ross Mirkarimi told me. "These unannounced and unplanned rotations (of district captains) undermine the whole community-policing idea."
And perhaps most alarming, the chief wants to bring back the old SFPD intelligence unit once again turning local cops into spies.
The intelligence squad was a nightmare. Back in the early 1990s, an intel cop was spying on Arab American and Palestinian groups and passing along the data to the private Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith. Cops were spying on peace activists and protesters. They even had a file on me. When all that started to come out, the city properly shut the spy shop down.
Now Gascón wants to bring it back, citing fears about terrorism. As if there aren't enough government agencies spying on people already. And SFPD has enough trouble solving murders and keeping its own house in order opening a spy agency is a really, really bad idea.
Gascón is also refusing to tell Mirkarimi and the other supervisors how much taxpayer money gets spent sending officers around with the mayor as he campaigns up and down the state. I could argue that the Newsom for Governor campaign ought to reimburse the city for those expenses but Gascón won't even produce a gross figure. His claim: Telling the taxpayers how much the mayor's security detail costs threaten Newsom's security.
I don't buy it. We're not asking for protection plans, schedules, deployments, or anything else just a bottom-line cash number. SFPD doesn't need spies or a black budget. If Gascón thinks that style is going to work here, he's going to run into trouble, quick.