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Police Chief Fired for Alleged Seizure of Gay Papers

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Police Chief Fired for Alleged Seizure of Gay Papers

Article excerpt

San Francisco Police Chief Richard Hongisto was fired for his alleged role in the seizure of 4,000 copies of a gay newspaper that lampooned him with a sexually suggestive cartoon.

The city's Police Commission took the action May 15 at a closed, nine-hour meeting in which it discussed allegations that Hongisto had suggested that the papers be confiscated from newsracks. The former chief, who had been considered a liberal friend of gays when served on the Board of Supervisors, was on the job only 45 days when the police commission acted.

The tabloid newspaper, the San Francisco Bay Times, featured a front page cartoon showing Hongisto holding a police baton next to his crotch. The caption read: "Dick's Cool New Tool: Martial Law."

The accompanying story blasted Hongisto for his tough clampdown during the San Francisco rioting that followed the acquittal in Southern California of four police officers charged with beating black motorist Rodney King.

A number of local leaders and citizens had praised Hongisto for preventing the wholesale looting and burning that engulfed Los Angeles after the verdict.

However, following the confiscation of the papers, Supervisor Jim Gonzalez called for a federal investigation into the allegations against Hongisto.

In a statement issued after its meeting, Police Commission President Harry Low said, "We believe the chief exercised poor judgment and abused his power in this incident. His explanation of the incident is difficult for this commission to accept in light of the evidence."

Hongisto has denied being involved in the seizure of the papers. His lawyer, Ephraim Margolin, told reporters: "In Los Angeles, a chief of police who does wrong remains. In San Francisco, the chief of police who saves the city is fired."

This was a reference to the criticism surrounding Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates' handling of the riots there. …

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