To Serve & Collect

Nearly extinct and long at odds with the SFPD, the little-known San Francisco Patrol Special Police appears poised for a comeback.

On the surface, there's little about Warner and her colleagues to distinguish them from real cops. They tote nightsticks and carry loaded guns. They wear dark-blue uniforms (although post-1994 rules say they should be light blue). To the untrained eye, specials' badges look a lot like those of the cops, featuring a seven-pointed star as opposed to the SFPD's six. Their radios (which they pay for themselves) are on police frequency. As required by statute, the specials even check in daily at local precinct stations.

But as their detractors will also tell you, with few exceptions (including Warner) the specials have received nowhere near the hundreds of hours of training required of entry-level cops through the San Francisco Police Academy. Rather, they're required to pass a minimum of 56 hours of entry-level coursework, consisting of what the state requires of security guards (who aren't authorized to carry weapons) plus firearms training. Although entry-level requirements are much lower than for regular cops, several patrol specials have used the work as a stepping stone to careers with the SFPD and other police agencies.

On paper, at least, the SFPD is supposed to provide (at the specials' expense) periodic refresher courses at the academy, but Warner says that hasn't happened in four years. "More training has never been an issue with us; we welcome it," she says. "The reality is that they [the Police Department] don't want us to have it."

The strain between the police and the specials precedes 1994, but those familiar with the matter say that it has become palpable since then mainly for one reason: the 10B program.

Patrol specials say the '94 changes made their businesses easy prey for the Police Department, which persuaded former and would-be clients that they would be better off hiring moonlighting cops under 10B than using the specials whose capabilities were reduced to a level barely above those of security guards.

The result: Patrol specials can no longer compete with the cops, despite charging less than half the $100 or more per hour the SFPD typically commands (including a 14 percent administrative fee) for a cop's services under 10B, they say.

Unlike overtime incurred during the course of ordinary duty, which is paid by taxpayers as part of the Police Department's $406 million budget, the 10B program — by tapping businesses and institutions willing to pay for the extra services — hits the patrol specials where it hurts. The SFPD doesn't advertise how much the program rakes in. But documents the department provided to SF Weekly in response to a public records request show that 10B garnered $9.5 million during the 2006-2007 fiscal year alone, up from $6.6 million five years ago.

For rank-and-file cops, who earn time and a half for such work, the program can be lucrative.

Up to half of the 2,300-member police force participates in the 10B program in a given year, records show. Rules restrict officers from working more than 20 hours of voluntary overtime within seven days, but some cops still manage to rack up huge sums. For example, in a sex discrimination lawsuit against the SFPD, one officer, Susan Rolovich, who claims the department unfairly punished her in part by taking away her 10B work, earned more than $185,000 — $100,000 of it overtime — in a single year, records show.

"The 10B program has killed us," says Sam Reyes, who has been a patrol special beat owner since the 1960s. He insists that the SFPD's antipathy toward the specials is owing to "the 10B pie."

Gary Delagnes, the police union head, vehemently disagrees. "That's bullshit," he says. "10B is a $10 million industry in this town. So they've got, what, 30 people vying for 10B work? How much can they [do]? It's not even an issue."

But some current and former patrol special clients paint a different picture. Gloria Dixon, a bank employee, recalls SFPD representatives persuading the board of the 250-unit residential cooperative on which she served to jettison its security arrangement with the specials in favor of police working out of Ingleside station in the mid-'90s. "Their pitch was, 'You don't need them; they're only security guards now,'" she says.

Jeannette Oliver, who manages the Diamond Heights Shopping Center, which has long contracted with patrol specials, says she has rebuffed similar approaches by the SFPD over the years.

"There's definitely hostility there," she says. "The police seem to believe that the patrol specials have taken something that really belongs to them."

After four decades as a patrol special officer, Serge White owns three beats and employs more assistants — six — than any of his colleagues. The assistants are essentially patrol specials who don't own beats themselves. They perform the same functions and meet the same training requirements as their beat-owning cohorts. White says he could put five more to work immediately if he had them, which is to say if SFPD didn't throw up barriers.

"You can't get them approved," grumbles the 65-year-old White, ticking off the names of "quality" people he has sponsored and whose applications were either rejected or — more often — allowed to languish until the person finally gave up. "They [SFPD] find some little problem [in the application]. They delay. And then they find some other problem and delay some more. It's a predictable cycle."

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