Cops Watching Cops

Police watchdog agency the Office of Citizen Complaints braces for its fifth lame director

Check out the finalists the Police Commission is interviewing to take the helm at the Office of Citizen Complaints, the civilian police watchdog agency. But first, clamp firmly on nose.

Russ Quinn, a middle-aged former police chief from Hercules, a tiny town in the East Bay with a police force of 18. Quinn, who left policing because of a heart attack, is now investigating credit card fraud for Wells Fargo Bank. No oversight experience.

Lance Bayer, a deputy district attorney in Santa Clara County. Bayer was an enthusiastic volunteer in Mayor Frank Jordan's Save the Giants campaign in 1992. Among other things, Bayer provided intelligence on South Bay investors who were trying to lure the Giants to San Jose. No oversight experience.

Michael Porter, a former police officer from the Washington, D.C., area and the ex-husband of the last OCC director, Alfreda Davis Porter, who was forced to resign by the Police Commission for her disastrous tenure in office. Since 1993, Michael Porter has headed the Housing Authority's complement of security officers. Avid golfer. No oversight experience.

Don Casimere, former Berkeley police officer and current director of the Richmond Police Commission, the city's civilian police oversight agency. Casimere's office handles up to 30 misconduct complaints a year, of which about 20 percent result in discipline. San Francisco handles several thousand complaints a year. The knock on Casimere, who worked in the San Francisco OCC as senior investigator from 1983-84, is that he turned a blind eye to the director's frequent absences and his failure to handle complaints in a timely manner. "Find a niche and skate," he allegedly told his co-workers according to more than one source. Casimere refused to respond to the criticism from his old OCC colleagues.

Barbara Attard, current OCC senior investigator. An aggressive and talented investigator who isn't afraid of cops, Attard gets low marks from OCC staff for her management skills.

Using the OCC as a retirement home for former police officers and prosecutors is a San Francisco tradition. Of the four past directors, one was a former cop, one a former DA, and one a former security specialist and ex-Army colonel.

Thanks to their pro-cop bias and their incompetence, timidity, venality, and sloth, all of the past directors contributed to bringing the agency to its knees.

The OCC's first director in 1983, Gene Swann, was a retired district attorney who spent his time reading the Wall Street Journal and preparing lesson plans for his UC Berkeley economics class as the agency disintegrated under him. He was finally fired when then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein discovered that he was falsely claiming a city residence.

Director No. 2 in 1985, Frank Shober, was an ex-U.S. Army colonel and former National Guard general who thought one of the best ways to handle police misconduct was to launch an image-improving campaign for cops. Bus advertisements featured policemen pictured with their mothers offering public safety tips. His investigative acumen was called into question when it was discovered that police spied on political activists during the 1984 Democratic Convention, an event where Shober was in charge of security.

Hired in 1987, director three, Michael Langer, was a former Skokie, Ill., cop who ignored incompetent staffers and crumbled under the endless attacks of the Police Department.

And the most recent director, Alfreda Davis Porter, whose gilded rŽsumŽ made her seem a savior when she was hired in 1991, was chased out of town by the Police Commission after it was discovered she hardly ever showed up for work, took home and lost numerous investigative files, stalled on politically charged cases, and allegedly falsified her overtime records.

After Porter was asked to resign in late 1993, Mayor Jordan's Police Commission twiddled its thumbs, seemingly uninterested in finding a new director to right the OCC. They were more than happy to allow the former Oakland cop who was acting director continue to steer the rudderless agency. Only after Supervisor Tom Ammiano started making noise did the commissioners begin searching for a full-time director. The commissioners didn't have to work very hard to ensure a continuation of the OCC's sorry legacy.

The selection committee, appointed by the commission, was staffed by a former homicide inspector, a deputy district attorney, a public defender, and a Delancey Street official.

But the backgrounds of the police commissioners is an even more telling barometer of the outcome. Overseeing the hiring is a compliant ex-judge, an investigator for the district attorney, a former DA, an ex-cop, and a Republican ex-supervisor whose father and uncles were all San Francisco cops.

As a result, the OCC "office pool," an informal betting circle that normally proves correct, has Quinn or Casimere as the likely choices. "They're both former cops," says one agency staffer. "I'm sure that gave the commissioners an erection."

Adds a second OCC staffer: "It's just so damn disappointing. We had hopes that given the amount of time they took to conduct the search that they might come up with a grouping that was more representative of the community that brought civilian review to the city. Instead, I guess we're doomed to endlessly end up with directors who are happy if they sustain 2 percent of the cases they get."

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