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Chief defends budget as S.F. negotiates with police union

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San Francisco’s police chief defended the department’s budget before city legislators Wednesday as negotiations with the main police union appear to be heading toward a contract that would reduce overtime costs.

At a hearing during Wednesday’s meeting of the Board of Supervisors’ Budget and Finance Committee, Chief Heather Fong responded to reports by the City Controller’s Office that showed department staffing levels have not kept pace with the personnel budget since fiscal year 1999-2000 but overtime costs have increased in that time.

Fong outlined department strategies to garner more recruits as the department struggles to keep up with attrition. A city charter mandate puts the minimum number of uniformed officers in the department at 1,971. The City ended the 2005-06 fiscal year with 1,982 officers, excluding those in the Airport Bureau, which is funded separately by the airport. As of Dec. 30, there were 2,020 sworn officers in the department, excluding the Airport Bureau.

The informational hearing, called by Supervisor Chris Daly, who chairs the committee, came as The City negotiates a new memorandum of understanding, or MOU, with the San Francisco Police Officers Association, which represents 82 percent of the department’s employees.

“I think the last negotiation was a huge giveaway and it put the department in jeopardy,” Supervisor Daly said, adding that it “bled” the technology and infrastructure budgets to cover contract obligations.

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Police salaries in San Francisco continue to lag behind those in other local jurisdictions such as San Jose and Oakland. Union President Gary Delagnes said Monday that he would hold out for a salary increase to put San Francisco officers at the same level as other local departments.

On Wednesday, Delagnes indicated that he would not oppose a move to reduce overtime by changing the policy of so-called “on-call” overtime. Officers receive two hours of overtime for calling a recorded message by the District Attorney’s Office in their off hours to find out if they’re needed to testify in court.

Currently, officers can only call between 9 and 11 a.m. Delagnes said he wouldn’t oppose expanding that time window to include evening and overnight shifts, but he said such a move could result in officers getting the message too late, as they wouldn’t call in until their shifts start.

Delagnes also said that, in return for The City offering a 4 percent retention raise last year to keep officers with more than 30 years seniority from retiring, the union had already agreed that officers would no longer be able to “burn” accrued vacation time by using it right as they retire. That agreement will be included in the new MOU, he said.

amartin@examiner.com

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