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Police and Sheriff’s Department squabble over Transbay security contract

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While the Transbay Joint Powers Authority has not officially announced its security plans, SFPD says it has been chosen to secure the future Transbay Terminal. (Jessica Christian/2016 S.F. Examiner)

No trains or buses are running in or out of the incomplete Transbay Transit Center yet, but the agency in charge of the nearly $3 billion project has been consulting with The City’s law enforcement agencies about how the facility will be secured when it begins operating.

The consultation has raised an on-again, off-again conflict between the San Francisco Police Department and the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department over their positions in The City.

Both agencies have been consulting with the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, and both have put forward security plans. Yet, neither has been officially chosen.

“The decision has not been made whether it’s going to go to the police or sheriff,” said Supervisor Jane Kim, who is also a TJPA board member.

But the money-strapped agency — which has repeatedly gone over budget — appears to have already made a choice, according to San Francisco Sheriff Vicki Hennessy and San Francisco Police Department Deputy Chief Mikail Ali.

“While they have not yet made a decision, it is the sheriff’s impression that we will not be chosen for this project,” Sheriff’s Department Chief of Staff Eileen Hirst said.

Instead, the Police Department will head the security of the building, similar to the way it does at the San Francisco airport, Ali said.

“They will contract with us with an MOU [memorandum of understanding] in the same way we contract with the MTA [Municipal Transit Agency], the Port and, for that matter, the airport,” Ali said, adding that he expects security operations to begin in March 2018.

Ali said the choice was probably due to the police training, experience, interagency relationships and resources. But he also said it might be about cost.

“I would speculate that cost is obviously a driving factor,” said Ali, who added that he believes the contract would be anywhere from $2 to $10 million. The resources of other departments would not be taxed because new officers would be hired. Ali said there will also be private security at the transportation hub.

Kim said that no requests for proposals have been issued, but when they are, she will consider cost as much as other factors.

“I think that both departments do a great job with security and I’m going to be looking at cost effective means,” Kim said.

TJPA’s official statement on the matter said that no such decision has been made. “We have not yet awarded a contract for security services; therefore, we have not signed an MOU with SFPD.”

Officially, police agree.

“The SFPD is under consideration, but the Transbay Board has Not selected a law enforcement agency,” said San Francisco police spokesperson Sgt. Michael Andraychak.

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