SAN FRANCISCO — Outraged city officials lambasted the chief of San Francisco's embattled Police Department over a training exercise during which two rifle-wielding officers seized a classroom filled with frightened fifth-graders.
Board of Supervisors President John Molinari indicated that Chief Cornelius Murphy, who has come under criticism for a series of embarrassing incidents by the department, should be fired because of the seizure.
"It's up to the mayor to decide," Molinari said. "She appointed him and she's got to be the one to decide whether he should remain or not. But when these incidents keep piling up, the blame can only go to one place."
Asks for Report
Mayor Dianne Feinstein asked the Police Department for a written report of the exercise. "I want to know why the exercise was authorized and what it was intended to prove," Feinstein said.
"If the incident is as reported, it is 100% wrong," the mayor said.
Police spokesman have said that they were conducting a training stakeout of an abandoned junior high school on March 13 when two officers entered the nearby E. R. Taylor Elementary School in the city's Visitacion Valley district.
Witnesses said the officers, armed with rifles, walked into a fifth-grade classroom and ordered the teacher and 33 students to leave. The officers said they were using the classroom as an observation platform.
"I was really, really scared," Lakisha Jones, 7, said. "They had a rifle. They were going door to door."
At the end of the 40-minute exercise, witnesses said the two officers, their rifles slung over their shoulders, strolled through a playground filled with startled children.
Top department leaders, including Chief Murphy, said they were unaware of the exercise until an account of it was printed in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Board of Education President Myra Kopf urged the superintendent of schools to fire Virginia Gordon, the elementary school principal, who, police said, allowed officers to conduct the exercise.
School Supt. Robert Alioto reportedly refused to fire Gordon but said an investigation will be conducted.