Fong's backers fire back

Quite a number of readers weighed in on my column this week about the inexplicable reign of San Francisco Police Chief Heather Fong and how she has managed to keep her job despite a torrent of criticism over the years.

Their arguments are legitimate — Fong brought some integrity to the department in the wake of the Fajita-gate scandal in which the entire police command staff was indicted by our zany former District Attorney Terence Hallinan.

“She put a department that was broken back together,'' said one person, who asked to remain anonymous.

And it's true that the police department is arresting more people than it has in years. Unfortunately, a lot of the those charged are being returned to the streets because of the policy stance by District Attorney Kamala Harris, who seemingly will only bring cases to trial which have about a 99 percent chance of ending in a conviction.

Fong's backers, the primary one being Mayor Gavin Newsom, have also argued that there is a plan to combat the startlingly high homicide rate — to flood the highest crime areas in San Francisco with cops. But it's a strategy that so far has largely failed, and there doesn't seem to be a Plan B.

Yet there is no mistaking that as leader of the department, Fong's inability to communicate with her top commanders, the rank and file and certainly the media, has not served her well. Morale in the department has continued to drop and Fong's reaction has been to surround herself with administration types that won't challenge her. Indeed, those deemed strong enough and competent enough to be considered as a possible replacement have been isolated and transferred to outlying stations. Fong may be uncommunicative, but she's steely when it comes to staying on top. Her silence has been a good shield to mask her ambition.

“She's got ice in her veins when it comes to eliminating the competition,'' one police captain told me.

So don't expect any bold moves soon, from Fong or the mayor. He views the situation from a political standpoint and he hates to be told what to do. Call it a case of purposeful disconnect.

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