It’s been almost four decades since the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department graduated a class of officers. On Tuesday, the department not only welcomed the newest members of the park patrol, it also tripled the current size of the force.
The graduation is good news for residents and officials alike who have been complaining recently of graffiti, vandalism and illegal dumping in city parks. Park patrol officers have also been used in recent sweeps of Golden Gate Park to remove homeless persons and campers.
Eleven officers graduated from the eight-week training program, many of whom already had backgrounds in law enforcement or security, according to spokeswoman Rose Dennis. The park department previously had only five officers patrolling the 230 or so parks and playgrounds in San Francisco. Another four are contracted to patrol Monster Park.
Mayor Gavin Newsom said in a statement that he has made it a priority to provide enforcement tools for the parks department and hundreds of thousands of extra dollars were pumped into The City’s budget specifically for park code
“I’m elated and enthused that we’ve reached this point,” he said.
The park patrol, which has been around since 1874, when it was called the park guard, was originally formed to keep people from tearing up Golden Gate Park at night. Officers are not sworn in and do not carry guns. Their authority is limited to enforcing San Francisco park codes.
“Our primary goal is to encourage people to follow the code and make people feel safe,” Dennis said. “We want people to know that the rules do apply and we’re not happy with the idea of lawlessness.”
Park patrol officers also work to involve the community in keeping their green areas clean and safe. Community members’ chief complaints have been people drinking, graffiti, vandalism and the lack of enforcement late at night.