Temporary San Francisco police chief could hold job for up to a year 

A temporary job as the new police chief of San Francisco could end up as a yearlong position if The City’s political transitions make recruiting for the top-cop job difficult.

After former Chief George Gascón was sworn in as San Francisco’s new district attorney Sunday, Assistant Chief of Operations Jeff Godown was named interim head of the SFPD.

Just how long Godown will remain at the helm of the department is complicated by the fact that The City also is about to have an interim mayor who will be leaving office next year.

It may be in the best interest of the Police Department to name an interim, according to Police Commissioner Jim Hammer, but to wait on a permanent decision until after the November election.

The City Charter gives the mayor the power to choose the police chief after the Police Commission makes recommendations. Also, the mayor can fire the chief.

However, Mayor Gavin Newsom is being sworn in as California lieutenant governor today and San Francisco will have an interim mayor until after the election in November. The uncertainty of who will lead The City beyond that might make a hiring for the chief job difficult.

“A professional chief may not jump into a job knowing it may end in six months,” Hammer said.

But Police Commission President Thomas Mazzucco said he would like to have a permanent replacement chief sooner than later.

“Hopefully the next mayor will like the selection made by this mayor,” Mazzucco said. “It will be a very thoughtful process, but it will be expedited.”

One person is already saying he does not want the chief position — Godown.

Godown has no problem taking over as chief on an interim basis, but he said he does not want the job permanently.

“My goal is to maintain the stability [Gascón] brought to the department,” he said. “I have no desire to be chief permanently.”

The fact that Godown has been named as Gascón’s interim replacement — a person who has only about a year of experience with the department after being lured here from Los Angeles — is, however, troubling to police union officials, who say the interruption in leadership means the next chief should likely be from within the department.

“We thought we were moving in a good direction and this leaves us back to square one,” Police Officers Association President Gary Delagnes said. “I think the big question on everyone’s mind is why would he want to do this? We thought he came here because he wanted to be police chief.”


Examiner columnist Ken Garcia contributed to this report.

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