SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco named a new police chief Tuesday, a black police veteran from Los Angeles who officials and community activists hope can restore trust and reform a department reeling from racially charged scandals.
William Scott, a deputy chief with the Los Angeles Police Department, pledged at a City Hall news conference to work with rank-and-file officers to move the department forward.
“Change is always a challenge, particularly in this profession, and I think one of the biggest challenges will be just that — change,” Scott said, flanked by Mayor Ed Lee, police and elected city officials.
“Some things will change, some things have to change, but what I see is that there’s an organization here that recognizes that and is willing to be open to that.”
The appointment of the 27-year police veteran came at a critical time for the San Francisco Police Department. Like other law enforcement agencies around the country, it faces poor relations with minority communities.
Throughout the past year, activists have descended on the mayor’s office and embarked on a hunger strike to protest police killings, including the shooting of Mario Woods, a black man, last December.
In addition, transcripts surfaced showing officers using racial and homophobic slurs in text messages. Former Police Chief Greg Suhr was forced to resign in May after a young black woman was shot dead as police tried to pull her from a stolen car.
Two months ago, a U.S. Department of Justice review found evidence of bias on the police force that is nearly equal parts white and minority.
Shawn Richard, executive director of Brothers Against Guns, said Scott does not know San Francisco like longtime residents know the city. Richard had been working with Chaplin on reforms.
“I think now, all that is off the table and we have to show the new chief how to move forward with those policies and procedures,” he said. “It’s like putting training wheels on someone and giving them a tour of the city.”
London Breed, president of the county Board of Supervisors, praised Scott as someone who has the skills and experience to usher in reforms.
“I’m looking forward to making sure that we do all we can to make sure that people who are not deserving of wearing this uniform are weeded out of the department,” Breed said.
Lee cited the seriousness of the federal report and the difficult work ahead while saying he had to squelch his inclination to hire from within the department.
He praised Scott’s experience in operations and administration and said the LAPD has undergone its own reforms in the past decade, including overhauling its methods for tracking officer misconduct and investigating cases involving use of force by officers.
Scott, 52, is a native of Alabama with a degree in accounting. He said he has always wanted to live in San Francisco and introduced his wife and two of his three children at the news conference. He was recruited to apply.
“The Bay Area’s gain is LA’s loss,” LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said about Scott. “Bill’s tactical skills, intelligence and kindness embody the spirit of our department. We credit his leadership in the successes we had stemming the surge of violent crime in the South Bureau.”
The Police Officers Association in San Francisco had been pushing for Interim Chief Toney Chaplin to be named to the job permanently. On Tuesday, association president Martin Halloran said the union looks forward to meeting with Scott.
Scott will be sworn into office next year.
Information from: San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com