Police officials worried that a lack of money to train new cops may result in fewer officers on the streets are pushing supervisors to restore funding for police academies.
While the Police Department is not talking about layoffs at this point, Chief Jeff Godown told the Police Commission on Wednesday that he expects to lose about 100 officers to retirement in the next year.
With no money in the department’s budget to hire any new officers, that would reduce the department’s 2,229 sworn officers to as few as 2,129 unless the department can recruit replacement officers from veterans already employed by other police departments.
Commissioner James Slaughter said a diminishing police force was “the number-one public safety issue facing San Francisco.”
Godown said he agreed.
“We talk about community policing, and about foot beats, and that is where these [lost] officers will come from,” Godown said.
Police academy classes for new recruits were dropped last year to save money.
With the departure of officers to retirement, at least two academy classes are needed every year just to break even, Godown said. Classes usually start with about 50 recruits, but some don’t make it through the training, he said.
Consequently, Godown added that he was looking “aggressively” at hiring more officers from other police departments. About 1,860 of the department’s 2,229 sworn officers are currently full-duty, with the remainder on leave, desk duty or working at San Francisco International Airport.
“We’re starting to see a reduction in the number of officers in our department, and we can’t let that continue,” said Supervisor Scott Wiener, who is on the board’s budget committee, on Thursday.
Wiener said he’d like to see three new academy classes in the coming year, but acknowledged budgetary constraints.
The City’s budget deficit for the coming fiscal year has been estimated at $380 million.
Supervisor Carmen Chu, also a budget committee member, noted that even if every city department cut the maximum amount requested by the mayor’s office from their budgets, the city would still be $120 million short.
“So from my perspective, we’ve got a long hill to travel before we start talking about the police academy classes,” Chu said. She added, however, that she did support adequate staffing levels of police officers.
Supervisor Scott Wiener said Thursday that discussions were underway about asking police officers to once again defer planned pay raises in the coming year to help cut the budget deficit.
“I would like to see the pay raise deferred,” Wiener said. “We’re not in a position in our budget to be giving people raises.” He acknowledged that the police officers had already previously deferred the raises and had acted as “team players.”
Under a previously negotiated contract, police officers are scheduled to get a 3-percent bump in pay in July, and another 2 percent in January.
“The budget is horrible this year, and everyone needs to give back,” Wiener said.
Supervisor David Campos expressed a similar sentiment.
“We have been talking about every union, every labor organization sharing the pain, and I think that discussion is warranted,” he said.
Police Officers Association President Gary Delagnes said police union members had already agreed to defer their raises in each of the last two years. He said the officers have given up $28 million in wage increases and other benefits, and with another pension reform measure likely headed to the ballot, are facing the possibility of increased retirement and health care payments.
“I can’t ask them again to forego those raises,” Delagnes said.