Newsom names Gascon as new top cop

June 17, 2009 10:09:37 PM PDT
The city of San Francisco has a new police chief and he is breaking the mold in a couple of key ways. He is the first outsider to get the job in more than 30 years and he is an immigrant.

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George Gascon has a great resume. The crime rate dropped during his three years as police chief in Mesa, Arizona and he was assistant police chief at the Los Angeles Police Department. He is supposed to be an expert at police training and use of force, but he still has his work cut out for him because he is an outsider coming to a department that has always been insular.

Almost every elected city official came to the mayor's news conference and all those who spoke praised the new chief.

"Everybody at the Board of Supervisors is very excited about this new day in San Francisco," Board of Supervisors President David Chiu said.

Gascon said all the right things in a city known for its liberal leanings.

"We're conscious of people's civil rights, we understand the power of policing is also being humane," Gascon said.

The 55-year-old police chief from Mesa, Arizona was the front runner among the three finalists chosen by the police commission.

"Chief Gascon's name being forwarded to the mayor was a unanimous choice of all seven commissioners," Police Commission President Theresa Sparks said.

Only one-quarter of San Francisco's homicides result in arrests, so Mayor Gavin Newsom was particularly impressed with Gascon's record in Mesa.

"He impressively increased the clearance rate dramatically of homicides, up to 90 percent clearance rate from 60 percent when he took over," Newsom said.

Gascon is the first outsider to be appointed chief in more than three decades.

"What he's (Newsom) saying is there's nobody qualified within the San Francisco Police Department from his point of view or the police commission's point of view," former mayor and police chief Frank Jordan said of Newsom's choice.

Police Union President Gary Delagnes lobbied for an insider.

"He's got his work to do and he's going to have to gain the trust of the membership," Delagnes said.

In light of that, ABC7 asked Gascon what he wants to say to the rank and file officers.

"Those who are willing to work hard are going to thrive, it will be an incredible ride for them; those who are not, are going to self select themselves and we'll have to deal with them," Gascon said.

"I think the fact that he is Hispanic and he's an immigrant himself is something that is a very powerful thing and something symbolic," Supervisor David Campos, who represents the Mission District, said.

Gascon is an advocate of sanctuary cities. He will not let his officers participate in federal immigration raids, so he is a perfect fit for San Francisco, which has the same policy.

Gascon's salary will be $292,000 a year. He will replace Chief Heather Fong in about a month.

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