This interview was originally published at Hoodline by reporter Will Carruthers and was created in partnership with the Ingleside-Excelsior Light. The interview has been edited and condensed.
On October 21, Captain Jack Hart, an 18-year member of the San Francisco Police Department, took the top post at Ingleside Station, which covers the city’s second-largest policing district.
We spoke with Hart about his background, his first month in charge and the challenges he expects to face.
Hoodline: What’s your background with the SFPD?
Jack Hart: 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 Charles joined the Police Department immediately.
His star number was 596, the same star number I wear. He served for 25 years [before being] hit and killed by a drunk driver while acting as a crossing guard for school kids on Alemany Boulevard in 1931.
I grew up in Diamond Heights and I currently live in Sunnyside, both in the Ingleside District. Generations of my family have lived in Ingleside District, yet I have never policed the area because I have worked at four of the other stations: Southern, Tenderloin, Mission and Bayview-Hunters Point.
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.
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.
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.
All of that creates this challenge that we are really reliant on our police cars to cover the distance, which kind of sucks, to be frank.
Our challenge is that our cops are all in their cars. They put an average of 50 to 60 miles a day in 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.