Police Officers Association president Tony Montoya has unilaterally ordered the editor of his union’s newsletter to cut Chief Bill Scott’s monthly column.
“As a result of yesterday’s meeting, I have directed the Editor to suspend the Chief’s monthly article in the POA Journal,” Montoya today wrote to his membership following yesterday’s monthly POA board meeting. “This was not received well. However, it’s a decision I stand by.”
Montoya couched this as a decision spurred by the dire state of print publications. “As all of you know, the Journal staff struggle each month to fill the Journal pages with relevant information. We have been having this discussion for years and there has even been talk of eliminating the Journal or making it a quarterly publication,” he continued. “I am opposed to both of those options.”
A department head having a column in the union newsletter is something of an oddity; the chief is management and this is, again, a union newsletter. And it’s not a longstanding tradition. In 2011, when Greg Suhr was named chief, he soon began writing a “Chief’s Corner” column to accompany the many corners of the POA newsletter (Counselor’s Corner, Retiree’s Corner, PAL Corner). After Suhr resigned in 2016, acting chief Toney Chaplin kept writing the column. And, when Scott took over in January 2017, he got the gig.
Scott’s column, however, has appeared to grow smaller and smaller, and found itself less and less prominently featured within the newsletter. In the current edition, which figures to be the last Chief’s Corner for the near term, Scott’s column is only three paragraphs long and stuck in the bottom corner of Page 22, beneath the letters to the editor.
Messages for Montoya have not yet been returned. SFPD director of strategic communications David Stevenson said Mission Local’s call was the first he was hearing of this development.
Scott spent decades in the Los Angeles Police Department before assuming the reins here, and, as such, has never been a POA favorite. The union’s opinion of him has shifted from cool displeasure to hot disdain. When Scott in March came out against the POA-backed measure to arm San Francisco officers with Tasers and regulate them on the POA’s chosen terms, that triggered something of a breaking point.
“Unfortunately, the Chief allowed himself to be played like a cheap fiddle by some on the Police Commission who have their own agenda,” wrote then-POA president Martin Halloran at the time. “He should get rid of whoever is advising him – otherwise, he is going to drive an irreparable wedge between himself and the membership.” Former longtime POA president Gary Delagnes in March told Mission Local “We have given this chief of police every opportunity to succeed. And he has been an abject failure. If there’s a number less than zero, he’s it. He clearly has no mind of his own, so, I believe he was pushed by someone — to do this.”
Proposition H lost by a 20-plus point margin in June.
Scott most recently drew the ire of the POA with his draft proposal to largely do away with the practice of sitting suspects on the ground during police detentions and arrests. A POA attorney described this Scott’s policy as “a major break with our past practices … in the POA’s opinion, it affects officer safety.”
Montoya, meanwhile, has asked his union membership to help fill up the paper. “If you have the time, please forward (with permission) articles and information you believe is relevant, reach out to your contacts and encourage them to advertise in the Journal and last but not least, submit articles that you have written yourself,” he wrote. “We have over 8,000 subscribers and each anticipates their monthly Journal.”