Supervisors vote to require walking beats despite SFPD’s concern of slowed response
Eight of The City’s 10 police stations may soon have to implement regular foot patrols even though the police department says the plan would increase response time to 911 calls by as much as 33 percent.
The Board of Supervisors Select Committee on Ending Gun and Gang Violence unanimously voted Monday that a proposed one-year pilot program requiring regular beat foot patrols include four more police stations, for a total of eight: Northern, Park, Tenderloin, Mission, Ingleside, Taraval, Bayview and Southern district police stations.
Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi drafted the foot patrol legislation, which in recent weeks has garnered increasing support from other members of the Board of Supervisors.
Mirkarimi said the foot patrols would build community relations with the police and reduce the high crime rates “we have been experiencing for several years.” There have been 69 homicides in 2006 to date, on pace to surpass last year’s record-setting 96 homicides.
For about three hours at a public hearing Monday, community members spoke in favor of having more police officers walking their neighborhood streets.
“They want our interaction out there, and I do also. The staffing doesn’t allow us to regularly run beats on a seven-day-a-week basis,” said David Shinn, deputy chief of police field operations.
In 1994, San Francisco voters mandated a staffing level of 1,971 officers in the police department, but to date police officials say they are more than 200 officers short of this mandate.
Despite these staffing levels, last year an average of 310 officers walked foot beats every week, according to a Sept. 18 letter to the Board of Supervisors from Police Chief Heather Fong.
But requiring regular foot patrols will interfere with the stations’ top priority of responding as quickly as possible to emergency calls, according to Shinn.
With one less patrol car at a station, the average percentage increase to response times for high-priority calls such as homocides, sexual assault and break-ins would be between 25 percent and 33 percent, Shinn said.
Ken Bruce, of the City Budget Analyst Office said it would take about 33 officers to implement the foot beats.
A number of district police station captains testified at Monday’s committee meeting, saying they conduct foot patrols, although some acknowledged the practice was not always followed.
For example, Ingleside police station Captain Paul Chignell said that he “cannot afford at this juncture to cover all the [foot] beats.”
Mirkarimi said, “We need to study this. A one-year pilot should not be a threat to the police department and should not be a threat to the mayor.”
The legislation will return to the committee for a final vote Oct. 16, and could come before the full Board of Supervisors for a vote Oct. 17.