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George Gascon Named SF District Attorney in Surprise Move

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San Francisco Police Chief George Gascon smiles at a news conference in San Francisco, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2009. (Jeff Chiu/AP)

San Francisco’s police chief is now the city’s District Attorney.

In a move that came as a surprise to many out-going mayor Gavin Newsom appointed Gascon on Sunday, hastily calling together a swearing-in ceremony just after 2pm on Sunday afternoon.

Newsom interviewed Gascon and other candidates for the DA job on Saturday, and Gascon said he was under the impression that Newsom wanted his input on the job, not that he was a candidate.

But Gascon said Sunday he would seek election in November for a full, four-year term as DA.

Gascon said he’s “taken aback by this awesome honor,” and will “do everything within my ability to make sure that I earn the right to be in this office.” Gascon said he was profoundly honored to be given the opportunity to bring criminals to justice, and to continue the efforts begun under Kamala Harris to ensure cooperation between police and prosecutors.


Newsom, who is expected to be sworn in as Lieutenant Governor Monday, said the appointment of Gascon was especially significant to him because it was his “last act” as mayor.  Newsom said he chose Gascon for his commendable performance as the city’s police chief.  Newsom pointed out that during Gascon’s tenure, violent crime in the city dropped to lows not seen since the 1960s.

Last week Gascon released statistics showing both violent crimes and property crimes continued to fall in San Francisco last year.  Gascon told reporters at the press conference last week that both rates have dropped 12% in the past two years, despite the force having 200 less officers than it did two years ago.

Still, SFPD has come under scrutiny recently for the shooting of suspects.  Last week two police officers were put on administrative leave after shooting a man in a wheelchair who was wielding a knife.

Standing in for Gascon in the near term will be Assistant Police Chief Jeff Godown.  Last March, Gascon put Godown in charge of investigating practices at the San Francisco Crime Lab, following allegations that long-time crime lab technician Deborah Madden had tampered with drug evidence.

Edwin Lee, the man expected to be approved as interim mayor on Tuesday by the new in-coming board of supervisors, will now add to his list of tasks that of organizing the search for the city’s next top cop to replace Gascon.

According to Mayor Newsom’s office, Gascon holds a Juris Doctorate degree from Western State College of Law and has been an active member of the California Bar Association since June 1996.  He also graduated from the FBI’s National Executive Institute, and is a member of the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government’s Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety.  He will be San Francisco’s first-ever Latino District Attorney.

More on the Web:

Gascon’s Bio (sf-police.org)

SF Board President David Chiu Turns Down D.A. Job (News Fix, Jan. 6)

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