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San Francisco police chief won’t be lured away by top cop position in LA

San Francisco’s police chief was a logical candidate to succeed LAPD’s Michel Moore. But Bill Scott said he isn’t planning to compete for the job.

Police Chief Bill Scott, wearing his uniform, sits at a table speaking.
San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott says he is not interested in vying to succeed outgoing Los Angeles top cop Michel Moore. | Source: Jeremy Chen/The Standard

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott is opting out of the competition to replace the outgoing top cop of Los Angeles before the contest even begins.

Last Friday, Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore announced he would step down at the end of February. If Scott had chosen to seek the job and succeeded in his bid, the move could have had serious political and public safety ramifications for San Francisco.

But Scott put an end to any speculation about his potential candidacy Tuesday, telling The Standard in a statement that he would not throw his hat into the ring.

"I am not interested in any other job,” Scott said. “I have important work to complete here in San Francisco that includes continuing and sustaining our reform efforts, addressing crime, helping our city recover economically, and rebuilding our police force to ensure we have the staff to meet all the city's challenges for years to come."

Scott was a logical contender for the job. He served for 27 years with the Los Angeles Police Department and has tried to return to Southern California before. Less than two years after former Mayor Ed Lee hired him in San Francisco in January 2017, he was a finalist for the Los Angeles job but lost to Moore.

With seven years behind him this month, Scott is the longest-serving San Francisco police chief since Thomas J. Cahill, who served under three mayors from 1958 until 1970.

Scott’s departure from San Francisco would have put Breed and her political adversaries on the Police Commission in the awkward position of having to work together to choose his successor at a time when the mayor has waged war against the oversight body.

If Breed wants to hire a police chief, the city charter says she must select one from a pool of at least three candidates chosen by the Police Commission. The commission would be required to make additional nominations if the first round of applicants were rejected by the mayor.

That system could have caused problems for the mayor, given that she is currently asking voters to approve Proposition E in an effort to throttle the policy-making powers of the Police Commission and give officers the tools that she says they need to do their jobs better.

Scott was hired to reform the San Francisco Police Department in January 2017, following a series of police shootings and a racist text-messaging scandal. His department has since completed 90% of the 272 recommendations for reform laid out by the U.S. Department of Justice in October 2016 and has reduced police shootings.

At the same time, Scott has been confronted by the exploding fentanyl crisis and declines in police staffing seen in cities around the nation. Property crimes such as car break-ins, which plagued San Francisco before his tenure, remain a problem despite improvements. He has also faced low morale among the rank-and-file and calls for his ouster by the police union.

Jeff Cretan, a spokesperson for Breed, said the mayor “remains focused on working with Chief Scott to continue to bring down crime rates and increase police staffing, both areas where we are making progress.”

Michael Barba can be reached at mbarba@sfstandard.com

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