By G.W. Schulz
The head of the city's police watchdog agency announced at a San Francisco Police Commission meeting last night that he would be resigning his post in early February. The Office of Citizen Complaints is one of the few city entities in the nation that independently investigates charges of police misconduct from civilians and maintains the power to subpoena officers. While director Kevin Allen told the commission he's stepping down for health reasons, the pace of said investigations has at times been slow during his tenure, and commissioner Joe Veronese told us just moments ago that the OCC’s full responsibilities weren’t effectively being carried out.
The OCC and its staff of lawyers are popular targets of vitriol for the city's police union, the San Francisco Police Officer’s Association, and its in-your-face president, Gary Delagnes, who rarely miss a chance to attack the OCC in front of the commission. Delagnes and other union members have complained about the vigor with which the OCC carries out its mission, and the tension just recently led OCC staffer Susan Leff to file a restraining order against the POA's vice president, Kevin Martin (it was later dropped following an undisclosed settlement). The OCC was created by voters in 1983.
No word yet on where Allen plans to go or who might take his place. But Veronese said that while the POA was "clearly elated" over the announcement last night, leaders at the union have a tendency to "bite their nose off to spite their face." In other words, Allen had a reputation for being very cordial and measured in his prosecutions of misbehaving cops, and the commission could just as soon replace him with someone even less desirable to the POA.
"I can tell you if I was in that position as director of the OCC, my job would be to go after the throats of corrupt cops. And I would be aggressive about it, because that would be my job and my duty as a public servant in that position ... And frankly I don't think that's been achieved. I think there's been too much cooperation."
He added that Allen's serious health problems are "nothing anyone should be elated about."
As far as a replacement goes, the commission will nominate a candidate who would be reviewed by both the mayor's office and the board of supervisors. That's when things could get interesting. Mayor Newsom has relentlessly supported Police Chief Heather Fong, and if the pressure's on to back a candidate for the position that displeases the union and department brass, that could create problems for his reelection bid; Newsom will want the support of both police and fire.