NEWSOM TAPS GEORGE GASCON AS SAN FRANCISCO POLICE CHIEF – FOUGHT FOR SANCTUARY CITY POLICY AS MESA POLICE CHIEF16 June 2009
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has chosen Mesa, Ariz. police Chief George Gascon as the city’s next chief of police.
“I know going outside is a risk,” Newsom told the San Francisco Chronicle Tuesday about his decision not to select a replacement for outgoing chief Heather Fong from within the police department.
“But (Gascon) is a nuts-and-bolts-type of chief, a cop’s cop and very active in community policing.”
Gascon, 55, has been police chief of Mesa, a city of 460,000 that is part of the Phoenix metropolitan area, since 2006. Before that, he was an assistant police chief in Los Angeles.
“Any time you go into a new opportunity, there is going to be a level of uncertainty,” Gascon told the Chronicle.
“But I feel very comfortable.”
Gascon is a supporter of sanctuary policies for illegal immigrants, which San Francisco has followed for years.
He has described the use of officers to enforce immigration laws as a waste of resources, and he has clashed with a county sheriff in Arizona over the sheriff’s efforts to arrest illegal immigrants.
“He shares the mayor’s support for the sanctuary city policy and he has tackled some of the toughest immigration related law enforcement issues as a police chief in Arizona,” said Nathan Ballard, a spokesman for the mayor.
Ballard said Newsom would formally announce his selection of Gascon at a news conference scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday at San Francisco City Hall. Gascon is expected to be by the mayor’s side.
Newsom said he wants Gascon to implement a computer system to detect trends in crimes. The mayor also wants Gascon to improve morale among officers and increase the rate at which the department makes arrests in homicide cases.
Under Gascon, the 800-officer Mesa police department made arrests in more than 90 percent of homicides last year, up from about 50 percent when Gascon took over the department in 2006. San Francisco’s so-called clearance rate is around 25 percent.
Newsom said Fong, who has been chief since 2004, supported his decision to select Gascon.
Mesa police issued a statement Tuesday evening saying Gascon was not confirming the appointment and was not available for media interviews.
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