Hired cops see support

Supporters of The City’s unique cops-for-hire force criticized a report Wednesday night that calls on officials to cut all ties with the Patrol Special Police.

While clients value the services of the Patrol Special Police, they are both a financial burden and a liability to The City, according to a scathing report released Wednesday by a Massachusetts-based company contracted by the city controller.

The audit goes on to say there is confusion about what the security force has the power to do and that officers routinely ignore the rules and procedures created by the body that oversees it.

Patrol Specials are an only-in-San Francisco phenomenon dating back to the Gold Rush era. Businesses and neighborhood groups pay the wages of Patrol Specials, which those officers claim are a fraction of what police officers charge when they work off-duty security under the 10b program.

But while Patrol Specials provide a great service for their clients, they do not provide a service for The City despite costing taxpayers abut $300,000 a year, said Kym Craven, director of the Public Safety Strategies Group.

“It’s probably not the best idea for a contemporary city, looking at contemporary policing services, to have anyone — not just the Patrol Specials — patrolling streets unless they are under the direction and control of your police department,” she said.

Patrol Special officers, business owners and community members came out to the meeting to criticize the report. Alan Byard, president of the force, said the report was “full of mistakes and flaws, and probably a few lies.”

Because the Patrol Special force is part of the City Charter, major structural changes would require voter approval. Police commissioners, however, could pass more rules that govern the Patrol Specials.

Police Commissioner Petra DeJesus said the report “paints a disturbing portrait,” while Commissioner Thomas Mazzucco asked about what kind of control the commission has over the amount of money Patrol Specials can charge businesses for their beats.

Craven said the Police Commission has none, even though other commissions do. The Taxi Commission, for example, sets the rates for cab fares.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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