A new top cop


The new commanding officer at SFPD’s Northern Station, Captain Joseph Engler, is a fifth-generation San Franciscan and a fourth-generation cop who has known the neighborhood since day one. He was born at Presbyterian Hospital on Webster, now California Pacific Medical Center. His first job was as a business banker at Wells Fargo’s Fillmore branch. And today, after 25 years on the force, he’s at the helm of the 140-person Northern Station, policing an area with the second highest felony crime rate in the city.

Capt. Joseph Engler

Engler has jumped right in. He says he’s been meeting with two or three community groups a day. “I love the level of engagement that our community brings with it,” he says.

Huge concern: car break-ins. D.A. George Gascon asked City Hall for $1 million to staff a team to crack down on auto burglaries and beef up arrests of serial offenders. Engler says his marching orders are: “Be out of the cars, on the block, visible, talking to folks, solving the little problems on the spot, not driving by them.”

His policing philosophy is more than a show of force. “We have an excellent undercover unit at Northern,” Engler says. “We know where the public cameras are. Now we want to know where the privately owned and maintained cameras are. We’ll use facial recognition technology and if we can read license plates, we can identify people, do stops on vehicles, work criminals coming into the city.”

Engler is aiming to form a local coalition of residents, private individuals, merchants and other local businesspeople to step up, get involved and communicate. “We need to get everyone involved in the solution,” he says. “We’ve got some real pros here at the station and they’re really committed. I’m just joining the fight.”