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Police union head says deputies can’t patrol

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San Francisco police union head Martin Halloran slammed Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi’s recent move to place deputies on patrol in city streets, claiming it would violate the City Charter.

Halloran’s comments appeared in his latest column in the San Francisco Police Officers Association journal, where he wrote, “the responsibility of patrol clearly belongs to the SFPD.”

In late August, Mirkarimi said his department was certified by the California Commission on Police Officer’s Standards and Training to train its deputies for street patrol duty.

“Not only is it not practical, it’s probably not lawful by the City Charter,” Halloran told the San Francisco Examiner on Thursday.

But when asked to point to the City Charter section that deputies being on patrol would violate, Halloran said he wasn’t a lawyer and was told by Chief Greg Suhr that the City Charter is clear on the matter, and police patrol The City’s streets. Halloran could not cite the charter he mentioned in his own column.

Mirkarimi was not available to comment late Thursday afternoon. The City Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the legality of deputies on patrol.

The City Charter says the Sheriff’s Department is responsible for maintaining the County Jail and courts, alongside duties designated by the Board of Supervisors, courts and other legally authorized agencies.

The Police Department “shall preserve the public peace, prevent and detect crime, and protect the rights of persons and property by enforcing the laws,” according to the City Charter. Police officers should “be dedicated to neighborhood community policing, patrol and investigations.”

While there’s no mention of sheriff’s deputies on patrol in the charter, another law enforcement group — patrol special officers — are allowed to perform police duties in assigned areas as allowed by the police chief.

Jeff Snipes, associate professor of Criminal Justice Studies at San Francisco State University, could not comment on the City Charter, but said “patrol specials are not challenging SFPD because there’s so few of them.” There are about 840 deputies in the Sheriff’s Department.

With regard to the Sheriff’s Department suddenly deploying deputies on patrol without the rigorous training of the police academy, Snipes said it “would be at the expense of a smoothly operating Police Department.”

“You can’t just add one agency on the streets with another,” he said.

Both Halloran and Snipes agreed that Mirkarimi’s push is politically motivated. Or as Halloran put it in the SFPOA journal, an act “by a desperate candidate.”

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