The San Francisco Police Department’s Mission Station has a new captain, as of this week. Captain Gavin McEachern announced his retirement at a community meeting on Wednesday night, saying he will be succeeded by Captain Thomas Harvey, an 18-year veteran of the department.
Harvey technically already joined as captain on Monday, and will overlap with McEachern until April 29, giving Harvey time to acclimate to the role, McEachern said. McEachern said that his retirement has been on the horizon for months, and that he was able to give input on who he wanted to succeed him; Harvey was his number-one choice.
“Tom was at the top of my list,” McEachern said, to a room of about 30 Mission residents gathered to discuss a homeless encampment on Harrison Street. Harvey has legacy ties to the district and lives in the city, McEachern noted later.
Since joining the police in 2005, Harvey, 42, has served at Mission Station twice — at least once as an officer. The station encompasses the Mission District, as well as the Castro and Noe Valley.
“I just ask for a little patience as I get up to speed,” Harvey said during his introduction, before attendees launched into a barrage of complaints.
The ensuing two-hour meeting — at which participants showed minimal patience with the process of outreach to encampments, and solving crimes such as package and bike theft— was the Mission equivalent of a trial by fire.
“The Mission District has many challenges; societal challenges, not just police challenges,” Harvey said in an interview after the meeting. His two goals in leading the station of nearly 100 officers, he said, are to “improve public safety, [and] improve relations with the San Francisco Police Department.”
For the last 15 months, Harvey has been the captain of the San Francisco Police Academy, in charge of recruits hoping to become full-fledged officers. He previously worked at Northern Station, Taraval Station, Ingleside Station, Tenderloin Station, and Bayview Station. He also worked on three specialized teams, one focused on car break-ins, another on reducing gun violence, and another on searching for fugitives.
Harvey grew up in the Parkside District and attended Saint Ignatius High School and San Francisco State University before joining the police department in 2005, according to SFPD’s website.
The Mission’s current captain, McEachern, had led the station since he took over as interim captain in November, 2021. He supported neighborhood initiatives with mixed success, including blocking off Capp Street to target sex work there, and providing officers for Supervisor Hillary Ronen’s efforts to end unlicensed vending at the BART plazas.
“I knew that it was going to be a challenging assignment, but it was really really rewarding,” McEachern said in an interview on Thursday. He mentioned his pride in collaborating with city agencies to address homelessness in the Castro in recent months, and that a few women on Capp Street had been “rescued” from human trafficking, and had been moved into housing and provided resources.
His retirement at the end of April comes after more than 30 years with the department.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Harvey noted some personal connections to the Mission: His father ran the yellow-tiled Harvey real estate business on Valencia and Hill streets, he attended pre-kindergarten and kindergarten at Holy Family Day Home on Dolores Street, and he grew up going to the now-closed Bruno’s nightclub.
By the end of the meeting, he seemed to have a sense of the task before him.
“How do you eat an elephant?” he asked the remaining attendees.
“One bite at a time.”