By Jonathan Farrell
Captain of San Francisco Police Department’s (SFPD) Richmond Station, Gaetano Caltagirone, is no stranger to the City’s west side. He is a sixth-generation San Franciscan who once served as a lieutenant of the Taraval Station Investigation Team.
Caltagirone was appointed district captain of Richmond Station in February 2021.
In 2017, Caltagirone earned leadership experience when he became the acting night captain at Mission Station.
Caltagirone has many other credentials in law enforcement. He has worked as a patrol officer in the Bayview, Central, Park and Southern districts. He was a sergeant in the Tenderloin District. When he was promoted to lieutenant, he was responsible for the Market Street foot-beat patrol and served as lieutenant of patrol at Southern Station. He also worked in the Airport Bureau’s Traffic and Patrol divisions.
“I really did not give much thought about being in law enforcement,” Caltagirone said. “I, and many other classmates at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, were trying to figure out what to major in.”
Eventually, Caltagirone obtained a bachelor’s degree in business. Law enforcement wasn’t on his radar until a close friend gave him some encouragement.
“My friend stopped by and pulled out a flyer which said that SFPD was hiring,” Caltagirone said. “He was thinking of the prospect and told me he decided to sign up to take the test.”
Being a native San Franciscan, Caltagirone knew the connections police officers make with the local community on a daily basis. Many officers come from local neighborhoods like the Richmond or Sunset districts.
“Growing up, I always respected police officers and everything they did,” Caltagirone said. “I looked up to them and felt a big wow! These police officers really are out to help people. Especially when people are in need or are trouble.”
Even though Caltagirone already had a job at the time, when he looked over the flyer, something within him simply clicked.
“I told my friend ‘I can’t do this. I already have a job,’” he remembered. Yet in reply my friend said, ‘Go ahead just sign up. You’ve got nothing to lose.’ I said, OK! Let’s go do this!”
Caltagirone has never looked back.
“We hopped in the car and drove to put in our applications,” he said. “After all the tests and background checks, six months later, I was in the police academy.”
With SFPD’s police-community relations approach, Caltagirone understands the priorities.
“My philosophy on police work is to first treat people you meet as if they were your family members,” he said. “When we meet a person who was a victim of a crime, we treat them with the respect and compassion that they might need at that time. Give your full attention to them and try to help them out as much as you possibly can.”
Emphasizing his commitment, Caltagirone said: “I never say I cannot do something.”
“If it’s a police issue, I will try to do what I can. If it’s not within my power directly, then I will look to see what other city resources can assist.”
Regarding crime in the neighborhood, Caltagirone said the Richmond District has issues with vehicle and garage break in burglaries.
“I have been working with community members to join together and assist the police department,” he said. “As officers, it’s difficult to have eyes all over the district. So we need the eyes of our community members to assist us when they see something suspicious and to call that crime in.”
Caltagirone said he liked to maintain a cool and collective response to criminals he encounters.
“I feel that if you begin yelling at a criminal, you have already reached your peak in conversation. I would rather slowly build up,” he said. “But there will be times that, as a police officer, I have to be at my peak.”
Caltagirone said no matter how stressful an altercation might become, he keeps in focus the value of police-community relationships.
“I always explain to the criminal or someone in possible violation why they are being detained and why they are having this interaction with me,” he said.
Caltagirone said he is wary of the use of force.
“I’m trying to get neighborhood blocks to unite and bring back the old school neighborhood feeling where everyone knows each other on the block,” he said.
“I also work with groups like the nonprofit SF Safe to assist residents,” Caltagirone said. “SF Safe helps residents by coming out to their homes to do safety inspections.”
Caltagirone shared his recommendations regarding break-ins: Secure garage doors, add extra lighting and have surveillance cameras.
Even though law enforcement can be a dangerous and thankless job, Caltagirone considers the work important.
“It is one of the best things I ever decided to do,” he said. “To this day, I still really love this job of protecting and serving the City that I love.”
To contact the Richmond Station, call 415-666-8000 or email email@example.com. Richmond Station anonymous tip line: 415-668-7387.