Godown moves up, not warmly welcomed

January 11, 2011 6:14:20 PM PST
Before Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom left for the job in Sacramento, he initiated a game of musical chairs at City Hall. He appointed Police Chief George Gascon as interim district attorney. Gascon replaces Kamala Harris who is now the state attorney general and that move created an opening for interim police chief.

The new interim police chief is Jeff Godown, an assistant chief and veteran from the Los Angeles Police Department. He's known as a bright, no nonsense, tough-on-crime cop who was hired by Chief Gascon in 2009. He's had a meteoric rise to the command staff and now, he's the top cop -- a surprise also to him.

"It's very interesting here in San Francisco. It makes Los Angeles look very small town," says Interim Police Chief Jeff Godown.

Godown says he hasn't had time to reflect on what's happened since his appointment came just after his boss was sworn in as district attorney.

Godown was a detective at the LAPD and both he and Gascon had been disciples of legendary Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton. Godown headed Compstat, the computer crime tracking system, which Gascon brought to San Francisco. It was the centerpiece of his crime fighting strategies and he wanted Godown to implement it in the city.

Godown was Gascon's confidant and right hand man. Last year, he was promoted to assistant chief.

Now the interim chief says he has no illusions about his job.

"My goal is to just keep it moving in the same fashion as the chief was doing," said Godown.

The police officers association still views Godown as an outsider. The union wants the new chief to be one of its own.

"They'll understand the idiosyncrasies of our membership and the things that make us different from most police departments," says Gary Delagnes from the San Francisco Police Officers Association.

Godown says the union doesn't have to worry. He made a promise to Gascon when he was appointed chief yesterday.

"I told the chief of police I would not put my hat in the ring for the full-time position," says Godown. When asked why, he said, "He just asked me not to do it and I told him I wouldn't."

Gascon explains his reason for the request.

"That opens up the field for any other insiders who may want to compete without any advantage," says Gascon.

Godown says his priorities will be to get Tasers for his officers, schedule five academy classes this fiscal year and begin planning security for America's Cup. As for Gascon, he tells ABC7 this is no interim job for him. He's running for district attorney in November.