One-on-one with SF's new police chief

September 23, 2009 7:28:12 PM PDT
It's been about two months since San Francisco's new police chief took office and he has not wasted any time chasing criminals. ABC7's Vic Lee spoke to Chief George Gascon in an exclusive wide ranging interview in which he made a surprise announcement.

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"Basically what we do is increasingly we give up a significant piece of our city and say we throw our arms up and we can't do anything about it. And I refuse to do that!" says Chief Gascon.

Chief Gascon is talking about his war against crime in the Tenderloin. The first salvo was a 20-day operation in August. Police saturated the area making just over 300 arrests. A month later, most of them are still in jail.

"We've charged I believe in the order of 85 percent of the cases that have come to us," says Assistant District Attorney Brian Buckelew. "The cases are very strong."

Folks in the Tenderloin are taking note that there is a new chief in town. Abed Eid has been a store owner in the area for 28 years.

"It's been very quiet. I don't see many drug dealers like before," says Eid. "I really appreciate what the new chief is doing."

Undercover cops will ride Muni buses in the Ingleside District after a spike in robberies and violence. More than 40 officers will take part in the operation which targets bus lines with the most complaints.

"We need to be on the right lines at the right time of the day in order to make the impact that we want to have, which is to make every San Franciscan feel comfortable to use public transportation," says Chief Gascon.

Chief Gascon calls his style "smart policing." He'll be moving many inspectors from the Hall of Justice to the 10 police stations and he's installing a computerized crime tracking system called COMPSTAT, which he helped develop as assistant police chief in Los Angeles.

Gascon is also not afraid to talk about controversial topics. When asked if he believed there were cases in which the death penalty is appropriate, he replied, "Generally speaking, purely from a pragmatic approach to it, I would say that not, but I understand those that support it."

The new chief questions its effectiveness as a deterrent and the costs, time, and resources needed to carry out a death sentence.

"Many times there is that human nature that you want retribution and I get that. We also have to have a pragmatic approach to how we use the resources that we have available to us," he says.

His new job is not the only thing Chief Gascon is excited about. He told ABC7 that he is getting married in November to his fiance, an anchorwoman in Los Angeles.

"I'm excited. This has been an incredible year. I mean a new job, new residence, now I'm getting married, but it's very exciting," he says. "I think it will afford me the opportunity also to settle down and I think it's all good."

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