Academy-cuts plan met with force

As San Francisco struggles to reduce its high homicide rate, some city officials want to take potential officers off the streets in an effort to save millions of dollars.

The City is facing a projected $338 million budget deficit in the fiscal year beginning July 1 — and Supervisor Jake McGoldrick urged the San Francisco Police Department’s top brass to cancel two upcoming police academy classes.

The move could save The City as much as $10 million, McGoldrick said Wednesday, by removing as many as 100 potential officers from city payroll.

The recommendation comes as The City’s homicide rate continues to rise. San Francisco tallied 86 in 2006 and 98 in 2007 — the highest rate in a decade, according to FBI data. There have been 48 homicides so far this year, according to the Police Department.

Reducing the number of newly graduated officers is “a huge concern,” police Chief Heather Fong told The Examiner on Wednesday. “The community keeps asking us for additional police presence.”

Last year, the Board of Supervisors mandated minimum foot patrol requirements in eight of The City’s 10 police districts following two years of brazen daylight homicides. Fong and Mayor Gavin Newsom objected, arguing police staffing is the prerogative of the Police Department.

Additionally, under San Francisco charter, the Police Department must employ a minimum of 1,971 sworn officers. By current tallies, the department has 1,976 — including cadets currently in police academy classes and field training, according to Fong.

Three classes are scheduled this summer and fall with 50 cadets each, Fong said. One class includes 25 officers who would be dedicated to the San Francisco International Airport — which is paying $1.5 million for the officers, according to a report from Budget Analyst Harvey Rose. McGoldrick proposed slashing the other two.

“I would like to use this money for other purposes,” McGoldrick said during a Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee meeting Wednesday.

San Francisco needs more, not fewer, police officers patrolling the streets, according to the Mayor’s Office.

“We are facing a serious problem with violent crime in this city, and reducing the number of police officers … just doesn’t make any sense at all,” mayoral spokesman Nathan Ballard said.

The department also needs more officers rising through the ranks to offset the 469 employees who are eligible to retire in the coming year, Fong said.

Fearing staffing shortages due to a potential wave of retiring police, voters in February passed the Deferred Retirement Option Program. DROP kicks off July 1 and allows eligible police to keep their jobs for one to three additional years while socking away retirement money in a tax-deferred bank account.

“We could suddenly lose 500 people — we have to prepare for the future so that if that happens it’s not a shock,” Fong said.

bwinegarner@sfexaminer.com

By the numbers

In 2007, San Francisco’s homicide count was the highest it has been in a decade.

2006: 86

2007: 98

2008: 48 to date

Source: FBI, SFPD

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