Tension between the district attorney and police over a task force formed to investigate alleged law enforcement misconduct has now drawn the attention of the police union, which is questioning the motives of District Attorney George Gascon.
Gascon, in turn, has called the union’s tactics “troubling.” In a series of emails March 30, San Francisco Police Officers Association leaders criticized Gascon for failing to uncover misconduct during his tenure as police chief and attacked his task force as self-serving promotion at the expense of the police and Sheriff’s Department.
“We need to go after this guy hard,” wrote Gary Delagnes, the union’s political consultant. “… Every allegation he is claiming to investigate actually occurred during his watch. … It’s kind of like Bush blaming Obama for invading Iraq.”
Gascon said he is troubled by the union’s statements.
“The tactics of the union is to go after me,” Gascon told The San Francisco Examiner on Monday. “They are looking for a DA that’s gonna be their puppet and will look the other way when there is misconduct.”
Gascon, who was police chief from 2009 to 2011, said his task force will investigate bigoted text messages sent by a group of police, allegations that sheriff’s deputies staged fights between jail inmates and continuing issues at the Police Department’s crime lab.
Gascon admits some of these issues occurred during his short time as chief, but said no chief is responsible for everything that goes on in a department. When he was chief, Gascon says he addressed the issues at the crime lab as soon as he discovered them, and after he became DA asked the U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate the illegal searches at the Henry Hotel, which eventually led to a corruption trial that resulted in discovery of the text messages.
Nonetheless, the POA’s emails are clearly calling all of that into question.
“It should be very clear to all of us that Gascon is politically driven to obtain any higher office on the backs of any organization that he feels that he can unjustly chastise for his own personal gain,” wrote POA President Martin Halloran, who also questioned the task force’s makeup, too.
“What kind of task force is it when it only involves a single agency?” wrote Halloran, who then questioned Gascon’s claim that he addressed the issues at the lab when he was chief. “Did Gascon take care of it then or just paint a pretty picture to the media?”
Gascon — up for re-election this year — said it is his duty to investigate police misconduct, and the task forces are not some political stunt.
“You have the union basically saying ‘We are gonna go after the DA because he’s investigating us and we don’t wasn’t anybody investigating us,’” said Gascon, who pointed out that anyone running for re-election would avoid controversy, not address it.
The charges made by the union echo Police Chief Greg Suhr’s statements last week when he said the task force was political grandstanding by a man who isn’t responsible for handling police misconduct. The police chief and the Police Commission, Suhr said, is mandated to root out misconduct.
Suhr on Friday said he will recommend that seven officers be fired as a result of the department’s investigation into the bigoted text message affair.