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SFPD Wins Tough Budget Battle for 250 New Officers - June 27, 2018 - SF Weekly
SF Weekly

SFPD Wins Tough Budget Battle for 250 New Officers

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The San Francisco Police Department was finally given a break Wednesday after debates over their funding continued for the third day in the Board of Supervisors’ Budget and Finance committee.

After losing funding for tasers on Monday, SFPD won approval for money to hire and train 250 police officers over the next four years. In the first two fiscal years, that would entail funding three police academy classes of 50 officers, at a whopping cost of $7 million apiece. The classes would bring the total number of SFPD officers to 2,021 by 2020. 

Chief Bill Scott broke down the 250 officers into several areas that he said need support. He requested 73 new officers for foot beat patrols citywide, 10 to investigate burglaries, 38 dedicated to ending serial crimes (such as auto break-ins), 22 to oversee station-specific investigative teams, and 95 for the department’s “Healthy Streets” program, which works to address homelessness (often, notably, by sweeping tent encampments from one street corner to another). 

Scott used a Rand study to justify his staffing desires, arguing that training and deploying 50 new police officers would yield nearly $19 million in crime reductions.

But committee members challenged that theory. Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer said the breakdown and Rand study was not an adequate workload analysis, asking Scott why the round, even number of 250 was chosen.  

“We are taking a leap of faith without a workload analysis that you say you need 250 officers to do this work in two years,” she said. “I don’t think we have a deep analysis of the workload. I’m sorry that analysis is not done yet. But…That needs to be done for us to make a sound financial or fiscal decision.”

Fewer and Supervisor Norman Yee also pressed the department about how many trained officers who have gone through the academy are being used for desk jobs that could be done by civilians instead. A Budget and Legislative Analyst report requested by Yee identified 202 positions; SFPD found 21, though later admitted they could potentially expand that number to 68.

Yee questioned why Scott, who repeatedly said that he needed officers immediately, doesn’t view civilization as an immediate solution. 

“It’s a process, it’s going to take a little bit of time,” said Scott. “The civilianization is not an immediate thing. We have to first identify the positions, then work with HR, then get it funded through the budget… We’re not going to save anytime with civilianization.”

Committee Chair Malia Cohen played hardball during Friday and Monday’s hearings, attacking SFPD’s requests at every turn. 

“I’m of a belief that throwing more police at a problem doesn’t solve the problem,” Cohen said on Monday. “We haven’t had one modicum of discussion on how we increase our training program or our community partnerships.”

But she flip-flopped dramatically on Wednesday, contradicting many of her prior criticisms of the department and its requests for new officers. 

“It’s the newer younger officers that are complying with the training, that are turning on their body-worn cameras. This gave me a little bit of hope. You would be a fool policing on any street in America to believe that you can get away with things,” she said, patently contradicting her prior passionate statements about the failures of the District Attorney’s office to press charges against any officers who have shot and killed citizens in the past few years. Instead, she attacked department veterans as the cause of the problem.

“Quite frankly, it’s time to let the old guard go, particularly the old guard that holds onto racist, sexist, and homophobic text messages. We have a response to flush out the department to bring in fresh blood, so we can have a culture, not of a warrior mentality but a guardian mentality, and that’s going to take a shift from the top down.”

In the end, she made a motion to approve the funding, which won the approval of everyone on the committee but Fewer, who would have preferred to cut one of the academy classes and part of the $4.5 million dedicated to buying new police cars, which come in at around $70,000 a piece.

While SFPD still is stuck on how to raise money for Tasers, they ended up winning big with this new budget. Let’s just hope that the new recruits live up to Cohen’s expectations.