Despite rumors the search for a new San Francisco police chief is fixed and calls to extend the Wednesday search deadline to reassure applicants, the Police Commission’s president said the deadline will not budge because a large pool of highly qualified candidates have already applied.
“There’s no need to extend the deadline,” said Suzy Loftus, who added that as of Monday there were 34 candidates who have applied, 30 of them from outside agencies.
“I’m excited there’s a lot of great candidates who are putting their hat in the ring,” she said.
Some, including the ACLU and several commissioners, had suggested that the commission might extend the deadline because of rumors that Mayor Ed Lee had already made up his mind and chosen Acting Chief Toney Chaplin for the position. Chaplin become acting chief after Greg Suhr resigned in May following the third fatal police shooting in six months.
Lee has since denied he said he wanted Chaplin to fill the job permanently, but Commissioner Petra DeJesus said the damage was already done. At least one candidate told the San Francisco Examiner that they withdrew their name from the running because they believed Lee had already chosen Chaplin as The City’s next chief.
“I understand some of the issues for extending the deadline because there’s all this misinformation going around and we should clear that up,” said DeJesus. “We should put to bed that it’s rigged or fixed.”
DeJesus said even now rumors continue, citing a handbill for a special reception in the Northern Station’s community room Sept. 1 to “Welcome Chief Chaplin.” The flier, which also includes a headshot of Chaplin, was put out by the Community Leadership Alliance but looks like an official department document.
In response to questions about the flier, the Examiner was told by the alliance’s David Villa-Lobos that it was an honest mistake. The flier has since been fixed and a new flier has been made.
“They approved the flier. We had to run it by them. They asked for revisions. I guess they got a lot of flak for the flier [because] it did not indicate ‘interim chief,’” said Villa-Lobos.
The commission’s next meeting is Sept. 7, but Loftus has the power to extend the Wednesday deadline without asking the commission to vote on it. The commission is mandated by City Charter to head up the search and choose three finalists for the mayor to pick from.
For Commissioner Victor Hwang, who has also said he supports a possible deadline extension, the flier is just one of multiple problems with the process that has sparked mistrust in some circles.
“I would certainly be open to reopening the process,” said Hwang, adding that such a move really depends on the applicant pool. “The whole process has somewhat been taken off track.”
But not everyone is convinced the rumors — something the commission has no control over — impacted the search efforts.
“We can control the process and we believe the process has integrity,” said Commissioner Sonia Melara.
“As far as I’m concerned, the deadline closes [Wednesday],” said Commissioner Joe Marshall, who has not been convinced that rumors were are bad as people thought they were.