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The cover of the spring/summer 2004 Issue of SFSU Magazine

 

SFSU Magazine Online, Spring/Summer  2004, Volume 4, Number 1.

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  Alumni & FriendsAlumna Heather Fong smiles in her police uniform next to an American flag.

 

Call Her Chief

Twelve-hour work- days don't afford San Francisco Police Chief Heather Fong (M.S.W., '88) much free time. Dewayne Tully, who works in the department's public affairs office, confirms this: "I have never seen the chief's car out of its place in the garage." But the SFSU alumna, a self described homebody, says she gets her "head out of work" by taking long walks with her dog and enjoying quiet dinners with friends and family.

Born and raised in Chinatown, Fong, who is fluent in Cantonese, was drawn to a police career as a way to use her language skills and work with the community.

Fong worked as a cadet while she pursued her undergraduate degree in government at the University of San Francisco. Although cadets are more likely to be making copies than chasing bad guys, senior officers entrusted her with a few assignments in the field.

Fong played a major part in tracking down criminals in the infamous Golden Dragon Massacre that took place in Chinatown in 1977. She was called in to translate taped statements made in Chinese by suspects and witnesses connected to the gang-related crime.

Former Police Chief Fred Lau (B.A., '97), then a member of the department's gang task force, remembers the young cadet as poised and professional. Having watched Fong rise through the ranks, he says, "Every job she's done, she's done very well."

The city's first female police chief was one of the first three women promoted to captain, the second woman to head a police station, and, in 1979, the youngest officer and first woman to win the Officer of the Year award. An assignment in the juvenile division led her to San Francisco State in 1983. Her master's degree in social work, she says, gave her greater understanding of the issues she was up against as a child abuse investigator.

Deputy Chief Antonio Parra, who was trained by Fong at the police academy 24 years ago and now works closely with her, says, "She is just a very, very compassionate person -- to victims of crime, to the unfortunate homeless, to the mentally ill. She brings a personal touch to everything she does."

Her new job is the toughest yet.

In January, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom vowed to bring new leadership to a police department still reeling from the scandal surrounding the alleged cover up of a 2002 street fight involving several off-duty officers. After three months as acting chief, Fong's exemplary record won her the job.

The chief's job is a "pretty awesome" one, Lau says. "She's got to really bring the department back to stable footing, but if anyone can do it, she can."

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