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Criminal Justice Conversations with David Onek: George Gascon, San Francisco Police Chief

George Gascon and David Onek

In Episode #7, San Francisco Police Chief George Gascon discusses putting ethics at the forefront of police training, what he learned from Chief Bill Bratton’s leadership style, his battles with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio over immigration issues, the consequences of overcriminalization in the African-American community, and more.

Gascon Interview Highlights

Gascon on Putting Ethics at the Forefront of Los Angeles Police Department Training:

“We developed one of the first real high-quality integrated in-service police trainings in this country. The constitutional overtones of everything we do in policing was at the forefront as opposed to being in the background. We actually took the bill of rights and we posted it in the classrooms where we were having the training … Integrating ethics, integrating constitutional issues, integrating human rights concerns into police use of force – it is not usually done and for many people it was sort of a foreign concept. We needed to get the guys with the 18-inch arms and the guys with the three-piece suits to come together in the same classroom."

Gascon on the Consequences of Overcriminalization in the African-American Community:

“We have the highest incarceration rate of any first-world nation and most of that incarceration rate is impacting primarily the African-American community … The unintended consequences of this process has been that as we overcriminalize our communities we have created a gap where we have removed entire generations of male role models and the impact that has had in the African-American community has been devastating… If you look at the social impact and the social cost in our society over long periods of time, I think it’s untenable.”

Gascon on the Increasing Costs of Policing:

“One of the areas that concerned me greatly was that as we increased the costs of policing we were decreasing the investment in other social services – parks, libraries and other activities and services that should be provided by local government, that actually if done well will eventually have a better impact in reducing crime than the suppression piece or enforcement that law enforcement brings to the table.”


The Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast with David Onek features in-depth, thirty-minute interviews with a wide range of criminal justice leaders: law enforcement officials, policymakers, advocates, service providers, academics and others.

The Podcast gets behind the sound bites that far too often dominate the public dialogue about criminal justice, to have detailed, nuanced conversations about criminal justice policy.

Podcast host David Onek is a Senior Fellow at Berkeley Law School and a former Commissioner on the San Francisco Police Commission.

You can find more information on the Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast and listen to all past episodes on the Podcast web site.

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