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Streetscast: An Interview with San Francisco Police Chief George Gascón

Police_Chief_George_Gasc__n.jpgPolice Chief George Gascón. Photo: Michael Rhodes

San Francisco Police Chief George Gascón is considering forming a task force to deal with bicycle and pedestrian issues, and "is very much in favor" of appointing a liaison to the bicycling community, as he begins to weigh a pressing number of livable streets concerns in the city.

"I think that some of the things that I would like to see here is perhaps the development of a task force or a group of people that are bicyclists as well as people that are not, and police, and try to start looking at some of these issues and trying to come up with a balanced approach that works for San Francisco dealing with traffic concerns, dealing with pedestrian concerns, dealing with bicycles."

In a short interview with Streetsblog San Francisco last Friday, Gascón, who was recently sworn in as police chief [1] after serving as the top cop in Mesa, Arizona, said he is committed to making sure Muni is safe for all riders (our interview was conducted shortly before word got out about the vicious stabbing of an 11-year-old rider), and is still studying a memorandum of understanding that gave the MTA a greater role in managing the traffic division.

"I think that we definitely have an obligation and are certainly committed to ensuring that our public transportation is safe. And that requires presence and that requires attention. The other part is that we have to be smart," said Gascón. "Not every line and not every time of the day is going to require the same level of public safety concerns. So we have to be intelligent enough to be able to put our resources in the right places at the right time. And yet we have to continuously send the message that we could be anywhere anytime, so it's a balancing act."

Gascón committed to going on a bike ride with Streetsblog and bicycle activists to get a first-hand look at the conditions cyclists face on a daily basis, but balked at the idea of requiring all officers to occasionally ride a bicycle so they can understand the issues more thoroughly.

Gascón's willingness to meet with us, and discuss livable streets issues, is a sharp turnaround from the policies of his predecessor, Heather Fong, who often steered clear of reporters, and ignored efforts to establish closer working relationships with transit advocates. An SFPD public affairs spokesperson, Sgt. Lyn Tomioka, promised more time with the chief in the future. We tried to cram in as many questions as we could in our allotted fifteen minutes, and consulted with a number of transit advocates beforehand.

You can hear the entire interview below, and read highlights below the break:

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Streetsblog_with_Chief_Gascon__Sgt.jpgWith Chief Gascón and Public Affairs Sgt. Lyn Tomioka. Photo: Michael Rhodes.