How To Go “Up the Ladder”

When I decided to make contact with the law enforcement agency that was handling Patty’s cold case, I was ultimately told that I should “go up the ladder” if the help I was receiving wasn’t satisfactory. So, I realized I didn’t exactly know what “up the ladder” might look like. Should I just make contact with the detective’s immediate boss? Probably. But how was I going to find out who that was? When I was finally able to track down an organizational chart for the SFPD, it didn’t detail every employees’ position in the hierarchy. But it was a start. 

Then there was the descriptions of how the different offices within the SFPD are organized.

The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office

This office investigates and prosecutes crime in San Francisco and supports victims of crime. It’s made up of prosecutors, victim advocates, paralegals, and other support staff. The office contains three major departments: the Operations Department, the Special Operations Department and the Support Services Department.

I’m only interested in knowing about the Operations Department, so that was the only department that I researched. This is what I found.


The Office’s Operations Department is responsible for prosecuting violent crimes and lesser offenses committed within the City and County of San Francisco that diminish the livability of our community. This Department is led by Chief Assistant District Attorney Sharon Woo and includes the Criminal Division, Victim Services Division and the Collaborative Courts Division. The criminal division is organized into 10 units and files approximately 3,300 misdemeanor cases a year and 3,300 felony cases a year. The Criminal Division is divided into 9 different units, including: misdemeanors, preliminary hearings, general felonies which includes narcotics, domestic violence and physical elder abuse, gangs, sexual assault, child assault, juvenile, and homicide. Marshall Khine is Chief of the Criminal Division – Horizontal Units, and David Merin is Chief of the Criminal Division – Vertical Units.

Investigations Divison

District Attorney Investigators play a critical role in prosecuting offenders. The District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigations (DAI) is composed of sworn peace officers who work closely with our prosecutors to fully develop documentary, physical, and testimonial evidence for trial. In addition, DAI also investigates certain types of White Collar Division cases. James Kerrigan is the Chief of DAI.

The upshot of all this is that you have to educate yourself about how the system works if you want it to work for you. I can’t say if going “up the ladder” is the answer for me right now. But at least I have a better idea what that means. So one of the steps in researching the progress of someone’s cold case is to know how to contact an officer’s superior if you’re not getting any results. The truth is, in my situation, all the detectives I’ve spoken to seem as though they’re doing their best. There is actually no need to reach any further except as an act of desperation on my part. I wrote this mostly because it might be informative for someone else. 

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