Re: Police Chiefs, Internet Escort Sting and Mayan Calendar 2012
S.F. chief offers break to cops in trouble
A backlog of disciplinary cases is forcing San Francisco Police Chief George Gascón to play "Let's Make a Deal" with errant cops - offering passes for offenses that under ordinary circumstances could get them fired.
The chief figures he has to do something, having inherited a mess when he came on the job in July in which some officers' disciplinary cases had lain dormant for years.
Allegations of serious infractions by officers, committed on or off duty, are supposed to be heard first by individual members of the Police Commission and then by the full panel.
The problem is that, according to city records, only three commissioners have heard any cases in the past year: David Onek, who spent 18 days in hearings; Petra DeJesus, three days; and Tom Mazzucco, two days.
The remaining three commissioners heard no cases at all.
Commission President Joe Marshall said there are three main reasons for that: Commissioners, who don't get paid to serve on the panel, don't have the time to hear cases; they don't have enough staff to help them; and they lack the ability to "get everyone to the table."
"We also haven't had a full complement of commissioners," Marshall said. "We're supposed to have seven. When someone leaves, it creates a big hole."
Granted, but in the past commissioners managed to find time to hear cases - they just don't seem to be able to now.
"And it is becoming progressively worse," said Gary Delagnes, head of the Police Officers Association.
There are 47 disciplinary cases pending before the commission, the oldest of which is a domestic violence allegation that goes all the way back to 2003.
In an effort to clean things up, Gascón has offered what he calls "pragmatic" deals for about 20 cops accused of first offenses - in some instances, offering short suspensions and retraining in return for guilty pleas.
The chief cut one such deal for a cop who had been accused of domestic violence. No criminal charges had been filed and the alleged victim wasn't available to testify, so Gascón allowed the officer to get off with a few days' suspension and time in an anger management class.
Gascón emphasized that he is offering such deals only to first-time offenders. Cops with a record of disciplinary problems don't get a break.
"I'm not really happy with the deals," Gascón said. "But when the dispensing of justice is not swift, it hurts both morale within the department and the credibility of the department with the public."
There's talk of putting together a City Charter amendment to change the police disciplinary system, but so far that's all it is - talk.
No foul: The Alameda County district attorney's office will not press a battery case against former Oakland Raiders tight end Jeremy Brigham, putting to rest charges that he assaulted county supervisor and fellow coach Scott Haggerty in a dispute over peewee football.
From the looks of things, both men are eager to put the matter in the past.
"It's my understanding that Mr. Haggerty doesn't wish to pursue criminal charges," said Deputy District Attorney Ronda Theisen.
For his part, Brigham said that although Haggerty's original version of the story made him "look like a monster," in truth there had been "no physical punching."
Haggerty, who wound up in a neck brace, had accused Brigham of attacking him after a practice for a Pleasanton football team of 10- to 12-year-old boys.
Brigham had fired Haggerty two days earlier as the assistant coach, and supposedly suspected him of leaking plays to an opposing team.