Cost-saving effort trims police force

Nearly 90 officers filing papers and answering phones in The City’s police stations could be replaced by civilians in a cost-saving measure originally approved by voters in 2004.

Under The City’s charter, the San Francisco Police Department must be staffed with at least 1,971 sworn officers, but Proposition C allows the department to identify jobs that can be performed by civilians, such as clerical or information-technology tasks, according to Deputy Controller Monique Zmuda.

The department has identified 116 such jobs that could be “civilianized,” Zmuda said. So far, roughly 30 of those positions have been converted, Mayor Gavin Newsom said earlier this month.

“This process feels very incremental — I’m not sure what lever is on our side to accelerate this process,” Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi during Monday’s meeting of the Budget and Finance Committee said.

The conversion would reduce the Police Department’s minimum required level of sworn officers to 1,855, Zmuda said, and the move could save San Francisco “millions of dollars.” The Controller’s Office has yet to determine precisely how much. In 2007-08, a Police Department typist made between $1,491 and $1,985 every two weeks, compared with $2,919 to $3,682 for a police officer’s salary.

The SFPD is currently more than fully staffed with a retinue of 1,984 sworn officers, and has more moving their way through police academies, Controller Ben Rosenfield said.

“Let’s go ahead and seek Prop. C certification [of civilian officers],” Supervisor Jake McGoldrick said. “The Police Department is well populated and there are other city departments that will need some [financial] help.”

Police Chief Heather Fong has not yet certified the 86 additional positions that could be civilianized, but the conversion is included in this year’s Police Department budget, as well as recommendations from Budget Analyst Harvey Rose’s office, Zmuda said.

Reducing the number of sworn officers at a time when homicide rates are rising isn’t a worry, said Mirkarimi, who represents the Western Addition, a neighborhood struggling with violent crime.

“It’s not about size, it’s about performance and about using our resources effectively,” Mirkarimi said.

bwinegarner@sfexaminer.com

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