Gascon pitches civilian police help in Harvard paper

Bringing on civilians and volunteers to do police work is one of the only ways to prevent rising police salaries and benefits from bankrupting cities, police Chief George Gascón argues in a paper published last week.

Gascón had been writing the paper with Harvard researcher Todd Foglesong for months. It was published by a U.S. Department of Justice project that is attempting to shape the future of law enforcement.

While not mentioning San Francisco by name, the paper appears as a blueprint for how Gascón is making changes in The City. He already instituted the crime-statistic-gathering unit known as CompStat. He cut police overtime and recently budgeted 15 positions at the Department for “civilian investigators.”

Like Mesa, Ariz., where Gascón was previously chief until August 2009, police costs have nearly doubled in the last decade in San Francisco.

Taxpayer funding for the Police Department has gone from $273 million to $445 million since 2001 while The City’s total budget has only increased by 20 percent in the same period. The major driver of those costs are the salaries and benefits of sworn police officers.

Multiple raises for police officers and firefighters during Mayor Gavin Newsom’s administration have made The City’s public safety workers the highest paid out of any big city in California, a city audit recently found.

Gascón argues that the use of civilians and volunteers known as reserve police officers to interview victims of crime is the only way to stop the escalating employee costs, but he is running into opposition from the Police Officers Association.

“He thinks that there are hundreds of tasks that can be completed by civilian employees,” said police union President Gary Delagnes. “I understand that concept. I simply don’t agree with it. When people call for police services, they want to see a cop.”

Ballooning budgets

Policing costs have skyrocketed in the past decade for many cities, including the two where George Gascón has been police chief.

Mesa, Ariz.

1998 police budget: $87 million
2008 police budget: $161 million

San Francisco

2001 police budget: $273 million
2011 police budget:</b> $445 million

Source: New Perspectives in Policing, S.F. budget

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

Bay Area NewsCrimeCrime & CourtsLocalSan Francisco

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

School board members Gabriela Lopez (left) and Alison Collins (right) say they have been the subject of frequent hateful, racist and sexist attacks during their time on the school board. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F Examiner)
Angered by Lowell decision, SFUSD grad targets school board members with violent imagery

Facebook page depicts two women of color on board with swastikas and x-marks on their faces

Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, a former school board member, said it was ‘ridiculous’ that the school district did not yet have a plan to reopen. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Supervisors demand SFUSD set a timeline for reopening

Pressure grows on district to resume in-person learning as The City’s COVID-19 case count goes down

“Tenet,” the new Christopher Nolan film starring John David Washington, is showing at the drive-in in Concord. (Courtesy Warner Bros.)
Drive-ins are popping up all over the Bay Area

By Amelia Williams Bay City News Foundation Anyone else catch the “Grease”… Continue reading

The San Francisco International Arts Festival will present performances this weekend outdoors at Fort Mason, including on the Parade Ground, Eucalyptus Grove and Black Point Battery. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF International Arts Festival wins health department approval for weekend performances

Rules allow no more than 50 people at outdoor Fort Mason performances

In this handout image provided by the California Department of Corrections, convicted murderer Scott Peterson poses for a mug shot March 17, 2005 in San Quentin, California. Judge Alfred A. Delucchi sentenced Peterson to death March 16 for murdering his wife, Laci Peterson, and their unborn child. (California Department of Corrections via Getty Images/TNS)
Prosecutors to retry penalty phase of Scott Peterson trial

2003 discovery of Laci Peterson’s body led to sensational high-profile murder trial of husband

Most Read