By Benjamin Wachs
There's lies, damn lies, and then there's the stunt that Gavin Newsom and Heather Fong just pulled.
Silent Fong's supporters are going on about how SF's top cop is retiring on her own terms, with dignity - but the problem has always been that her dignity came at the expense of law enforcement in San Francisco...and nothing could illustrate that better than the way she chose to leave.
According to the timeline now widely accepted:
• Fong told the Mayor over a month ago that she would leave in April.
• Last Wednesday, she attended a joint meeting of the city's Police Commission and Public Safety Commission - where she told the city's two most important law enforcement boards that she would be a partner in a proposed massive reorganization of the police department and promised to oversee long-term changes.
• On Saturday, she announced her retirement on Gavin Newsom's radio show.
What does this mean? It means that when the city was trying to have a crucially important conversation about the future of law enforcement in this town, the Chief of Police and the Mayor were withholding vital information from the people who needed to know it most.
Back where I come from (grad school), we call that a "lie of omission." But the Mayor's spokesman, Nathan Ballard, described the chief and mayor's scheme to keep the legislature in the dark while they were debating police issues this way: "For a police chief who is known for her dignity, it was a very dignified way to announce her retirement."
Just how narcissistic are these people?
Hey Gavin, I don't know if anybody told you, BUT PEOPLE ARE DYING ON THE STREET! If the police chief is going to retire, she has a duty --to the lives of San Franciscans if not to the city that employs her-- to tell the city's public safety boards before she goes to a public hearing to explain how she'll handle a long-term reorganization.
Every time I think the Mayor's office couldn't take 100 homicides any less seriously, he one-ups himself with a stunt like this. I don't know what he does for an encore: I imagine him showing up at crime scenes wearing a clown nose. It honks.
Fong should be fired. I imagine that lying to the Supes is grounds for dismissal. Even if she wasn't under oath.
That won't happen, of course, because the one man who has the power to fire her was in on the lie. That illustrates one of the most important changes the city can make as it overhauls its police department: control of the police chief needs to be taken away from the mayor's office and given to the Board of Supervisors. Having a police chief who can treat the Board of Supervisors with contempt just isn' working, and Gavin has forfeited the right to have any say in who the next Chief is, or how they perform their job. He can still have the Chief on his radio show if he likes.