Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Police chief calls for
community involvement


San Francisco Police Chief George Gascón is using computer statistics to help determine where to deploy officers on Muni lines. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
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Just a week after a lesbian was stabbed on Muni, San Francisco Police Chief George Gascón met with the Bay Area Reporter to discuss topics ranging from making the public transit system safer to the promotion of LGBT police officers.

"My goal is to develop an organization that is representative of all the communities we serve," said Gascón, who was sworn in in August, in an interview at the paper's offices on Tuesday, December 8. He said that diversity "enhances our credibility" and gives the police "the ability to develop the highest service possible."

One person who recently needed that service was Rachel "Ty" Haynes-Brown. Haynes-Brown, 24, and her partner, Gabby Winder, 21, were riding Muni's J-Church line on November 30 when Bobby Brown allegedly stabbed Haynes-Brown twice in her side.

Haynes-Brown, who said she's "doing fine," said all that her attacker said was, "I got you, motherfucker."

Brown was arrested the day after the alleged attack.

The police "were really fast about getting the guy," said Haynes-Brown.

Brown, 30, who is also the suspect in three other stabbings – including a September attack on an 11-year-old Muni passenger – is facing attempted murder and other charges in the cases.

The Brown incident, which many say was greatly helped by quick police work, stands in contrast to what happened after the death of Ruby Ordenana, a transgender woman who was murdered in March 2007. Ordenana's legal first name was Rudy.

As the San Francisco Chronicle reported in November, DNA that was recovered from the Ordenana case wasn't processed until nearly two years later.

The evidence was matched with Donzell Francis, 41, whom police suspect went on to assault three transgender women after killing Ordenana.

Francis, who is on trial this week, has been charged with kidnapping with the intent to commit oral copulation and sodomy, sodomy by use of force, and assault with a deadly weapon, among other things. It wasn't immediately clear whether the victim in this case was one of the transgender women.

Gascón said this week that he "blew a fuse" at a recent CompStat meeting over the topic of DNA testing. "We have to create a sense of urgency," he said.

"Yes, I'm frustrated. Yes, I'm running out of patience," he said, but he said there's a personnel shortage and a need for improved technology.

"There were certain loose protocols" in place before, he said. Now, officials examine evidence, match resources and urgency, and prioritize cases, he said. He called this is "an interim solution."

Lieutenant Lyn Tomioka, a police spokeswoman, said that practices for processing DNA were changed about 18 months ago.

 The chief's comments not only forecast a change in police procedures but also are indicative of the total overhaul he wants to implement in a department that has rarely seen change. Even his sense of style is a change from the past. Unlike his predecessor Heather Fong, who was never seen out of uniform, Gascón wore a suit to the interview. This week's meeting was also the first time that a police chief has met with the B.A.R. in years.

Muni safety

Gascón, who's been working to make the police department more efficient, said that there's "no question" that the reorganization he's been leading "did us some good" in arresting the suspect in the Muni stabbings, but there are also other factors.

For one thing, information about the suspect was widely distributed and inspectors based in the Taraval police station moved "very quickly" to apprehend him.

Openly gay Supervisor Bevan Dufty has been calling on the police department to honor its 2001 memorandum of agreement with Mu

Rachel "Ty" Haynes-Brown, left, and her partner, Gabby Winder. Photo: Courtesy Rachel "Ty" Haynes-Brown
ni assuring that beat officers would ride the system two to four times per shift.

But referring to that agreement, he said he wants to use data to determine what lines officers ride.

"There are no resources to really do this well if you are randomly putting people out there," Gascón said.

Dufty said in a phone interview, "If data is going to be the basis for deployment, we have to have accurate data. That means people have to report what they're seeing or what they're experiencing."

He also said that Gascón has "been very open and responsive to me on issues. I feel like he is setting a strong tone for the department."

Referring to a question about what Muni riders should do when they're called "faggot" or some other derogatory term, Gascón said, "We recognize that sometimes hate talk leads to other things." He said people need to report what's going on, although he noted derogatory language can be difficult to police.

Gascón talked about how there could be more uniformed or undercover police on Muni. Random incidents are hard to do anything about, he said, but police also could look for patterns on certain lines, including the time of day and day of the week that incidents occur.

Gascón said police are planning a crime prevention public education campaign on Muni. One tool already in place is text messaging.

To send a text message to police, type tip411, then SFPD, followed by the message.


LGBT officers

Lieutenant Lea Militello, an out lesbian who is president of the police department's Pride Alliance, said many members have been "frustrated" with the pace of putting more LGBT officers in positions within the department's command staff. However, she said problems the department has had throughout its history "can't change overnight."

Militello added, "I believe that [Gascón] will make the changes that need to happen. He's got a big plate of stuff that he has to deal with. I think it is ill-advised to be critical of somebody when they've only been there 90 days."

Gascón said, "I am very committed to creating an organization that will reflect the incredible richness of our city and community."

He also said, "we have to fill in the feeder pools" so that more LGBT officers are available for promotion.



The police chief has promoted the CompStat model, which is driven largely by computer statistics, since he took the job. He encourages the public to attend CompStat meetings, which are held every other Wednesday from 10 a.m. to around 1 p.m. at the Scottish Rite Masonic Center at 19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard.

Gascón talked about holding captains accountable for their districts.

"We recognize that every station has a piece of the pie here" and captains should have ownership of the problems in their districts. Every 30 days, captains are supposed to look at the problems in their districts and examine whether the strategies they're using are working.

Gascón said that the Castro neighborhood is "one of the safest parts of the city," but it still experiences property crimes.

He said that he's been a crime victim himself, and "to the victim of any crime, no matter how small it is, it is a big deal." For that person, "crime went up 100 percent," that day, he said.

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