Examiner Editorial: Accountability and fighting crime in The City

The City’s law-abiding majority will be more than pleased by the significant improvements under way at the San Francisco Police Department. New Chief George Gascón has the agency on track for starting the highly successful CompStat crime-tracking system and a neighborhood-centered departmental reorganization within 60 days.

Meeting The Examiner editorial board, Gascón outlined his timetable for adapting the Police Department to respond more effectively to local community needs. Investigators will be dispersed to the 10 district stations to more effectively work with victims and apprehend criminals. An established timeline will exist for solving and clearing The City’s unsolved homicides.

And, a backlog of disciplinary cases that has kept needed officers off the streets for as long as five years without a hearing is being diminished while streamlined regulations for implementing suspensions or termination are prepared. With such widespread changes in the pipeline, Gascón is promising a full schedule of regular community meetings — both localized and citywide — with the public and the media.

This fall’s introduction of CompStat and the community policing reorganization go hand in hand. Originally used by New York City police in 1994, CompStat applied standard business and GPS software methodology to deliver rapid tracking of where crimes are committed, what arrests are being made and 911 call trends.

Armed with this level of detailed information, station captains and central command coordinate with weekly crime reports to focus on emerging problems. CompStat is widely credited with helping to dramatically reduce major crime in New York. It has been widely adopted throughout North America, including in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Vancouver, British Columbia.

Intrinsic to CompStat is the concept that station captains should be empowered to make many more operational decisions because they have the best understanding of how to harmonize local community needs with the wider scope of Police Department priorities.
But along with this, they will also be much more accountable for their stations’ performance.

Gascón told The Examiner, “I want the station captains to be mini police chiefs” for their communities.

Some of the numerous changes listed here will take longer to complete and probably need to overcome organized resistance. However, it’s certainly a welcome difference for San Francisco to have a thoughtful leader focused on accountability, openness and community building while ridding the streets of crime.

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