As we work to build back our police staffing by increasing recruitment and retention efforts, we need to be creative in getting more police presence on our streets. My latest proposal will increase footbeats in our neighborhoods by improving our Reserve Police Officer program.
Traditionally, our Reserve Police Officers has been a volunteer program going back decades where former officers and others receive training to be eligible to support police efforts, like monitoring parades and festivals, as well as through supplementing patrols. These Reserve Officers go through Police Academy training.
However, as a voluntary position, our ability to deploy these individuals is limited. My proposal to improve this program is to change the law to allow them to be paid, and then deploy them to patrol merchant corridors. This would build on the idea we’ve created with our Police Ambassador program, where we pay retired officers to walk neighborhoods. But our Reserve Officers have more authority similar to police officers — they can enforce local and state laws, including making arrests.
Once we make this change, we can immediately deploy these Reserve Officers to do foot beats in our merchant corridors. I will be introducing legislation at the Board of Supervisors to change our city code to make these positions paid. I want to thank Supervisors Catherine Stefani and Joel Engardio for their support of this effort.
This is just part of our work to get more support on our streets as we continue the long-term work to build back police staffing.
Long-Term Staffing Work
During the pandemic, applications for SFPD plummeted, hitting a low point in 2021. Like Departments across the country, this has led to lower staffing levels for law enforcement. Over the last two years, San Francisco has worked to improve SFPD’s recruitment strategies, provide financial incentives for retention, and restore support for our police officers in City Hall and the community.
Recruitment: To recruit more officers, we’ve increased the starting salary for SFPD officers to be the highest of large cities in the Bay Area, which I funded in our last budget. We’ve also worked with SFPD to expand their recruitment efforts, including college campuses and historically black colleges around the country to recruit and streamline entry procedures to make hiring more efficient. For example, we reduced the hiring process from 6 months to 3 months.
Retention: Preventing the loss of officers to retirement or transfers to other cities is a key part of our staffing strategy. We’ve identified at what points we are most likely to lose officers, and we’ve included key retention incentives in our budget to reduce the number of officers leaving the department. We’ve seen retirement decrease by 30% over the last year.
Showing Support: Over the last several months, I’ve met with officers across the City at the district station to hear directly from them about what they need done to be able to be more effective in their work. We are working now to make changes to their policies so that we can have a department that keeps all of our communities safe. We need to send the message to our officers that we appreciate their work, and that we support what they are doing on our streets.
A few months ago, all of this work led to our largest Police Academy class in three years, we expect another strong Academy Class and interest remains strong.
The Work Officers Are Doing
While we know we have work to do to build back staffing and provide the support we all want to see in our neighborhoods, our officers have been doing good work. And when we give them more resources, whether that’s through recent state grants or support from state and federal law enforcement, we see increased results.
Take retail theft for example.
Recently, we received a $17 million dollar grant to SFPD and the District Attorney’s Office to enforce against retail theft.
The first action SFPD took after signing the grant was a coordinated enforcement effort at the San Francisco Centre Mall which led to several arrests and over $100,000 in recovered merchandise.
This builds on the work the SFPD has been doing in this area recently, including:
- SFPD arrested a woman involved in 10 organized retail theft operations, seizing $44,000 worth of merchandise.
- SFPD arrested two suspects after they burglarized a business on Fillmore Street. The DA charged the suspects with organized retail theft, grand theft, and second-degree commercial burglary.
- SFPD Tenderloin station officers recovered $100,000 of stolen merchandise from stores across the Bay Area as part of an arrest in the South of Market Area.
- The DA charged a woman in connection to eight counts of organized retail theft, second-degree commercial burglary, and grand theft related to three Walgreens store locations.
- And just yesterday, SFPD announced undercover officers recovered $18,000 in stolen goods from a fencing operation on Mission Street.
Or SFPD’s work to improve tactics around car break-ins. For example, the use of bait cars has helped police officers make significant arrests. Thanks to these efforts, car break-ins are down 5% from the same time last year.
Or take SFPD’s work in the Tenderloin and South of Market, along with our Sheriff Deputies and state and federal law enforcement, to shut down the open-air drug markets.
In the last four months, SFPD officers alone have made over 400 arrests for drug sales and seized nearly 50 kilos of fentanyl in the Tenderloin and South of Market.
Our District Attorney has also secured two jury trial drug dealing convictions, numerous other guilty pleas, and is currently pursuing cases to hold dealers accountable.
Our offices have also detained nearly 600 people for public drug use, to send the message that openly violating public drug use laws is unacceptable on our streets. We want people to accept the treatment our service agencies are offering, but it’s not okay to continue to openly use drugs on our streets, especially in our neighborhoods that have been heavily impacted by open-air drug markets.
We’ve got more work to do, and we appreciate the support from our state and federal law enforcement officers in these areas.
All this work is being done while we are working to build back staffing and come up with creative solutions, like using Reserve Police Officers, to make people feel welcome and safe throughout San Francisco.