SFPD chief considers cutting inspectors

September 22, 2008 7:46:55 PM PDT
San Francisco Police Chief Heather Fong suffered a strong rebuke late on Monday by the Civil Service Commission, for her plan to do away with the rank of inspector. These are the investigators who solve crime.

It is no exaggeration to say there is a crisis of confidence in Chief Heather Fong, among the rank and file. And it boiled over in a hearing room at City Hall.

About 53 San Francisco police officers filed a complaint with the Civil Service Commission. They tested for jobs as inspectors 10 years ago, but Chief Fong has decided to cut that position, and fill the jobs with sergeants.

"But I have to follow the rules or I get in trouble. So should everyone else because we are the police," said SFPD Officer Nick Berthne

"We want you to help the department, by forcing us and advocate in directing us to follow the rules," said Officers for Justice President Julian Hill.

Here's how it works: The department's 302 inspectors are detectives, the ones who investigate crime, homicide, robbery, sexual assault and fraud. They usually work alone or with another inspector.

On a separate track are sergeants who supervise patrol officers and respond to crime scenes.

Chief Fong wanted to slash the role of inspectors and use sergeants as investigators, even though they aren't trained and, in many cases, aren't suited for the job.

"Forty, 50 percent of the knowledge and abilities needed for an inspector are not covered by the sergeants test, and that's significant," said Michelle Rodriguez from Public Advocates.

The City Attorney's Office defended Chief Fong's plan.

"They are performing appropriate sergeant task now, they are doing investigative type work plus some of the other stuff depending on the particular individual they have some supervising powers as well," said Deputy City Attorney Beth Salveson.

"The chief needs to have the authority to run the police department. I ask you, I urge you, to support the chief of police and more importantly whatever decision you render on this matter, please make it on the basis of public safety," said SFPD Deputy Chief Kevin Cashman.

But the commission decided late on Monday, that Fong was wrong. The inspectors list is still active and the department should have hired them, instead of sergeants.

"But you should also have the opportunity to select a career path to what you want to do, because it's not a military, it's paramilitary. These people have jobs, families, and they live in the community," said Civil Service Commissioner Morgan Gorrono.

The commissioners were especially upset that Fong rushed through at least 35 appointments of sergeants to inspector's jobs over this past weekend.

This has been a major controversy inside the Hall of Justice for more than a year, and inside the Police Officers Association.

The members on the inspectors list complain that union president Gary Delagnes should have stood up for them, instead of backing Chief Fong's plan.

Delagnes did so in a very aggressive way.

"And I tell these guys if you feel that bad, you know, go blow your brains out for Christ sakes because if you don't trust anybody or anything on any level, then you must be one miserable human being," said Delagnes in an audio recording.

Sources told the I-Team Chief Fong's top command staff tried to warn her this was a bad move -- she did it anyway, and on Monday, her plan got rejected.

Related items:

  • Click here to listen to part of the audio from the meeting.
  • Click here to listen to more of Delagnes' recording.

    To learn more about this controversial plan, read The I-Team Blog.


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