The SFPD will not reform itself

Pub date November 7, 2006
SectionEditorialSectionNews & Opinion

EDITORIAL Mayor Gavin Newsom, who has vetoed legislation requiring a few police officers to actually walk beats in high-crime neighborhoods, says he was proud of the San Francisco Police Department’s action in the Castro on Halloween night. Proud? Some 800 cops were on hand, and yet someone managed to bring in a gun, shoot nine people — and get away. As we report on page 11, a lot of cops weren’t really doing much for most of the night except standing around; foot patrols (that is, cops actually mingling with the revelers, keeping an eye on things) might have prevented the shootings.
The SFPD is a mess — and the department isn’t going to reform itself. The mayor ought to be in the forefront on this, but he’s ducking — so the supervisors need to step up.
The foot patrol legislation, sponsored by Sup. Ross Mirkarimi, is hardly radical and isn’t a threat to the department’s independence. The bill simply directs the department to put a few cops on the beat, out of their cars, in a few high-crime areas. It passed 7–3, with only Sups. Aaron Peskin, Sean Elsbernd, and Michela Alioto-Pier dissenting, and Sup. Jake McGoldrick absent. If that vote holds and McGoldrick sticks with the majority, the supervisors can override the veto.
But there’s immense pressure coming down on individual supervisors to change their votes, and even one member slipping away would allow Newsom’s position to hold. That’s unacceptable: every supervisor who approved foot patrols needs to vote to override the veto — and just to be sure, Peskin, who is generally good on these issues, needs to come over to the progressive side. This one modest mandate could be not only a lifesaver in areas with high homicide rates but also the beginning of some real change at the SFPD.
The Police Commission is struggling with a disciplinary issue that’s also potentially a turning point: three commissioners — David Campos, Petra de Jesus, and Theresa Sparks — want to refuse to settle any disciplinary cases unless the cops agree to make the settlement public (see Opinion, page 7). Commissioner Joe Veronese initially agreed with that proposal but has shifted his position and is offering a really weak alternative instead. That’s a bad sign for the politically ambitious commissioner; he needs to show some spine, defy the Police Officers Association, and sign on with the Campos plan.
This just in: Bill Lee, who works for Mayor Newsom and (sort of) for the airport, is up for reappointment as a planning commissioner at the Rules Committee on Nov. 9. It’s a clear conflict of interest: a city employee working directly for the mayor shouldn’t be on the Planning Commission. Besides, he’s been a pretty bad vote. The supervisors should send him packing. SFBG