Along with Supervisor Cohen, I’ve asked the Police Department to report back on San Francisco’s troubling crime trends and how the Department is addressing the situation in light of chronic police short-staffing. I have asked for an analysis of police staffing levels in San Francisco, what the city can do to ensure adequate staffing levels as the city population grows, and what the Police Department is doing now given recent increases in crime to ensure that our neighborhoods and residents are safe. San Francisco has long lacked appropriate police staffing numbers for a city of its size and complexity.
Specifically, I’ve asked for the following:
- An analysis by the Controller on police staffing levels over time and the number of new officers required to bring the force up to full staffing, accounting for population growth
- A report by the Police Department on citywide and neighborhood-specific crime trends and how the Department is addressing these trends given staffing shortages
With the exception of murders, violent crimes in San Francisco have increased in the past few years, and property crimes -- particularly auto break-ins -- are way too common. For example, the Castro area has recently experienced a rash of arsons, Duboce Triangle has experienced two murders and several armed robberies, the Lower Haight recently experienced a quadruple homicide, the Castro and Noe Valley have seen several bank robberies, and the Dolores Park area continues to be subject to mass auto break-ins.
I’ve requested that the City Controller analyze what full staffing means for San Francisco – in other words, how many officers we need for the department to be as effective as possible in enforcing the law. More than 30 years ago, then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein established a citywide goal of hiring 1,971 police offers, which was later adopted into the Charter as the goal of full staffing for the city. Since then, San Francisco has grown significantly, but the definition of full staffing has remained the same. Just since 2003, San Francisco has grown by nearly 100,000, and the City is projected to grow by another 150,000 people by 2040. In addition, San Francisco now has neighborhoods that didn’t exist decades ago, for example, Mission Bay, as well planned new neighborhoods at Hunters Point Shipyard, Treasure Island, and the former Schlage Lock site.
The Controller will determine whether 1,971 is still full staffing or whether a higher number is warranted.
“The San Francisco Police Department is seriously understaffed, and we see the results every day with too few officers walking beats and too little traffic enforcement,” said Supervisor Wiener. “We need to do everything we can to get the department back to full staffing and to determine whether the definition of ‘full staffing’ should be a higher number. In addition, the public needs to hear what the police department is doing to address crime in San Francisco now, given limited staffing. Public safety has to be a top priority.”
Since taking office, Supervisors Wiener and Cohen have worked with Mayor Lee and other Supervisors to increase the number of police academy classes in order to improve department staffing levels. The department shrunk to under 1,700 officers and is now growing again. The department is projected to reach 2,000 officers in 2018.