Sheriff’s deputies could patrol streets

Sheriff's deputies in San Francisco could begin patrolling city streets alongside police officers now that the Sheriff's Department has received new certification status. (Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco sheriff’s deputies could soon be able to patrol the streets of The City just like beat cops in a move by Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi that may ruffle feathers in City Hall and the Hall of Justice.

Since Aug. 14, the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department has been certified by the state’s police training body — the California Commission on Police Officers’ Standards and Training — to train deputies for street patrol duties.

That means that all sheriff’s deputies who are trained for patrol duty are eligible work the streets like any other city police officer. But the move may also impact calls for increased numbers of police officers, as certified deputies could now augment an overburdened police force in areas where police presence is lacking.

Alexis Blaylock, a spokesperson for POST, said the new certification means deputies trained in the field training programs may be not only performing patrol duties, but also apply for lateral hires at the police department.

“SFPD now can choose to accept San Francisco sheriff [deputies from the field training program] … because it has been POST certified,” she said.

Until now, the main role of the roughly 840 deputies was to run The City’s jail system. By comparison, sheriff’s deputies operate the jails and patrol unincorporated areas in California’s other 57 counties.

Mirkarimi said the expanded patrol powers of his department could significantly enhance law enforcement coverage in San Francisco.

“Where there are no foot patrols due to insufficient staff capacity, that can change. Where there is no law enforcement presence on MUNI, that can change,” said Mirkarimi in a statement. “Where neighborhoods feel the neglect and are resigned to high crime norms, that can change. Where community policing lacks … that can change. Where community festivals and mom-and-pop street fairs are charged exorbitant rates for mandatory police protection, that can change. Where Treasure Island and our parks suffer due to a limited law enforcement response, that can change.”

The move by Mirkarimi could upset some in City Hall, especially those who oppose his reelection efforts. Mirkarimi has found few allies for other recent efforts to expand the duties of the sheriff’s deputies.

For example, initiatives to expand the sheriff’s ankle monitoring program were shot down, and funding for a jail transfer program never arrived.

What’s more, this latest move could further alienate elected officials who have called for putting more police officers on city streets.

In late June, the Board of Supervisors approved a two-year, $11 million hiring plan for the police that is expected to bring San Francisco in compliance with the 1994 voter-mandated staffing level of 1,971 officers.

The board also passed a resolution stating The City must expand its officers beyond the mandate, setting a goal of more than 2,200 officers, based on population growth since 1994.

“As the second largest law enforcement agency in San Francisco, I found it counter-intuitive that other agencies and city officials treated the [deputies] as just jailers,” Mirkarimi said. “Decades ago, an inherent public safety caste system emerged at significant expense to the taxpayer by undermining collective public safety planning and budgeting.”

Training will begin as soon as a handful of deputies get POST certification for field training. The department will then begin running its own in-house field training program, Mirkarimi said.


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