REPRINTED FROM INGLESIDE-EXCELSIOR LIGHT
On Oct. 21, Jack Hart, an 18-year member of the San Francisco Police Department took over Ingleside Police Station, the second largest district in the city. We talked with Capt. Hart about his background, his first month in charge and the challenges he expects to face.
What is your background with the San Francisco Police Department?
My great-grandfather, Charles W. King, was a streetcar driver going up and down Market Street. He and his wife, Georgia King had their first son right around April 1906. When the Great Quake hit on April 18, the hospital they were in collapsed and [King] joined the Police Department immediately. His star number was 596, the same star number I wear. He served for 25 years and was hit and killed by a drunk driver while acting as a crossing guard for school kids on Alemany Boulevard in 1931, which is in the Ingleside Police Station District.
My father grew up on Jersey Street, which is in the Ingleside District. I grew up in Diamond Heights and I currently live on Flood Street in Sunnyside, which are both in the Ingleside District. Generations of my family have lived in the Ingleside District and yet I have never policed the area because I have worked at four of the other stations: Southern, Tenderloin, Mission and Bayview-Hunters Point. Those were my main patrol assignments.
I’m also an attorney, so I spent several years in our legal office acting as an attorney on behalf of the Police Department in civil, criminal, state and federal courts. As a sergeant-lieutenant I was in charge of Candlestick Park. I managed an NFC Championship game in 2012 against the Giants. I had 210 cops working for me and we were policing 70,000 people in the pouring rain.
I joined the department in June 1999, so I’m relatively new in the department but I have a lot of family experience. I was a Police Cadet with the Police Activities League when I was 14. With all of those connections, it’s not just a professional accomplishment to be the captain of Ingleside Station, it’s also a personal mission because I’m so connected to this district. I want this place to be great too.
How have you spent your first month on the job?
I’ve spent the entire month trying to figure out the cops, the community and the crime –– and not necessarily in that order. As an instructor in the San Francisco Police Academy, I’ve taught about 52 recruit classes about constitutional law, criminal law and so on. Since our department is very young –– about 70 percent of our department has less than five years on the job –– I know all of them or at least they all know me because I was one of their instructors in the academy. Since I already knew them, it didn’t take long to get up to speed with all of them.
I’ve probably been to about 30 community meetings so far. It’s been great because everyone is so motivated to fix these neighborhood issues. I’d be really concerned if there were only three or four people showing up to these meetings, but most of them have 30 or 40, which is great. Even if they’re yelling at me, it shows me they care.
What are some of the unique features of Ingleside Station and what do you think will be some of the biggest challenges?
One of the challenges of the Ingleside is that it’s a big district. I think we’re about 25 percent of the city, about the size of Daly City with the population of Daly City, basically shoved into one police district. It’s a lot of real estate to cover and there are a lot of streets that stop and start and are winding streets. All of that creates this challenge that we are really relient on our police cars to cover the distance, which kind of sucks, to be frank.
In the Tenderloin District at least there’s a flat topography. It’s a densely-populated area, but at least you can kind of cover it on foot. In Ingleside, our challenge is that our cops are all in their cars. They put an average of 50-60 miles a day on the car.
One of the challenges is getting officers out of their cars to engage on a block-by-block basis so that they can understand the unique challenges and strengths of each neighborhood. Especially in areas that have violence issues like Visitacion Valley in the Sunnydale neighborhoods. We’re spending a lot of time down there and other neighborhoods are not necessarily getting the same investment on a day-to-day basis.
The biggest challenge is that we need more cops. We’re probably a good 25 to 30 cops short of where we should be in terms of all our responsibilities and all the things we need. Besides having more cops, it’s important to make space for our cops to understand how important it is to get out of their cars and talk to people when they get the chance to do so.
What was your motivation for going to law school?
I initially went to law school because the police department wasn’t hiring. I graduated from Santa Clara University with a bachelor’s degree and the department wasn’t hiring yet. So I thought to myself, ‘What could I do with this time to make it meaningful?’ So I applied to law school and got into University of San Francisco. I’m so glad that I did. Education is hugely important in policing these days because we’re expected to be so much and know so much. There’s 20-20 hindsight on what we should have done, so we have to know what we’re doing. So I’m glad that I went to law school and passed the BAR exam, and I love it that officers still call me at 3 in the morning with questions about how we should handle a particular case. I think we want to be more informed as officers and want to get it right, and that law degree helps to facilitate that.