Chronicle series sparks police chief indignation
Police Chief Heather Fong at a press conference yesterday holds
up a copy of the San Francisco Chronicle's Sunday edition containing
a photo of a man unconnected to the newspaper's story.
By Pat Murphy and Luke
February 7, 2006
San Francisco yesterday stood spectator to questions of police
use of force raised Sunday by the San Francisco Chronicle.
The Chronicle series
entitled "The Use of Force - When SFPD Officers Resort
to Violence" reported less than five percent of officers
are responsible for 25% of force incidents with slow-moving oversight
procedures permitting problem officers to remain onduty.
The series set off indignation Monday by Police Chief Heather
Fong. Chronicle inaccessibility allegations for preparation of
the series startled Mayor Gavin Newsom. And most involved portrayed
fundamental police reform as unstoppable although shape remains
Developments yesterday included:
-- An angry Police Chief Heather Fong asserting, "It was
not the intention of this article to look at good things."
She noted a new system for detection and oversight of force incidents
was announced eleven days ago. Fong also referred to an inaccurate
Chronicle photo as raising "serious concerns about the analysis
of all of the other data that they have obtained.'' She complained
Chronicle unfavorable comparison with other cities' force incidents
provided no basis for comparison without data collection formula
explained. Fong related she is conferring with the San Francisco
City Attorney on possible legal action against the Chronicle.
-- The Chronicle offered "regrets" for a photo which
erroneously portrayed a man as a problem officer. "He's not
a member of the police department. I don't know who he is,"
Fong had complained. Chronicle Editor Phil Bronstein stood by
accuracy of the series, noting "The photo error, while serious,
does not change the basic issues raised by the series about the
department's lack of a reliable system for tracking use of force
and its failure to hold accountable officers who repeatedly resort
to use of force." The Chronicle reported it had not been
asked by Fong for excessive force data collection system used
by other cities.
-- Mayor Gavin Newsom praised the series as raising an important
issue. "I think the piece is a very good piece in the context
of bringing up an issue that is a critical and fundamental issue,"
Newsom told the Sentinel. However, he was startled by charges
of inaccessibly to the Chronicle, citing himself well known for
being responsive to the press. "I've met with everybody everywhere
and people find me anywhere," he added.
Mayor Gavin Newsom
-- Mayoral Press Secretary Peter Ragone noted a series of email
exchanges between his office and the Chronicle showed that awaited
specific interview date request from the Chronicle did not come.
Email from Peter Ragone to Chronicle reporter Susan Sward,
dated 1/26/6, asking Sword, "Can you do an interview next
-- In a hearing on gun violence, Supervisor Sophie Maxwell concluded
not enough is being done to establish trust between police and
troubled neighborhoods. Alan Nance, director of the Mayor's Office
of Criminal Justice, agreed with her.
Supervisor Sophie Maxwell
Meanwhile, a new report by the City Controller discovered new
city revenues of $137 million, Deputy Controller Monique Zmuda
told the Sentinel.
"The report shows recovery in the real estate market has
taken place," stated Zumda.
Portions of new found funding must augment the police budget,
Newsom pointed out.
"We have no choice. We've got minimum staffing requirements
and by some analysis we're not meeting them," said Newsom.
"We have a very ambitious plan to add new officers for the
next four or five years."
Bay City News Service contributed to this report.