Chief on the hook for consultant

Police Chief George Gascón received a top-to-bottom review of the San Francisco Police Department before taking the job, but paying for the work has become a bit of a financial pickle.

The police chief, who makes $287,000 a year, brought on well-known consultant Robert Wasserman to assess the Police Department before starting the job Aug. 7. But the $27,000 needed to pay Wasserman was not budgeted.

Now, the Mayor’s Office is offering Gascón a little help by looking for donations to pay the man as San Francisco faces an unprecedented budget shortfall, according to city officials. Staff members in Mayor Gavin Newsom’s office have been hitting the phones for donations from wealthy individuals and organizations such as the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. In the down economy, however, the money isn’t exactly flowing.

Wasserman, who is also known as something of a kingmaker in law enforcement circles, got to know Gascón while doing consultant work for William Bratton when he was the police chief in Los Angeles. Wasserman helped Bratton transition the New York Police Department as well.

Bratton also paid for Wasserman through donations, a move that would lead to a battle with the city council about what kind of work was actually performed by the consultant.

Wasserman has often served as a consultant to police chiefs as they undertook reforms of police departments. Reached by phone Wednesday, he said his work in San Francisco lasted six weeks and it consisted of interviewing several people in the SFPD and identifying challenges in the department. The $27,000 fee included $6,500 in expenses for the East Coast-based consultant.

“It’s best if it’s not paid for by The City,” Wasserman said he told Gascón. “It’s not usually an anticipated budgetary expense.”

The City already paid about $1 million to Public Safety Strategies Group and the Police Executive Research Forum to conduct studies of the department before Gascón had even been selected. The recommendations spanned everything from community policing to the number of district stations.

The Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington, D.C.-based organization of police brass, handed Wasserman its annual Leadership Award in March.

Wasserman, who heads a consulting company called Strategic Policy Partnership, also led Oakland’s search for a chief, which eventually resulted in the hiring of Anthony Batts.

Wasserman said he is impressed by the way Gascón has implemented change in a department that was plagued with poor morale.

“I like these guys who come in and move fast,” he said.

Gascón did not return calls seeking comment.

 

Paying the price

New police Chief George Gascón needs to raise money to pay for the consulting services of Robert Wasserman.

$287,000

Gascón’s salary

$27,000

Nonbudgeted fee for consultant Robert Wasserman

$6,500

Expenses for Wasserman

$1 million

Cost of studies by Public Safety Strategies Group and the Police Executive Research Forum

6 weeks

Length of Wasserman’s work for Police Department

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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