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Mayor's Director of Criminal Justice targets
law enforcement systemic organizational problems

Calls on factions to cooperate in search of proactive solutions
to stem violent crime

Director of Criminal Justice, Allen Nance,
at yesterday's meeting of the Police Commission
Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

By Aldrich M. Tan

May 11, 2006

Allen Nance, director of the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice, updated the police commission on the office's progress regarding a review of the Police Department's organizational structure at the police commission meeting Wednesday evening

"Our office has a tremendous amount of respect for the officers of the police department that keep the community safe, solve crimes and demonstrate the integrity of the city," Nance said.

The police commission applauded Nance's presentation and presence at the meeting.

"I think you are the first representative from the Mayor's Office to speak at this specific commission," commission president Louise Renne said.

Police Commission President Louise Renne (right) and Commissioner Teresa Sparks

Nance said Mayor Gavin Newsom asked him several weeks ago to lead the review. The review will address challenges that the Department faces based on discussions with Police Chief Heather Fong, members of the Police Department, local community members.

The most obvious issue in the department is upgrading information technology, Nance said. The Office of Criminal Justice is overseeing the development of a justice-integrated information project.

"Once it is in place, the system will help the department manage its information and solve crimes effectively," Nance explained.

Nance said the study also focuses on the development of the police's recruitment program and an early intervention system, which will provides feedback for relative officer performances and intervention before behavior becomes problematic.

"San Francisco needs to work on bringing in good officers from a variety of different places, not just locally, and identify new officers that represent the city's diverse communities" Nance said.

Leadership reviews need to occur at both the management level and at the district level, Nance said.

"We need to make sure that the department's leaders are receiving the training that they need to enhance their skills and abilities," Nance said.

Improving community policing is a key department strategy, Nance said.

"I've had an opportunity to talk to officers and members of the community who have confidence in the community policing strategy," Nance said, "There is still amount of work to do and there are portions that don't feel the community policing has reached them."

Community policing efforts were successful during the immigration rights rally on May 1, reported Police Chief Fong.

Community organizers sat down with city agencies prior to the event to make sure that the rally would be a peaceful, Fong said. Police officers also set up a hotline during the event that enabled callers to communicate with a bilingual officer."

Police Chief Heather Fong

"I think the event was a model for effective community policing," Fong said.

Commissioner David Campos asked Nance about the mayor's commitment to provide the resources that the department needs.

"A lot has been said over what is happening in San Francisco in terms of homicide and crime," Campos said, "but the big issue that that we are facing is that we do not have enough resources to do what we need to do."

Commissioner David Campos

Nance said Newsom supports adding additional resources to the department, but that decision ultimately depends on discussions over the police department's budget at the Board of Supervisors.

"The support is there but I am not sure what will happen throughout the legislative process," Nance said.

Commissioner Theresa Sparks asked Nance if the analysis means directly looking at the specific foundations of the criminal justice system, including relationships with the Police Department and other agencies such as the District Attorney's Office and the Police Officers Association.

Sparks cited an article in the Boston Herald on May 10 regarding the resignation of Police Commissioner Kathleen O'Toole which described the police situation in that area: increased homicide rates, uncooperative witnesses, unresolved murders, an understaffed police department, and a revolving door criminal justice system.

"It has a familiar ring to it," Sparks said. "These are some of the problems facing our department. We need to see if the structures are broken down to begin with."

Police Commissioner Teresa Sparks (left)

Nance said he was not surprised with the Boston Herald's reports and that the problems affecting Boston are not unique to San Francisco.

"We all know that public safety is our priority and all law enforcement agencies share that burden," Nance said.

Department relations will be a key issue at the commission's joint meeting with members of the Board of Supervisors on June 7, Renne said. Supervisor Sophie Maxwell will be chairing the joint meeting.

Nance said the Office of Criminal Justice is looking at expertise from across the nation in relation to policing, including the national Police Executive Research Forum and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

"I guarantee you that the experts are going to tell the department to improve its technology and implement its early intervention system," Nance said. "We've hit the ground running and this added expertise will keep us focused."

Dennis McNally, local chapter vice chair of the American Civil Liberties Union, invited Nance to take advantage of local resources as well as the national resources such as the Kennedy School.

"There are many local services available and we are here to offer our assistance," McNally said.

Dennis McNally

Commissioner Joe Alioto Veronese said he hopes that Nance will approach his task using all of the resources at his disposal.

"If there is anything that our commission can do to help you with your task, we'll appreciate any requests," Veronese said.

Police Commissioner Joe Alioto-Veronese

"We'll certainly take you up on that offer," Nance said.




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