San Francisco’s newest police chief introduced himself publicly for the first time today, as a chorus of city leaders touted his experience,
toughness and talent. “I’m extremely honored for this opportunity,” said Police Chief George Gascon, whose 28 years of law enforcement experience includes assistant police chief in Los Angeles and most recently, police chief in Mesa, Arizona. Mayor Gavin Newsom called Gascon “strong” and “no-nonsense.” “He’s got experience, he’s got a breadth of knowledge of not only managing a department, but being a member of a department,” Newsom said. Newsom noted Gascon’s record as police chief included significant reductions in violent crime and solving homicides. He also praised Gascon’s promotion of women and minorities, and community policing experience. “This is an incredibly forward-thinking city, this is a world-class city,” said Gascon. “There is no reason why we should not be the safest large city in the country,” he said. Gascon, who is set to take over the vacancy filled by retiring Chief Heather Fong in late July, said he looked forward to making “a great department an even greater department.” “I think she is an incredible professional,” Gascon said of Fong. “She is a woman of courage,” he said. “She worked under incredibly difficult conditions. Fong, who was named chief by Newsom in 2004 and became the first woman to head the department, announced her retirement in December. She inherited a department that Police Commission President Theresa Sparks said today was “riddled with controversy” amid allegations of misconduct by command staff during the so-called Fajita-gate scandal. Fong “brought a sense of quiet assurance back to the community,” Sparks said “I think it’s important to recognize that we are already moving in
the right direction,” Gascon agreed. “If you are a hardworking, ethical police officer, you will have my support,” he said. “If you are not, we will have to talk.” “I am an open book, I have no hidden agendas, I truly believe in policing,” said Gascon. “And I truly believe in cops, in what they do, if what they do is right.” Fong called Gascon “a great pick,” who “is inheriting a great police department.” District Attorney Kamala Harris said she was “very excited” about the choice of Gascon, “an outstanding member of America’s law enforcement family” with a “reputation throughout the country.” Board of Supervisors President David Chiu called Gascon “an outstanding choice” and said his “perspective on sanctuary city and in working collaboratively with immigrants is something that is exciting to us.” Gascon, who is of Cuban heritage and is bilingual, has drawn fire from some on the right for differing with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s tough crackdown on illegal immigration, but according to Detective Chris Adamczyk of the Mesa Police Association, that criticism was unjustified. Gascon has “a common-sense approach to immigration,” Adamczyk said. Arpaio would conduct immigration “roundups on the street,” Adamczyk said. “Chief Gascon didn’t feel that was an appropriate use of resources.” His policy on immigration appears to match the current sanctuary
policy of San Francisco, under which suspects are asked questions about their immigration status upon arrest and, if they are suspected of being in the country illegally, federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement is notified. Gascon said today he was very “conscious of people’s civil rights” and brought a “humane” approach to policing, arresting only with probable cause. “If we have made a proper arrest, I have no problem reporting an arrested felon to immigration,” Gascon said. That approach, however, will now draw criticism from some on the left in San Francisco. Supervisor David Campos said today he disagreed with reporting at the arrest level. Some immigration advocates have called for reporting to immigration authorities only upon conviction for a crime. “But we don’t have to agree on everything to be able to work together,” smiled Campos. “I do think that he’s an excellent choice.” “I will be reaching out to every community in San Francisco,” said
Gascon. “Not only the immigrant community, but the immigrant community that has no documents.”
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