Police Union Responds to Gascon in Dispute Over Blue Ribbon Panel

Stung by District Attorney George Gascon’s recent critical remarks about the San Francisco Police Officers Association, the union today fired back, alleging that when Gascon was police chief he was friendly with union leaders and made disparaging remarks about racial minorities in their presence.

The allegations are the latest salvo in a running conflict between the union and Gascon since the district attorney convened a blue ribbon panel investigating police bias and misconduct last year.

The panel was formed in the wake of revelations that a number of police officers had exchanged racist text messages, which were uncovered during a federal investigation. The union has rejected accusations of racial bias in the department, saying the text messages do not reflect the views of most officers.

Gascon, who was chief of police when the text messages were exchanged, testified at a Feb. 22 hearing of the blue ribbon panel, reportedly describing the department as insular and racially biased and the union as obstructing policy developments and slowing disciplinary proceedings.

In response, former POA President Gary Delagnes today released a sworn affidavit in which he stated that Gascon did not raise concerns about those issues while he was chief of police, but instead worked closely with the union on policy and disciplinary issues. He described Gascon’s testimony to the panel as full of “exaggerations, omissions and half-truths.”

Gascon promoted few African Americans during his tenure, expressing doubts about the qualifications of African American captains in the ranks, Delagnes said. On one occasion, at a 2010 dinner in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Gascon became drunk and made disparaging remarks about minorities, Delagnes alleged.

“He became so loud and animated that an African American patron approached Chief Gascon and asked him to restrain himself because his behavior was offending his family,” the affidavit states.

Delagnes’ affidavit was accompanied by three others from former and current police officers, largely stating that they had not seen or experienced racial bias in the department.

Last month, the union released a statement angrily denying allegations by panel members that it had obstructed their investigations.

The union today also echoed a call by retired Superior Court Judge Quentin Kopp for Gascon to recuse himself from his own panel because he has a conflict of interest.

The district attorney’s office did not respond to requests for comment today.

Sara Gaiser, Bay City News

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