SF police captain relieved of command amid internal investigation

Capt. Nicholas Rainsford oversaw Sunset District as officer in charge of Taraval Station

Capt. Nicholas Rainsford has been relieved of his command of Taraval Station, where he has been commanding officer since December 2018. (Courtesy SFPD)

Capt. Nicholas Rainsford has been relieved of his command of Taraval Station, where he has been commanding officer since December 2018. (Courtesy SFPD)

The police captain in charge of the Sunset District has been relieved of his command and placed under administrative investigation, sources told the San Francisco Examiner.

Police Chief Bill Scott abruptly transferred Capt. Nicholas Rainsford from Taraval Station to the Homeland Security Unit on Friday, the Examiner has learned.

While a police spokesperson confirmed the existence of an investigation and the reassignment, he declined to provide details on the reasons for Rainsford’s removal.

But a chief’s order is often used to reassign an officer who is under investigation for allegations of significant misconduct, a law enforcement source said.

The order could also be used when an officer’s continued presence in a unit poses a threat to officers or the community.

And the Homeland Security Unit is commonly used to as a place to reassign officers who need to be in positions with limited public contact.

Scott decided to remove Rainsford from his post at a time when several captains are leaving public-facing positions vacant.

Northern Station Capt. Joe Engler is leaving the department for a role as assistant sheriff to Sheriff Paul Miyamoto, and Richmond Station Capt. Michelle Jean is retiring.

Rainsford joined the department in 1994. A San Francisco native who was born and raised in the Sunset District, he has been commanding officer of Taraval Station since December 2018.

While Supervisor Gordon Mar, who represents the Sunset District, was not aware of the circumstances that led to the change in leadership, he said “such an abrupt removal of our district police captain undermines trust and relationships with the community.”

“I look forward to ensuring strong community relations and responsiveness as we navigate leadership change at Taraval Station and significant reforms to law enforcement in our city,” Mar said.

Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee, whose district intersects with Taraval Station, also had not heard about the situation.

“I haven’t really been close to him,” Yee said. “But he’s been OK.”

Lt. Aaron Lozada is serving as acting captain of Taraval Station in the interim.

Rainsford did not respond to a request for comment.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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