Foot patrol delay cools Chief Fong’s opposition to idea

SFPD head: Jan. 1 start ‘reduces the concern of robbing Peter to pay Paul’

The police chief’s opposition to a controversial proposal to require regular foot patrols was diminished Monday after the implementation date was delayed until January 2007.

The Board of Supervisors will vote today on whether to require regular foot patrols at eight of San Francisco’s 10 police stations. Increasing foot patrols is seen as one way to decrease San Francisco’s violent crimes. For three years, The City has experienced unprecedented homicide rates, with 73 homicides this year and a record-breaking rate last year of 96 killings.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi’s proposed legislation requiring foot patrols for a one-year pilot program was greeted with opposition by the Police Department. Police officials said it would increase response times to violent crimes by 25 percent to 33 percent because the department is understaffed and the legislation would force officers out of patrol cars and onto the streets.

However, during Monday’s Board of Supervisors Select Committee on Ending Gun and Gang Violence, the legislation was amended to become effective Jan. 1, and police Chief Heather Fong voiced no opposition to it.

“The delay in the implementation will allow us to have additional resources and I think that it reduces the concern of robbing Peter to pay Paul,” Fong said after the meeting. Implementing the foot patrol program immediately would have reduced the number of patrol cars out on the streets, according to Fong.

If the legislation is ultimately approved, the department will begin next year staffing 33 foot patrol shifts with officers walking the streets around eight police stations — the Northern, Park, Tenderloin, Mission, Ingleside, Taraval, Bayview and Southern district police stations.

The department will have 97 additional officers next year, Fong said.

The department anticipates hiring 18 civilians to replace officers assigned to jobs that civilians can do, freeing up these officers to walk beats. Two officer academy classes will graduate — 35 officers in November and 44 in January, according to Fong. In 1994, San Francisco voters mandated a staffing level of 1,971 officers, but today there are only 1,694 active officers.

Earlier this month, Police Commission President Louise Renne submitted a draft of a general order outlining a new department policy with a focus on foot patrols, which remains under discussion.

On Monday, Supervisor Tom Ammiano attacked Renne’s proposal, saying it was an “end run” and an attempt to water down Mirkarimi’s legislation. “I was not very happy with what happened,” Ammiano said. “It really seemed like an affront on this committee,” he added.

Renne denied she was trying to water down the legislation, and said it’s important for the commission, which sets policy for the department, to have a discussion about foot patrols. “I’m not looking for any battle here,” she said.

Police Commissioner David Campos said he was surprised by Renne’s proposal, and that he remains focused on ensuring Mirkarimi’s legislation works.

“We’re very appreciative of the attempts by the SFPD in their ability to exercise a foot and beat patrol system. What were looking for is seeing something with greater continuity,” Mirkarimi said.

jsabatini@examiner.comBay Area NewsGovernment & PoliticsLocalPolitics

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