Academic journal article Social Justice

Richard Hongisto (1936-2004)

Academic journal article Social Justice

Richard Hongisto (1936-2004)

Article excerpt

RICHARD HONGISTO, AGED 67, DIED OF A HEART ATTACK ON NOVEMBER 4, 2004. A flamboyant and controversial figure in San Francisco Bay Area politics, he lived the last years of his life in personal and economic turmoil: his second wife died from a drug overdose in 1994; in 1998, his security guard business went bankrupt; and on the day of his death, the police had been called in response to a nasty fight with his girlfriend. His last foray into public office was as police chief of San Francisco in 1992, an appointment that lasted only 45 days when he was caught removing 2,000 copies of the local gay newspaper, the Bay Times. Its lead story--headlined "Dick's Cool New Tool: Martial Law"--criticized Hongisto's handling of demonstrations in San Francisco following the Rodney King jury verdict in Los Angeles. It was quite a turnaround for a public figure, who once was regarded as a political embodiment of the gay community.

It is a pity that the last memories of Dick Hongisto revolve around his ability to attract sensational and sometimes tawdry publicity. If we return to an earlier period in his life, we find a person who took courageous, principled stands that deserve our remembrance. As a young, white cop in San Francisco in the 1960s, he joined ranks with the black-led Officers for Justice to fight racial discrimination within the police department. In the late 1960s, as a student at Berkeley's School of Criminology, where I first met him, he embraced radical critiques of policing and gave his support to campaigns in Berkeley to legislate Community Control of the Police (1971) and initiate a Police Review Commission (1973). …

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