The City’s police chief and union representatives plan to cut employment to two-thirds time per officer and let attrition further reduce the department. That’s a good idea because SFPD policing is exceedingly costly and not needed other than for intensive law enforcement, undercover work and policing to prevent terrorism. It’s certainly not needed for community policing.
Community policing should be left to San Francisco’s chartered 162-year-old neighborhood police force, the Patrol Specials. They come free to the taxpayer because private businesses, residents and special-event organizers voluntarily pay for fast, responsive quality-of-life policing.
A survey of a significant number of Patrol Special clients was conducted last fall by San Jose State University. It found that clients believe the Patrol Specials are more responsive to normal types of daily public safety problems than city police. Patrol Specials are viewed as a “proactive rather than a reactive solution to the problem of crime.”
They found the Patrol Specials are a lot less expensive at an inclusive average rate of $48 per hour. That’s compared to the off-duty SFPD officer who bills an average rate of $87 per hour plus 22.6 percent added on as an administrative charge, and more if a patrol car is ordered.
In addition, if a private citizen hires an off-duty SFPD officer, the indirect cost exceeds $87 per hour not only because of future expensive pension obligations that accrue, but also because The City refuses to reimburse damage caused by the negligent actions of off-duty police.
True, the off-duty program does bring in some money to the SFPD budget. The Budget Analyst’s Office reported that in “fiscal year 1995-96, the Department collected $3,112,906 in Specialized Law Enforcement Services Program payments.”
Despite that, the off-duty SFPD program apparently has always been a losing proposition for The City. In 1996, the budget analyst found that “even though funds are intended to recover the entire cost of providing police coverage for a particular event, the actual cost … is in many cases higher than the amount collected.” All that being the case, the police chief should immediately discontinue the SFPD off-duty program and quit wasting time and taxpayer dollars trying to teach his officers used to traditional policing how to do community policing.
City leaders should immediately get more Patrol Specials on the streets and available to willing neighborhoods and citizens, who should be encouraged to do more to share the cost burden of providing for some of their own public safety needs.
Ann Grogan has owned a small business for more than 20 years. She’s a client of the Patrol Special Police in Glen Park and occasionally consults with them on community education and media relations