The San Francisco Police Department’s airport bureau is rife with inefficiencies and redundancies costing almost $2 million a year, according to an audit by the Controller's Office.
The report found a duplication of duties among police staff at San Francisco International Airport, a failure of the bureau to cross-train officers, thereby driving up overtime costs, and uniformed officers doing clerical and administrative jobs that could be performed by civilians. The report recommends that 58 positions at the airport be eliminated.
The audit comes as SFPD officials are being criticized for not placing enough officers on beat patrols in high-crime areas as The City struggles with record-setting homicide rates.
Police Chief Heather Fong has repeatedly said the department is understaffed and does not have officers to place on foot patrol. The department is currently hundreds of officers short of the voter-mandated staffing level of 1,971 officers.
Although the Airport Bureau is funded by SFO and not from The City's operating budget, as the rest of the SFPD is, resources such as officers can be shifted from the Airport Bureau to stations around The City.
The audit recommends that the airport bureau, which is authorized to staff 348 positions, should staff only 290. The audit currently counts 275 staffers at the airport bureau, of which 183 are sworn officers.
According to staffing documents obtained by The Examiner from the Police Department in February, staffing levels at stations around The City are significantly less than at the airport, even in those neighborhoods experiencing high rates of crime.
For example, Mission Station has 139 sworn officers, Bayview Station 135, Central Station has 97 and Park Station has 83.
Deputy Chief Mindy Pengel, who oversees the airport bureau, said the department staffing was actually at 269, adding, “We're down people — maybe not to the same percentage or degree [as other bureaus] — but the department is down across the board.”
The audit found at least eight positions that could be filled by civilians, with a cost savings of $300,000. It also criticized the handling of overtime, calling for the redeployment of officers, which would cut overtime costs by almost $1 million.
For example, the bureau does not have twopatrol positions, which are required by the Transportation Security Administration, currently filled. The bureau has spent about $970,000 in overtime in fiscal year 2004-05 staffing the positions.
Also, SFO dedicates two officers and one sergeant to coordinate dignitary and high-security arrivals to the airport. The City hosts an average of 1.2 such visits per day. However, members of this unit are on four-day, 10-hour schedules, giving each three consecutive days off. Therefore, the department must pay overtime if a VIP or dignitary arrives on a weekend, according to the report. The report recommends eliminating the Dignitary Protection Unit and training all officers to handle such visitors.
Requests to interview police Chief Heather Fong went unanswered.
Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who recently introduced legislation that would mandate foot patrols in high-crime areas, said the report raised questions on how The City can best assign resources.
“With significant staffing shortfalls in the Police Department, this may answer some questions in how we may [meet] our immediate and long-term needs,” Mirkarimi said.
Audit of SFPD Airport Bureau
San Francisco Controller’s Office audit of SFPD Airport Bureau found that the department is bloated and mismanaged. Major areas of mismanagement highlighted in the report:
» The Dignitary Unit, which serves high-security passengers, is poorly scheduled, forcing thousands of dollars in overtime by the two officers and one sergeant in this unit.
» Patrols of the airport's courtyards, mandated by the TSA, are positions that are not filled. The airport paid $970,000 in overtime in fiscal year 2004-05 to patrol those areas.
» SFO serves 30 million passengers per year, and provides security at a ratio of 6.1 sworn officers per 1 million passengers. By comparison, Miami International Airport serves 31 million passengers per year at a ratio of 4.6 officers per million, and Seattle-Tacoma airport serves 29 million passengers per year at a ratio of 3.7 sworn officers per million passengers.
» Eight administrative positions currently held by sworn officers or police service aides should be held by civilians. Cost savings: $300,000 per year in salary costs and extra police officers that could be deployed elsewhere.
» Make clerical and other nonpatrol positions civilian positions
» Make schedules more flexible or change shifts to cut down on overtime
» Eliminate positions that duplicate work done by SFPD and SFO administrators
» Eliminate dignitary protection unit