Gascon sworn in as new SFPD chief

August 7, 2009 7:17:33 PM PDT
San Francisco's new top cop was sworn in Friday, replacing retiring Chief Heather Fong.

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George Gascon seems to enjoy the limelight certainly more than his predecessor. After the private ceremony held in the mayor's office, he met reporters.

Gascon says he wants to improve morale and solve more cases.

"You cannot investigate crimes from behind a desk, so the first thing we have to do is get detectives out in the field," he said.

Fifty-five-year-old Gascon says he will waste no time making changes. He wants to improve the dismal 25 percent homicide clearance rate by moving more inspectors from the hall of justice to district stations.

"People that are committing crimes in the city have to face the appropriate level of prosecution," Gascon said.

To achieve that, Gascon wants to buy and implement a computer tracking system called COMSTAT that reveals crime patterns so police can deploy resources quickly to handle them.

"We're going to get going with COMSTAT by October and obviously we're going to be do a lot of things by hand because we don't have the right technology to do it," Gascon said.

Mayor Gavin Newsom credits Fong with initiating much needed changes in the department. Gascon, he says, will bring it to another level.

"Now we're ready for real reforms and we're ready for a real reformer," Newsom said.

Cops that spoke with ABC7 hope the new chief will expedite disciplinary hearings so officers who are cleared can go back on patrol.

"We have quite a lot of officers who are awaiting hearings, or their administrative investigations to be completed," Captain Gary Jimenez said.

Gascon has been credited with having command presence, something that many rank and file officers say Fong lacked. Gascon appears comfortable with reporters, Fong avoided them.

In an exclusive interview with ABC7 three years ago, Fong responded to criticism of her leadership this way.

"I think it's always difficult because you can't please everybody at the same time," Fong said.

Fong rarely gave interviews. In fact, at Friday's private swearing-in ceremony, she literally ran into the mayor's office to avoid talking with reporters. Then after it was over, she darted out the door while the mayor and others assembled for the news conference.

Gascon, who has been living in the Marina District of San Francisco, will start work on Monday.

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