The San Francisco Police Commission will consider Wednesday recommending a change in city law to allow new police Chief George Gascon to hire command staff from outside the department, as part of his restructuring efforts.
The proposal is controversial for some in the department, according to a union official.
Gascon, who worked for 28 years with the Los Angeles Police Department and was most recently police chief in Mesa, Ariz., began as San Francisco police chief Aug. 8 and has promised to introduce several reforms.
In addition to new efforts at community policing, technological improvements and the implementation of the CompStat crime pattern tracking system, Gascon would also like the opportunity to hire command staff who may be more familiar with his strategies and methods.
The new chief has already brought in outside consultants to analyze the department’s procedures and personnel. Part of his planned restructuring of the department in the first few months includes looking at the “chain of command,” he has said.
The command staff, who serve at the pleasure of the chief, include the ranks of assistant chief, deputy chief and commander.
Gascon told a Board of Supervisors committee last week that he intends to have three assistant chiefs–instead of the one the department currently has–one to oversee police operations, another for administrative services and a third to be his chief of staff.
He also told the committee he hopes to bring in two people from outside the department, though he did not specify which command staff positions they would occupy.
“Our command staff will need to understand that they are going to be held accountable to a very high standard,” he said.
It was also unclear whether he intends to eliminate other command staff positions in order to make up for the higher assistant chief salaries, though Gascon did tell the committee, “When it comes to dealing with city money, I am a fiscal conservative.”
“The reason why I was brought into this department,” Gascon told the supervisors, was because of a perception by city officials “that the department needed a new set of eyes.”
The ordinance to amend the city’s administrative code has already been drafted and co-sponsored by eight of the 11 members of the Board of Supervisors. It would allow the chief of police to appoint law enforcement from other local, state or federal agencies to ranks above captain.
City code currently allows for appointments to the command staff only for San Francisco Police Department employees at the rank of lieutenant or higher. The proposed change would allow for those with supervisory experience outside the department to also be considered.
The legislation has been assigned to the board’s Rules Committee, but the supervisors are on recess until mid-September.
The police commission will vote Wednesday evening on a resolution urging that the Board of Supervisors and Mayor Gavin Newsom approve the ordinance. The resolution notes the San Francisco Police Department already encourages lateral hiring of other officers from outside the department in order to attract the most qualified candidates.
Though Gascon has so far worked closely with the police union, union members are wary of this proposal, Police Officers Association President Gary Delagnes said today.
“I understand the chief’s desire to do this, and if I was going in to a new city, under these circumstances I would probably want to bring in my own people too,” Delagnes said. “But it also causes problems for the union, because you’re talking about bypassing internal candidates … who feel as though they’re qualified for those positions.”
Delagnes said Gascon may be considering one outside candidate as his chief of staff, and another as a commander to help implement CompStat, which was introduced in Los Angeles when Gascon worked there, and which Gascon implemented as chief in Mesa.
“I would be more comfortable with one (outside candidate),” said Delagnes. He said he’s been in discussions with Gascon about the issue and hoped they could reach a compromise.
Delagnes noted that Gascon “has been a true professional.”
“He’s been completely cooperative every step of the way, and he’s been sensitive to the feelings of our members as well,” Delagnes said.
“I think that the rank and file (in the department) want change,” Delagnes acknowledged. “It’s not a matter of change now, it’s a matter of how much there’s going to be and how fast it’s going to come.”