Despite rumors that the selection has already been made, Mission residents and members of the SF Latino Democratic Club met with San Francisco police commissioners Thursday night to share their views on who should become the city’s next police chief.
Residents said they have Captain Al Casciato in mind. A San Francisco native, Casciato is known for being hands-on, a reformer, and a reasonable problem-solver, they said.
“He doesn’t use the Dirty Harry approach,” said Jim Salinas, president of the SF Latino Democratic Club and a former police commissioner. “Yes, he carries a gun and a badge, but he knows he doesn’t have to use it.”
The meeting was organized after Salinas accused the commission last month of deliberately bypassing the Mission District’s input in the selection process.
“We’re too vocal — as they like to think, unruly,” Salinas said. “They did the path of least resistance. The only community they couldn’t avoid visiting was Bayview Hunters point.”
Community member Rosabella Safont added, “We’re just used to being ignored.”
Of the 75 applicants, 25 have been selected for interviews and will be winnowed to three by the end of the week. Mayor Ed Lee will make the final decision, but Commissioner Angela Chan said another candidate could still be added to the mix.
Members of the SF Latino Democratic Club said that before Mayor Gavin Newsom left office, he directed the commission to choose Denise Schmitt, now an assistant chief and formerly chief of the Taraval Station.
The top job became vacant after Newsom, in one of his last acts as mayor, appointed Chief George Gascón as district attorney, replacing Kamala Harris. Gascón had been on the job just 17 months.
The group of 75 candidates to replace Gascón includes Schmitt. Casciato and acting Chief Jeff Godown have also been mentioned as possible replacements.
Salinas, however, believes the choice has been made. “I still think [Newsom] is looking to control things from where he’s at. There’s got to be some kind of political expediency going on. I think someone owes someone else.”
Commission members who attended the meeting denied any knowledge of such favor.
Commissioner Petra DeJesus said they were interviewing candidates, “but it’s ultimately up to the mayor to decide. If we knew of a hidden agenda, we certainly would come forward with it.”
The Board of Supervisors appointed DeJesus and two other commissioners who attended Thursday night’s meeting. Newsom appointed the commissioners who failed to attend the meeting.
“I know those guys,” DeJesus said of the absent commissioners after the meeting. “I would hope [the rumor] isn’t true.”
To Salinas and others, Casciato embodies the qualities the Mission community needs in a police chief. They said he is model of “true unadulterated dedication to the city, not because of the gold badge or salary raise.” However, they fear that potential corruption in the selection process may spoil his chances.
“We’re gonna make so much noise, [the commission] is going to make it a real selection process,” Salinas said.