While San Francisco’s population has grown significantly, as have crime rates, police staffing has gone down, and San Francisco has less staffing than peer cities. Report by Controller will show need for increased police staffing by hundreds of officers.

San Francisco, CA – This past Tuesday, Supervisors Scott Wiener and Malia Cohen introduced a resolution calling significantly increased police staffing levels to reflect San Francisco’s significant population growth, including adjusting the definition of “minimum staffing” upward by several hundred officers. The resolution will be heard this coming Monday at the Land Use and Transportation Committee, where the Controller’s Office will present a report on San Francisco police staffing that was requested earlier this year by Supervisors Wiener and Cohen. The Police Department will also present on crime trends and staffing needs. 

The current number of sworn full duty officers in San Francisco is 1,730, down from 1,951 in 2010.  This staffing places San Francisco behind peer cities such as Washington, DC, Chicago, and Philadelphia in terms of police officers per capita.  As a result of this severe decline in staffing – at a time when San Francisco’s population has grown and when new neighborhoods have been created – the police department is under-staffed.  This under-staffing has led to a reduction in beat-walking and traffic enforcement, as well as less focus on property crimes.

As San Francisco works to get back to acceptable police staffing levels, the question becomes what is the right staffing level. The City Charter as adopted in 1994 defines full staffing as 1,971 officers. Yet, that number is now outdated, since San Francisco has grown significantly since 1994 – from 742,000 to 841,000, an increase of 13.3%. Supervisor Wiener and Cohen’s resolution takes that population growth into account by redefining full police staffing as over 2,200 (i.e., 13.3% above the 1,971 minimum staffing level set in 1994).

“San Francisco is growing, yet we have fewer officers today than when we were a smaller city,” said Supervisor Wiener. “We’ve grown by about 100,000 people and have neighborhoods that didn’t exist before, yet our department has shrunk.  We need to re-staff the department and update our staffing goals to take our growth into account.  We need more police out on the streets walking beats, enforcing traffic laws, and responding to the rising number of crimes in our neighborhoods.” 

On Wednesday afternoon, the Controller’s Office released a report – requested by Supervisors Wiener and Cohen – containing an analysis of police staffing levels in San Francisco, including comparisons to other jurisdictions. Peer cities included in the survey include Washington D.C., Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Miami, Dallas, and Oakland.  The report found: 

  • San Francisco’s population has increased 12% from 2004 to 2014, while the police sworn staffing decreased 3% in that time frame
  • San Francisco has lower sworn and civilian staffing rates than several peer cities, including Washington DC, Chicago, Philadelphia, Newark, Boston, and Dallas.
  • San Francisco has the second highest crime rate per resident and per daytime population of peer cities surveyed
  • Property crime rates per 100,000 residents has increased significantly from 2011 to 2013

The Controller’s Office will present the report at Monday’s Land Use and Transportation Committee. The San Francisco Police Department will also report on crime trends and staffing issues at that hearing.

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. 

The report by the Controller can be read here

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