Two weeks after receiving scathing criticism from the Board of Supervisors for not being assertive or visible enough, police Chief Heather Fong has engaged in two publicized merchant walks in predominantly Asian-American communities where she has the strongest base of support.
Fong was the object of criticism by board members as well as the Police Officers Association around the time the Board of Supervisors overrode Mayor Gavin Newsom’s veto of legislation requiring regular foot patrols around eight of The City’s 10 police district stations.
Fong had sided with the mayor in saying the board should not dictate how the police stations should carry out their foot patrols. The public debate over the issue highlighted that she was not assertive, vocal enough or a strong leader, her critics said.
The criticism prompted 16 prominent Asian-Americans to write a letter to Newsom in support of Fong, one of San Francisco’s most prominent Asian-American leaders. Newsom appointed Fong to the chief of police post in 2004.
Newsom met with the letter signers on Nov. 17, which resulted in a Nov. 20 merchant walk in Chinatown with Newsom and Fong side by side.
"Chief Fong has done an excellent job and she enjoys the mayor’s full support," mayoral spokeswoman Jennifer Petrucione said.
On Tuesday, Fong was back out walking the streets, this time in another Asian-American stronghold, along Taraval Street, where she spent more than an hour with district station officers meeting with mostly Asian-American business owners, who warmly greeted Fong.
The police chief was also joined by District 4 Supervisor-elect Ed Jew, who will be the only Asian-American on the Board of Supervisors.
Fong used the moment to celebrate community policing and to announce that additional foot patrol beats were implemented last Friday. "We are covering two to three beats seven days a week consistently in all 10 districts of The City," Fong said.
The flurry of public activity, out of character for the generally reserved Fong, was dismissed by some members of the board who have been critical of her. "I think the rally that the mayor had in Chinatown and then the walk today bespeaks of more of a public relations attempt," said Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who was the author of the foot-patrol legislation.
"I think she is beginning to be more proactive and this is something we asked her to do for a long time," said Gary Delagnes, president of the Police Officers Association. "She needs to be more vocal and more demonstrative. If this is what she is doing, then great. I don’t care what precipitated it."
Mirkarimi was pleased to learn that the regular foot patrols, as called for in his legislation, were implemented. "It looks like all entities of The City who care about this issue are getting on the same page," Mirkarimi said. "Now the real proof will be the continuity of this program, and only time will tell."
Fong denied the suggestion that the recent public events were to boost her popularity. "I just go anywhere there is an opportunity to not only check in with the community, but to talk with officers, just to make sure that we can do our job even better," Fong said. She plans on walking beats around other district stations as well, she said.