Taraval community helps keep beloved police station captain in neighborhood 

Police Commission meetings tend to be tense and loud, but Wednesday's took a decidedly happy turn during the public comment session.

A crowd of 30 people came out to support Capt. Curtis Lum of the Taraval Police Station, which patrols the southwestern part of San Francisco. Lum was in line for a transfer to a different police district.

After three years of captaining a station, residents can request that the commission nudge out a captain in an informal rotation that, while not official policy, has been enforced in the past, Police Chief Greg Suhr said Wednesday.

The supporters believed Lum was about to get sent off to a faraway land.

Hoping to persuade the commission to leave Lum be, one by one they lined up to tell a story about their captain.

"We serve many of the youth that end up on 'the other side,'" said Ron Stueckle, who co-founded Sunset Youth Services with his wife, Dawn. "Capt. Lum and his officers have shown they want to better the lives of these kids, not just get rid of them to lower the crime rate."

A project manager from the San Francisco Zoo said Lum was the first captain in years to pay attention to safety issues at the zoo.

Still more folks — the chief of security at Stonestown Galleria mall, a librarian the assistant director of the YMCA — praised Lum.

One woman, Amy Anderson, said that after her 11-year-old daughter Kiona narrowly survived leukemia, the Christmas presents she had bought online with her modest teacher's salary were stolen while being delivered to their home.

"[Kiona] overheard me talking about it and asked, 'Why did Santa let my gifts get taken away?'" Anderson said at the meeting.

Lt. Con Johnson of the Taraval station gathered donations from colleagues and bought the Andersons a substantial gift card.

Even Emil Lawrence, a former mayoral candidate who is known to lambast police at commission meetings, changed his tune.

"This meeting was so good even Emil said nice things," Commissioner Joe Marshall said.

Suhr had his own take on the outpouring of Lum love: "Commission meetings are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get."

Ultimately the commission said Lum would not be going anywhere, and that elicited cheers and hugs from the crowd.

About The Author

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Born and raised in San Francisco, Fitzgerald Rodriguez was a staff writer at the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and now writes the S.F. Examiner's political column On Guard. He is also a transportation beat reporter covering pedestrians, Muni, BART, bikes, and anything with wheels.
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