Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

SFPD gay forum member ‘at a loss’ over charge against patrol special

A member of San Francisco Police Department’s LGBT Community Forum wants the group to discuss a public safety official who got in trouble for hanging out at a transgender bar.

In an e-mail to interim Police Chief Jeff Godown and other forum members, Community on Patrol USA’s Ken Craig said, “I’m frankly at a loss to understand” how the allegation that Assistant Special Patrol Officer Roberto Ortega “frequents Divas nightclub on a regular basis on his free time has any relevance … .”

He added the fact that frequenting Divas “on his free time is somehow unbecoming or inappropriate for a police officer is of concern to me personally, and something that I believe we – as the LGBT forum – should address and seek additional information from Chief Godown and perhaps from Police Commissioner [Jim] Hammer if he has time to attend.” Craig forwarded his e-mail to the Bay Area Reporter.

Apparently troubled that charges were filed in the first place, San Francisco police commissioners decided last week to send Ortega’s case back to the police chief, who at most can verbally reprimand him. Only the commission could have taken away Ortega’s beat or suspended him.

In December, George Gascon, then the police chief but now the city’s district attorney, filed administrative charges that Ortega had picked up a prostitute, who is transgender, and was hanging out in an area known for prostitution. The police department had recommended that the commission revoke Ortega’s appointment.

The city doesn’t consider patrol special officers – who are approved by the police department but hired by private businesses and individuals to provide security – to be police officers.

In an interview the day after the March 16 commission hearing, Hammer referred to the charge involving Divas as “outrageous.” The charge “harkened back” to decades ago, “where people were targeted for being in places, like gay bars.”

He said the first count, about associating with a prostitute, “could raise questions,” but it was the type of thing “that needs to be dealt with by the chief.”

During last week’s commission hearing, Hammer wasn’t the only person among the seven commissioners who appeared dismayed by the Ortega case.

Commissioner Angela Chan said the case “didn’t sit well” with her. She said whether a person associates with someone who is transgender and might have a history of prostitution doesn’t mean no one should ever interact with that person.

Ortega hasn’t responded to interview requests made through Lou Silver, the attorney representing him, or through an associate.

Seth Steward, a spokesman for Gascon in his role as district attorney, hasn’t provided comment on the Ortega case.

The police department’s LGBT forum is meant to provide “LGBT community stakeholders” a chance to work with police “to build bridges, improve public safety and create positive change,” according to Officer Jennifer Thompson, police liaison to the LGBT community.

Gascon launched the citywide forum during his brief tenure as police chief.

There are also chief’s forums for the Hispanics, business leaders, and other communities. The forums are open to the public, but they don’t provide opportunities for public comment.

The next forum will be at 6 p.m., Tuesday, April 12, at the Noe Valley Library, 451 Jersey Street (between Castro and Diamond streets).

— Seth Hemmelgarn, March 25, 2011 @ 10:42 am PST
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