S.F. police chief fired over paper confiscation

May 16, 1992|By Michael Dorgan | Michael Dorgan,Knight-Ridder News Service

SAN FRANCISCO -- Richard Hongisto's six-week career as this city's police chief ended ignominiously early yesterday when police commissioners emerged from a closed-door hearing and announced that he was fired.

After eight hours of testimony and deliberation, the five-member panel concluded that Mr. Hongisto, who championed gay rights during his failed campaign for mayor last year, was responsible for the confiscation of more than 2,000 copies of a gay newspaper that ridiculed him on its cover.

"We believe the chief exercised poor judgment and abused his power in this incident," said commission president Harry Low in announcing Mr. Hongisto's dismissal at 6 a.m. yesterday.

"We believe that the chief initiated a conversation and suggested to asubordinate, and thus conveyed to the subordinate, that large quantities of newspapers should be collected."

Mr. Low refused to discuss the testimony and evidence considered by the commissioners, and ordered that the transcript be temporarily sealed.

Among those who testified were Mr. Hongisto and vice unit Officer Gary Delagnes, who allegedly was encouraged by the chief last week to raid the street boxes of the San Francisco Bay Times.

A composite photo on the cover of the issue featured a smiling Mr. Hongisto holding a nightstick that was wedged between his legs. The headline read: "Dick's cool new tool: martial law."

The embattled chief appeared determined to save his job as he entered the Hall of Justice hearing chamber Thursday evening to testify before the commission. Asked by a reporter if he planned to resign, he responded defiantly, "No. No way."

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