Due to an editing error, an article in Thursday's Washington Post on the resignation of Richard D. Hongisto as sheriff of San Francisco said that the mayor and district attorney of that city had joined in an unsuccessful attempt to have the sheriff recalled. Acutally, the two officials were targets, with Hongisto, of the recall attempt.
Sheriff Richard D. Hongisto, whose irreverent theatrics and impatience with the San Francisco political power structure have shaken up the city's prison system for six years, left office today to become police chief of Cleveland, Ohio.
When Hongisto campaigned in 1971 - his posters emblazoned with peace symbols and his strongest support coming from gays and minorities - San Francisco's sheriff's office was a largerly unnoticed institution that had been run for 16 years by the same man.
By the time of Hongisto's leaving, city residents had seen their sheriff hold a news conference in tattered prison clothes to demand better supplies, stage a benefit rock concert for program money, publicly invite the mayor to "kiss my a --" over a funding disagreement and serve a five-day jail sentence for refusing to carry out an eviction order.
He took over a prison system under legal attack - a prisoner's lawsuit alleged inadequacies in staffing, food service, and health care - and gave testimony that supported the prisoners' charges, resulting in court-ordered increases in funding and personnel. He flew to Miami during Anita Bryant's anti-homosexual campaign in Dade County, at his own expense, to work in favor of the gay rights initiative. He proposed renting jail cells for $10 a day to members of the public interested in what prison is like.
He left San Francisco amid the same chorus of praise and damnation that sounded through most of his tenure as sheriff.
Dennis Kucinich, Cleveland's new mayor, called Hongisto "the most qualified law enforcement official in the entire country." San Francisco supervisor John Barbagelata called him a "revolutionary" today, and said, "Thank God he is leaving the city . . . I pray for the people of Cleveland." Barbagelata, along with the mayor and district attorney, was a leader in the unsuccessful effort earlier this year to recall Hongisto.
Hongisto left San Francisco with almost no warning, explaining his departure for the first time at a Cleveland news conference this morning. "It's my admiration for this mayor and my desire to do good work for government wherever I can," he said. "Cleveland, like all great American cities, has its share of problems."
Cleveland's police department currently has more than its share of problems. A longstanding automatic pay raise formula was voted down this spring, and officers have entered into the first contract negotiations in nine years. Civilians complain that police response time has shot up recently. And black officers charged the department with racism several years ago, resulting in court-ordered minority hiring guidelines that are still in effect.
Now 40, Hongisto served on the San Francisco police force for 10 years before resigning and then running for sheriff. In San Francisco, the job entails supervision of five jails, maintenance of courtroom security, and enforcement of civil laws, such as evictions and repossessions. However, criminal law enforcement is left to the police force, a separate department.
Most of his attention in San Francisco focused on the jail system, which before Hongisto's election employed only one full-time rehabilitation worker, according to a department official. The jails now offer inmate classes vocational counseling, a printing shop, a cooking class aimed at entry-level food industry jobs, drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs, and two full-time "ombudspersons" to take in complaints from inmates and guards.
The number of sheriff's office employees has risen from 247 to 405 since Hongisto took office, with the percentage of white male employees dropping from 68.2 per cent to 55.8 per cent. Mayor Kucinich felt Hongisto to be "especially sensitive and responsive to minorities," the mayor's spokesman said, adding that Cleveland is 40 per cent black but has an 1,800-member police force with only about 200 minority officers.